For more than a decade, DJ Cavem has been on a hip-hop crusade for health, the earth and the economy of the ’hood. He acted the part of eco OG (organic gardener) when he was still in high school, and he’s only grown into the role. At 33, he’s now a parent, husband, urban farmer, chef, entrepreneur, activist, MC, DJ and about a hundred other things.
He’s never wavered from championing urban farming. Not once. Ask him about it, and he’ll start talking about kale, diabetes prevention and holistic medicine. His activism is his life.
While he acknowledges that he stands on the shoulders of legends — KRS-One, Dead Prez, A Tribe Called Quest and more — he’s also aware that he was the first rapper to use the term “eco hip-hop” back in 2007, though he says he has no ego attached to it.
He’s shared stages with rap legends like Talib Kweli and rising stars in the environmental movement like Greta Thunberg, and he’s paved the way for a rising crew of eco-conscious rappers, including Colorado MC and environmentalist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.
“I duplicated myself,” Cavem says. “I’ve created other vegan rappers. I’ve helped establish the marketing for vegan soul festivals nationally.”
Last year, he released an album, Biomimicz, on his record label, Plant Based Records — a company name he takes literally. The project’s claim to fame is that it’s the only USDA-certified album in music history. It comes with a mix of arugula, kale and beet seeds on the package, and Cavem says that fans over sixty have been buying it up. “I don’t know if they’re listening to the music,” he says, "but they're still ordering seeds from me.”
A music video for the first track off the album,“1 for the Hood,” came out in early May. The song pays tribute to hip-hop elders like Grandmaster Flash and winds through a variety of ecological and social issues. Most of the inspiration for the video comes from indigenous- and youth-led street protests over climate change.
Cavem released the video in the middle of the COVID-19 shutdown and fears it didn’t take off because it showed so many people protesting, in close quarters, together in the streets.
But even during this pandemic, when everybody’s staying at a physical distance, the message, he says, is as important as ever: “I want to show the community that no matter who got a felony, they can still sell sprouts.”
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