"Hip Hop is Art. It’s not easy to do and it deserves to be a respected part of Jacksonville’s Culture." - 10 Questions with Mas Appeal - DJ, Emcee, and Host
Image courtesy of Obscura Lux
The job of a DJ is not an easy one. It's rare to find a DJ that's not only skilled in keeping an event lively, but can also read a crowd, give them what they want (along with some of what they didn't realize they wanted), and keep the party going while not missing a beat. It truly is an art form.
Miguel "Mas Appeal" Almeida is one of those rare DJs - though he's certainly much more than that. He's been creating art in this city for over fifteen years and throws some of the best parties in Jacksonville that you probably don't know about (yet). He's also one of those individuals that's extremely approachable, friendly, and surprisingly unassuming considering all that he's done and continues to do. Hip Hop and its principles are infused within every facet of the work he does from creating and producing music, to DJing, Emceeing and hosting events, and volunteering with at risk youth. For him Hip Hop is more than his Artistry, it's a way to reach people and give back.
We're so pleased to introduce you to our readers! Tell them a little about yourself...
My name is Miguel Almeida, but I'm better known as Mas Appeal. I'm an Emcee, DJ, Blogger, Podcaster and Entrepreneur here in Jacksonville, Florida. I was born in Miami but immediately relocated with my family after my father joined the Navy. We moved around the East Coast until we settled in Jacksonville during my Senior year of High School.
What are the main projects or programs you're working on or involved with in Jacksonville?
Currently my main projects include Hip Hop & Hookah, SoundCloud Sessions, and serving as a youth mentor at the Juvenile Detention Center for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice as well as mentoring at Just Like Me Cultural Arts and Education Experience - a summer camp for 16 and 17 year old foster children developed by The Performers Academy.
Hip Hop & Hookah is a brand that I established in 2013. It consists of a blog where we discuss current events, new music releases, and hookah culture, as well as a weekly event that focuses on local hip hop artists. We host an Open Mic, Local Art showcase, feature music and beats production, and much more from Jacksonville’s very own talent pool.
SoundCloud Sessions is a live event that's a spin off of a podcast I produce called “The Cloud Sessions”. The Cloud Sessions Podcast is a project I have been working on for three years and (at the time of publication) have produced 89 Episodes. The broadcast is a weekly mix of new Chill Wave, Lo-Fi Beats, and music from up and coming artists. You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher Radio, SoundCloud, MixCloud, and most popular podcast platforms. Originally the show was exclusively online until I had the opportunity to produce a live show from C.A.S.K. in Five Points. I would set my equipment up in the front of the venue and play the current week’s tracks for the patrons and broadcast on the air via Facebook Live streaming. The event has since been moved to Spliff’s Gastropub in Downtown Jacksonville, and is still going strong every Tuesday from 7pm - 11pm with the live Facebook stream at 9pm EST from my Mas Appeal page.
Serving as a Youth mentor is something I truly enjoy and am very passionate about. As a father of four, I know how important it is for children to have a parental figure in their lives that they can trust.
How long have you been active in the Hip Hop community?
I moved to Jacksonville in 1997 during my Senior year in High School. I graduated in 1998 and joined the Marine Corps. After serving four years, I relocated permanently to Jacksonville and immediately jumped onto the Hip Hop scene. I released a Hip Hop album entitled “World Unification” in 2003, which connected me to many producers and emcees around town - one of whom was Tough Junkie. We formed a duo called Simple Complexity and released our first Full Length Album in 2006 which gained national notoriety and landed us on the Warped Tour and Underground Hip Hop’s Artist to Watch list. Simple Complexity released two more projects after that, and then I released my second solo project - "The Departure" - in 2011. Simple Complexity is currently working on it’s sophomore full length album.
How do you connect your art to education and community outreach?
Volunteering for and serving the youth is a big part of how I connect my art with the community. I am a lyrical instructor who teaches the fundamentals of Hip Hop to teens and young children. I give thanks to Ebony Payne who, along with Kathryn McAvoy, brought me into her project "Just Like Me", a program dedicated to working with troubled Youth in Foster Care. The program is a 3 week workshop conducted over the summer in which students are given the opportunity to learn a new art form. The curriculum includes Dance, Singing and Song Writing, and Art and Lyricism, and each class is filled with students led by an instructor who teaches them a new craft for two weeks. At the end of the workshop, the children present a performance at The Ritz Theatre and Museum in Downtown, Jacksonville using all of the skills they've learned throughout the program. The goal is to help kids use art as a form of expression to channel feelings of anger, fear, and hurt into a more positive medium, and not use those emotions to do harm to themselves or to others.
The Lyrical portion of the program was recognized and adopted by the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) of Jacksonville. Inmates were given the opportunity to help create beats and rhymes (lyrics) and then record their songs while incarcerated. The workshop was held twice a week and encouraged the young inmates to use notebooks to write down their feelings instead of keeping them bottled up, eventually leading to altercations or other traumatic events. This is absolutely one of my favorite programs. This year we conducted an eight week trial run with JDC, and we are hoping to make it a full time workshop in the near future.
You've been living and working as an artist in Jacksonville for a while now. How do you view the evolution of the arts since you first put down roots in this city?
In terms of the Arts, I think Jacksonville has grown tremendously since I first moved here. I have watched Downtown and Springfield become Meccas for art and music! Initially, when I moved to Jacksonville, Downtown and Springfield were places many people wouldn’t visit. I would tell someone about a show I had going on in those areas, and they would tell me that they didn’t visit "those parts of town". I think we have grown, as far as people feeling more comfortable about venturing out to discover and experience art, but… I still think there is a disconnect in the distribution of information. There is no "central" paper or website that everyone can go to for comprehensive information on the arts and culture related events going on around town, so information is spread out and only reaches certain pockets of the city. That makes it hard for things to truly be successful. We are making strides but we still have a long way to go, we are a large city and its hard to reach everyone in it.
How do you feel about the music scene in Jacksonville, specifically as it pertains to the realm of Hip Hop and Black and Brown Culture?
I can say with complete confidence that we have some of the best artists and one of the dopest music scenes in the country! From world-renowned DJ’s, Emcees, Singer/Song Writers and Bands, Jacksonville produces some incredible talent. I do feel like we still have a disconnect in terms of the promotion and visibility of shows and events, but again, I feel this is directly related to the size and socioeconomic fragmentation of our city. I think more can be done for the promotion of Urban shows, period. I feel its harder to get “Hip Hop” shows featured and promoted in the larger media outlets, which in turn makes it hard to know whats happening on the scene. As far as talent goes, there is no shortage of incredible performers. Some names that immediately come to mind are: Paten Locke, Steam Mechanics, Stono Echo, Al Pete, Tough Junkie, FFJB, Cheech Foreign, OffBeat Ninja, T.W.A.N., The Katz Downstairz, Swordz, The Jive Katz, Stank Sauce and that is just a small fraction of the beautiful scene this city has to offer.
How do you feel the general population views Hip Hop in Jacksonville? Do you feel it is respected as an art form? Explain why it should be.
Hip Hop has some work to do in Jacksonville. I love this city, but if you are a Hip Hop artist or create any art that falls under the Hip Hop umbrella, then it is typically and unfortunately frowned upon or dismissed. I see certain areas of Hip Hop rising in popularity - Graffiti and Breakdancing have certainly become mainstream and typically get a decent response from the "Non Hip Hop" crowd, but in general DJs and Emcees are not taken very seriously. There are truly only a handful of venues that cater to or highlight us (Cheers to them), but it’s still a hard act to sell.
At the end of the day for me - Art is Art. I don’t think an explanation is required as to why Hip Hop, the most popular musical genre in the world, should be respected as an art form. It’s Art and it’s not easy to do and it deserves to be a respected part of Jacksonville’s Culture, just as much as any other art form.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistry?
I have great ideas! [laughs] I’m pretty decent at Rapping and DJing, but I come up with really good party ideas. Typically the events that I organize and produce make for pretty memorable and fun times. I see the potential in an event idea early on and try to capitalize on hot trends. I think one of the most important things I have learned about myself through this Artistry is that I love doing what I do for ME! I enjoy DJing, Podcasting, and digging through my archives for beats and songs to play and mix. I do a lot of what I do because I enjoy it, not because someone else is demanding it from me. That makes what I do far more enjoyable! I could DJ my podcast until Im 100 years old and be the only listener and I would be 100% ok with that!
What are the greatest challenges you face as an artist and arts professional living and working in Northeast Florida?
I think Jacksonville is a really big city an it’s hard to reach a complete audience when they live 40 minutes away. Driving is always an issue and you can’t catch a train to go watch a show. Uber and Lyft are a huge help, but a pubic transit system that functioned properly for and within Jacksonville would make it much easier to get around, helping those who want to make it to shows and events do so with more ease. I also think music coverage in general could be better. There is a lot to cover - I get it - but having a more central and comprehensive source would help. I think as an artist in Jacksonville you have to have tough skin, a good personality, and a great marketing strategy. You have to handle a lot of promotion on your own and make sure you get your material into the hands of like minded people. However, where there is a challenge, I also see opportunity. You can't just be an artist in Jax, you have to be a salesperson. Sell your brand and make others believe in it!
How do you define success in what you do?
Success has a lot of variations. I am probably the happiest when I throw a party and it’s packed and everyone is dancing and having a good time. It’s harder than it sounds so when it’s executed correctly, it feels good. Again, I do a lot of what I do for me so when it touches someone else and inspires them in any way I am extremely grateful. I had someone recently tell me “You make Jacksonville a Better Place”, another person told me a few years ago that one of my albums “Saved their life and helped them through a bout of serious depression”. My son told me I was "kinda ok at rapping and DJing"…that is all the success I need!
We'd like to thank Miguel for his participation in this interview. We'd also like to thank you for reading.
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