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In the world today the topic of immigration and human rights seem to be fresh on everyone’s lips. For most reasonable people, the condemnation of immigration, especially in the U.S., feels oxymoronic. Yet threats of walls and humans in cages flood our social media feeds, reminding us of what can happen if we reject our universal humanity. One such being who is well acquainted with the aforementioned is Afrobeat rapper, Tamba Hali.

Presently a U.S. citizen who immigrated to the United States at age 10, Hali came of age in the states often feeling like he didn’t belong. Rather than wallowing in isolation, he worked and he worked hard. Investing in his education, athletic abilities, and his love for music, Hali found that piece of humanity within himself and the people around him by building bridges rather than cages. His musical journey began in childhood in Africa, playing drums and singing in the choir. Once in the U.S., he became acquainted with hip hop greats such as A Tribe Called Quest, 2Pac, Biggie, and JZ; falling smitten with their flows and rhyming schemes, it inspired him to pen a few for himself and find the connective power of music, specifically hip hop music.

A genre misunderstood for decades, hip hop has grown to become the most multifaceted genre on the market today. On Wikipedia alone they list 45 sub-genres of hip hop, many of which are based in various world music genres. A powerful sentiment to how hip hop music celebrates our differences and similarities, hip hop inevitably creates a safe place for creativity. Tamba Hali perfectly exemplifies the multifaceted nature of the genre through his personal story and the music he has created for the world. Today he releases the music video for “Payday ft. Masterkraft,” shot in his hometown and sharing his rags to riches story, he shows immense pride for his country and appreciation for where he is today. And with that,  we are proud to share six ways Tamba Hali represents the multifaceted nature of hip hop.

He’s a refugee, originally from Gbarnga, Liberia.

Having moved here to escape the civil war in Liberia, his father Henry Hali a chemistry professor moved his sons to Teaneck, New Jersey. His mother, Rachel Keita remained in Liberia, which only heightened the extremely difficult transition Tamba underwent. He made it his goal to reunite his mother with his family, learning how to use his multitude of talents to create a different future for his family and generations to come.

His incredible drive for self and formal education.

When Tamba moved to the U.S. at age 10, he could barely read or write, so coming into the U.S. education system, he knew he was a bit behind his peers. To combat this, Tamba took his education into his own hands by studying with Hooked on Phonics. It was through these lessons that Tamba began writing his own rap verses, playing with words and rhyming schemes. In high school he continued his pursuit of music, but his abilities in athletics began to garner him unprecedented attention. One success led to another and Tamba eventually found himself on a full ride to Pennsylvania State University playing for the Penn State Nittany Lions football team.

He was a professional NFL football player.

A decorated player on his college team, Tamba went on to play professionally, becoming the linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs. He played for 12 seasons in total and became one of the most beloved and honored players in team history. He later became a citizen of the U.S. and his success with the NFL led to a reunion of him and his mother, Rachel, who now lives with Tamba in the States on a visa.

He has a philanthropic streak.

Witnessing first hand the state of Liberia’s education system, again Tamba decided to  take matters into his own hands. He is currently working to build a school, starting with a single location, with the intention of growing the network to multiple schools. In an article from TMZ Sports he shared, “The country is way behind when it comes to education,  what my kids are learning, kids there that are 14, 15 years old cannot even do. Kids can’t even add, can’t even multiply. You wonder what the [education] system is like. In my looking at Liberia, it’s to try to create a better Liberia for the future… Right now we’re focused on one school. If we have success, we’ll try to do more. But like my old coach would say, ‘take care of the little things.”

He is a major champion of Liberian artists.

His heart for his home country extends further than his efforts for education. Tamba intends to use his success to bolster other Liberian artists and is currently preparing to release an EP featuring all Liberian-based artists such as Geno, Faithvonic, and CIC appropriately titled Liberia. 

His inspiring motivation for making music.

For Tamba, who has reached success many times over, his motivation for creating music is not rooted in a thirst for fame or clout, but a desire for proving to people the power of putting your all into your craft. In his own words, he’d like to be remembered as “the guy who is going to prove a lot of people wrong. I want people to remember me as a professional athlete and recording artist, and that everything I did, I put my heart into  and did well.”



photos courtesy of Tamba Hali

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