MC Yogi Talks Rap and Yoga: "I Love 2 Live Crew, But I Make Buddhi Music"
At around 18 years old, he discovered yoga, and later applied his new philosophy on life to making hip hop.
Today, he's independently sold over 100,000 albums. And this weekend, he performs at the Virginia Key Grassroots Festival.
Here's what he has to say about the fest, 2 Live Crew, Gandhi, Slick Rick, and Buddha.
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Crossfade: Watup, yo? You ready for the Grassroots Festival?
MC Yogi: I can't wait to be there. I've never been to Florida at all. I'm really excited.
You ever hear of the Grateful Dead? Yesterday, I was with one of the founding members. Bob Weir invited me to his recording studio. Willie Nelson's son Lucas Nelson was there, and so was Sammy Hagar and a couple other people checking out the studio.
How the hell you know them?
It's a crazy story. My first yoga teacher Larry Schultz used to travel with the Grateful Dead and he taught them yoga. Originally, the class was, like, two hours, but they all said, 'Hey, we're the Grateful Dead, we don't have time to be spending two hours doing this. We need to make this short and to the point.' So Larry developed Rocket Yoga and that's how I got into it. With Rocket Yoga classes. Larry passed away last year and then I connnected with Bob.
Who is Hanuman?
Hanuman is the heroic monkey warrior. He's the people's champ. He represents the power of love and devotion, and selflessness, and the breath. In the yoga tradition, it is said that when you take deep slow breaths, you slay all the demons in your mind. You use the breath and your love to conquer all your fears.
That's a great song you wrote about him. It really tells a story.
That's one of my favorites. Slick Rick, for me -- I love storytelling in hip-hop. I went to India and studied with teachers over there. I learned the stories and put them to hip hop. I'm gonna be working on a music video and comic book for that one.
Are you familiar with the history of the festival grounds, Virginia Key Beach, being a "colored-only" beach that the people had to do a "wade in," like a sit-in lunch counter protest but at the beach, just to get the government to give them a place to swim?
Nah, I had no idea. That's amazing. We were just in Memphis? Somewhere down south. We just got back from Jamaica. It was at the airport. Maybe Atlanta? And I saw something out of the corner of my eye and it was Dr. Martin Luther King's suit on display next to a book about Gandhi. MLK was a student of Gandhi. It took my breath away to see the suit worn by Dr. King. I'm a student of Mahatma Gandhi too, and the thing that turned the people's movement around in India is when the people went to the water and went down there to harvest salt as a protest against the British tax on it. The British army was going to crush them, they were beating them with batons, but the protestors never raised a fist back, and the soldiers were so moved they dropped their weapons, turned around and left. The beach is a powerful symbol. That's an amazing honor to be performing there.