[MAGAZINE] WARA FROM THE NBHD
FROM NY TO ATL WARA’S SPREADING HIS MESSAGE TO THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
Wara from the NBHD is misunderstood. His last three projects have made his intentions clear. You may have noticed he’s starting a conversation on gun control. You may even have figured out that his collective, Playin’ Four Keeps, is not only the mentality that he and his crew operate by on a daily basis but is also composed of words four, five and six letters long; the winning numbers in cee-lo. But then again, most people don’t notice.
Born in Queens, New York, the producer and rapper spent most of his formative years in Brooklyn. When he and his family moved down to Atlanta around 2000, he kept his roots in NYC fresh by visiting friends and family a few times a year. Later on in high school Wara ran a website with his friends that sold sneakers. Feeling that he could make better music than what he was blogging online, he headed to the studio with some beats and found that people liked his music, particularly the Curtis Williams-produced ‘Fish Grease’. While friends assured him that his verses were “fire,” he suspected they weren’t good enough. Plus with Nas, Jay Z and OutKast bumping through his headphones, Wara wouldn’t let himself put out weak music.
Before taking music seriously in 2011, his life took a slight detour. Wara’s original plan was to attend college for basketball, but due to moving schools, he was only able to play five games in his senior year. This seriously handicapped his chances of securing a scholarship with Providence College, who were already scouting him. As a result, he was left with little to no positive choices, other than a seemingly heaven- sent offer from an Alabama HBCU coach who was guaranteeing a scholarship. Having recently been caught in possession of a .40 caliber handgun in a hotel room which eventually came back clean, the chance to get out of the hood convinced him to take his talents down South. He arrived only to find out that the coach had made the same offer to more people than there were spots on the team, “The season comes, the coach brings in another 13 dudes – big ass, NBA player dudes.” With no scholarship and a giant student loan to pay off, he returned to Atlanta. Soon, with encouragement from Two-9 members Curtis Williams, Wavy Wallace and Dave of FatKidsBrotha, music became the new focus.
Some people were displeased with the artwork of his first project, ‘Ill Street Blues’, showing Wara’s son innocently grabbing the same type of gun his father was busted with years ago. But for Wara, there was no other way to start telling his story. The birth of his son, now three years old, helped him realise the gravity of his life choice and made him pursue hip hop. While the gun symbolises the presence of evil and violence in Wara’s life growing up, the whole project is a collection of stories from the streets told through the eyes of a young child. That story continues into his follow-up album, ‘Kidnapped’, which was the first time he showcased his production skills. The symbolism in the artwork also carried over, with the juxtaposition of good versus evil. Through both projects, not only do you walk the streets with the protagonist, but you learn the same lessons he does via his mistakes and victories. As the character grows, so do his problems.
Words by Bryan Hahn
Photos by Jimmie Armentrout III