DJ Cavem Moetavation (aka Ietef Vita) is out to green the 'hood, one hip-hop element at a time. Activist, b-boy, DJ, MC, graffiti artist, beat-boxer, film maker and journalist, Cavem plays many roles, all geared toward empowering the 'hood with tools that facilitate evolution of the mind. And musically, Cavem maintains space of wisdom and sustainability in all aspects of his culture. The self-proclaimed O.G. (organic gardener), manufactures music that feeds both the spirit of community and hunger for knowledge.
Traditionally, artists tell the story of society's ills and spills of change, and with his latest independent release, The Teacher's Lounge, Cavem bears this out with a poised and experienced tongue. rapping in dips and tones with lyrics that recall a young and revolutionary Tupac.
If KRS-One hip-hop's teacher, Cavem is his apprentice. We recently sat down with this homegrown Denver artist and discussed living well, the curriculum found in The Teacher's Lounge and what he's growing in his hip-hop garden.
Westword (Ru Johnson): In Denver, you're like the hip-hop community ambassador. How have you created such a strong connection with both music and community?
Cavem Moetivation: Mama Opalanga would say, "I am, because you are... We are, because they were... And so it is." Sometimes I do feel like I can speak for the 'hood, but most of the time, I manifest speaking through the ancestors.
I'm from the 'hood, from the Historic Five Points; I grew up in poetry venues, around art. I was that kid pouring libation for Kwanzaa. I was that kid doing Capoeira, doing kung-fu and b-boying in gangsta chucks. I used to walk past the youth penitentiary and the liquor store on my way to school. I was that kid writing my name on everything, running from the police, another black man trying to survive on the East side. I got blessed with the right parents to take me to Africa. I gave up internalized oppression for kufis and cortezes... shotguns and dashikis.
Ww: You refer to yourself as the "OG" [Organic Gardener] -- we don't usually think of gardens when it comes to hip-hop.
CM: To the youth, I teach them about where they come from, and that their ancestors grew food, and lived with the Earth in harmony. I empower the youth, teaching them the power of being able to grow their own food, the power behind being self sufficient, how to eat fresh, so they can live fresh and have a healthy future.
It's not only about food; it's about reconnecting with the past, about balance, culture, respect and consumption in all parts of life. A brother like me will get down in the dirt, in some fly kicks and a phat chain. I call it "Going Green, Living Bling," meaning: Redefining the image of wealth in hip-hop culture.
Ww: Tell me about The Teacher's Lounge.
CM: By the time I finished my last album, Deep Rock, I was teaching youth, and realized that youth with warrior ancestors have been lacking direction. I really got into teaching young [gang] 'bangers how to grow greens last season. I knew they love to eat, but didn't have the focus or belief that they could grow food themselves. They have the knowledge, even now, to grow, but there is no support from the community.
I know they have elders alive, but the inter-generational tyranny is the reason why sustainability is not in our music, or a part of our everyday life. I took my beats and greens and came up with fresh vocals to redirect the energy and to remind us of our potential: To eat wisely so you don't need health care, to redefine wealth as physical and spiritual health, to keep that ass in the produce section, or [to] produce your own.
Ww: You have incorporated your spirituality into your music in such an accessible way. What is the ultimate understanding do you hope the listeners attain?
CM: Without Africa, there would be no hip-hop. Roots and culture are the essence. No tree grows without roots. Music is a tool that should touch your spirit. Our rituals should bring forth our ancestors, blessing and directing us. A lot of MCs have not been connected to the source of true universal energy. The light is within all of us; you just gotta pass the fire. As James Brown would say..."Soul Power!"
Ww: Who did you work with on The Teacher's Lounge?
CM: As far as producers, on this album, I chose to have my beats locally grown by Q-Knox and myself. Other artists on the album include Oveuos Maximus, Sticman of Dead Prez, Doodlebug of Digable Planets, KRS-1 and Brotha Jeff.
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Ww: Would your music be a solid, liquid, or gas?
CM: All three. First of all, I'm ancient, like space ice that gets melted by the solar rays, that drip into the atmosphere and become clouds, that rain down on Babylon, while nourishing the plants and animals, as I evaporate off the everyday concrete jungle, still visible in the streets.
Ww: Got it. If your sound could be a number, what number would it be?
CM: Seven. Peace.