Special Reports

Ideals with a rap music beat offer youths an alternative

Brandon Robinson, 22, thinks he’s found an answer to at least part of Kansas City’s problems with drugs and gangs.

Give youths something positive and enjoyable to do: recording their own rap music.

"Everybody likes to rap, but most can’t afford time in a recording studio," he said.

Robinson created a studio in his house near Gregory Boulevard and the Paseo. He invites young men from across the city.

One artist said he enjoys rapping with other youths.

"In the late ’90s, most of us would not be able to hang around each other," Ashton Hams, 19, said in reference to gang allegiances. "But we’re not trippin’ off red and blue (gang colors)."

Word of his studio quickly spread, Robinson said.

"It’s something positive that gets us all together, without all the problems," he said.

On a recent afternoon, a half-dozen young men fine-tuned lyrics and listened to Robinson record tracks in a studio made of plywood nailed to the ceiling and foam pads nailed to the wall.

Robinson uses a laptop computer, recording software and an expensive microphone with a pop filter to catch stray saliva and protect the sound quality.

Robinson said he tries to offer his studio for free but often accepts nominal fees to help pay for equipment upkeep.

His dream is to find enough financing for his program, called "Town Movement Inc." He would upgrade the studio and move it to a building that also could house basketball courts, a dance studio and an auditorium for talent shows.

Robinson said he understands firsthand why young people band together in poor neighborhoods and end up selling drugs to pay for food and other bills. He pleaded guilty last year to selling marijuana.

"We don’t want to sell crack," he said. "We’re through with all that."

Robinson also works at a local onion ring company. His friend Ossco Bolton, who runs an anti-gang program, is helping Robinson try to find a grant or other funding for his program.

His older brother, Earl Robinson, 28, said: "We like to make music. That’s our gang."