Legends Mad Mike and Wajeed have an idea to build support for communities of marginalized music makers – right in the heart of Detroit. That effort might have gotten upstaged by the election, so now is the perfect time to dig in – and recall some of Detroit’s own history.
It’s not an accident that current political noise is all about discounting the votes of Detroit residents. You could easily see an echo in the music industry. So maybe it’s time for some resistance again.
Underground Music Academy is an idea that’s been floating around Detroit for some time now, but it’s getting a home and a plan at an essential time. The location is incredible – next to the storied Submerge record store, around the corner from the landmark Motown Museum, and in the former offices of the NAACP.
With all that Motown history, though, and his own place in American music, WAJEED says he wants to build something international – so take note, world readers. “This space will provide for not just our community, but people worldwide,” he recently told The Face. “Anybody who’s marginalized, that’s who we’re here for. Anybody who has been slept on and forgotten, that’s our priority,” he says.
Check out the full interview with Ash Lauryn from the end of October (and for sure, elections and pandemics might well have meant you slept on this – and we shouldn’t):
That’s exciting, particularly as there’s a void left by the Red Bull Music Academy – and a chance, perhaps, to steer instead toward community-driven, grassroots efforts instead of big brands. Mad Mike, for his part, was an epic part of what made RBMA so powerful; he’s just a fantastic teacher and inspiration, according to absolutely everyone I know who’s ever been in the same room with him.
So straight to the details:
What they’ll teach: “both studio skills and business acumen,” the creators promise, with a plan to make placing students and launching careers part of the curriculum. That’s in keeping with the history of Detroit (there’s a reason that “hustle harder” phrase got traction), and in what places like Submerge have done.
Where it’ll be: 2990 East Grand Blvd. Second Floor – that’s the North End
What they’re fundraising for: that space is purchased, but it needs renovation – plus a budget for a website and equipment. They have a really low funding goal, actually, so no reason not to help for anyone in the industry with some spare change – see below.
Timeline: they say they’re trying to launch in 2021 with free online tutorials, and then opening the physical space in 2022. Here in Berlin, I’ve heard German DJ Sarah Farina getting really involved and has been sharing some encouraging developments – which is important as a link from Detroit to other scenes (especially as a number of Detroit-born artists have moved over here).
The mission: “As a lifelong Detroiter with over 20 years in the music business, I feel a great need to build a more inclusive electronic music community. Music will be the means for education, healing and building esteem.”
How to help: They’re fundraising on ioby.org, with a $25,000 goal – and they’re already halfway there. Even twenty bucks can buy them some paint.
If you don’t have money but you’re in Detroit, they’re also looking for volunteers to help with cleanup, organization, and painting.
And in addition to giving money, you can buy Waajeed’s mix tape! Acts of Love Mixtape: Act Two is in preorder now – so you already get one lovely track – with the full release dropping digitally and on vinyl early in December. US$6 gets you the preorder, so decent musician-in-2020-budgeting.
There was a t-shirt, too, but seems they might have sold out of that.
Check out the fundraiser:
More on history and the underground in Detroit
Waajeed and company haven’t been quiet lately – they’re happy to talk about the history of Detroit, how it continues to feed the future of music, and what that means for the Underground Music Academy. Just last week he fired up all those topics for Serato (that’ll be the Kiwi-Detroit connection):
Mad Mike Banks joined Dimitri Hegemann and Carola Stoiber of Tresor/Tresor Records back in 2018 to talk about Detroit and techno – a revealing conversation about the connection between Berlin as a hub for lots of international young folks today and the roots in Detroit and with Black innovators:
And if you want to track them on social platforms:
This seems especially timely in 2020 with the loss of Mike Huckaby, who was doing so much in education in Detroit for young artists: