I’ve pretty much grown up with rap music. I’ve witnessed the fear produced by gangsta rap, I was enlightened by Afrocentric rap, got my dance on during the Puff Daddy (aka P. Diddy) era, and inspired (and also disillusioned) by the current state of hip hop.
Although rap music and rappers have played an indelible part in shaping popular culture, they aren’t exactly seen as positive role models. [insert your opinion here!]
About a month ago, a friend told me about rapper Duane “D.O.” Gibson, who is the absolute definition of a positive role model. He spends his days kicking rhymes, but also dedicates a huge part of his time and energy touring schools speaking on anti-bullying and anti-violence.
Yes, you read that correctly, he is a rapper who’s taking a stand and speaking out about anti-bullying and anti-violence. I was intrigued and felt compelled to interview him for my blog.
After he returned from a well-deserved vacay, we spoke briefly about his music and his work with youth.
Hometown: Born in Saskatchewan, grew up in Stratford, Sault St. Marie and Sarnia.
Astrological Sign: Libra
Years Performing: 15
Fun Fact: In 2003 he set a Guinness World Record for freestyling for almost 9 hours!
Not just a solo artist: Duane is part of the duo The Art of Fresh with fellow Sarnia native Slakah the Beatchild
What does D.O. stand for?
Defy the Odds. As a Canadian rapper, you have to defy the odds; you have to overcome adversity being that there is not much of an industry here. Also the fact that I came from small towns. There wasn’t a lot of rappers and I had to overcome those challenges.
Why did you start making music?
I’ve always loved hip hop. When I was about 12 years old, while I was playing video games, I started freestyling to myself…kicking rhymes. That made me want to write them down and perform them in front of my friends and classmates. Whenever there was a project that dealt with poetry, I would rap. I just took it from there. I had the love of it, and wanted to pursue it more.
In addition to making music, D.O gives back by presenting “Stay Driven” – a 1 hour school assembly which combines motivational speaking with live performances. He delivers his positive message to schools across Ontario.
How did you get involved in speaking at schools?
I was asked by a teacher to come into a classroom and talk about goal setting. The teacher wanted to know more about how I was able to come out with a music video that appeared on Much Music, and also how I was able to graduate from university in the same year! I remember being unsure of how it would go because I was asked to speak for 45 minutes. But to my surprise, it went by quickly and the students enjoyed it. After that, another teacher asked me to speak in front her class and it took off from there!
What would you like youth to take away from your presentations?
Because I do so much speaking in front of kids I realize your words have power.
I’ve been going to schools for over 12 years and the main focus of most of my presentations is anti-bullying. My whole story is that I grew up in a lot of places where I was the only person of colour. So I know what it feels like to feel different. To feel picked on.
How did you come up with the anti-bullying song I Stand Up?
I wanted to come up with a song that was about standing up. When I heard the beat from this track, I had it immediately – I Stand Up, I stand tall – which I think is a powerful message for youth to hear and to say to themselves.
Any new projects you are working on?
I just released a new album called Duane Gibson.
Wow, our interview flew by quickly, eh? So happy to have met someone who’s doing what he loves while boosting the self-confidence of the next generation Thanks, for the positivity, Duane!
Okay, since D.O. is a rapper and there was soooo much controversy concerning Kanye performing at the Pan Am games, I had to ask how he felt about it.
What do you think about the controversy over Kanye performing at the closing events at the Pan Am games?
I think Kanye performing is a great thing. I think it’s great that we can get one of the top performers of the world to perform. I get some of the controversy because some people pay more attention to what he says because he is very outspoken. I think it’s cool to get someone from Canada too. I think he has music that plays well with young, old and crosses all demographics. Just the simple fact that it is hip hop, and we are getting a hip hop artist to be that headliner, sends a very positive message.
For more information on D.O, please visit the following sites:
Facebook: click here
YouTube: click here