Up Close and Personal w/ The 411 Music Academy

by Rafeal Crawford

The 411 Brand Expands Into Music With Their 411 Music Academy

When the word brand is mentioned a person may think of Coca Cola, Nike or Apple, but brand does not necessarily have to come in the corporate form, hence The 411 Brand has redefined the term. The 411 Brand is an unique and outside the box approach to reaching the youth through their various programs such as basketball, dance, lacrosse, and golf to name a few.

Created almost 25 years ago, the 411 Brand was founded by a 23-year old former college basketball player named John Thomas. His vision was to have a platform for the youth, where they would be able to receive the tools needed to succeed in life. The 411 Brand is seasoned when it comes to sports, but John wanted to take the program to another level, so he ventured off to start the 411 Music Academy. Working with Clyde Anderson and Javin Forman, who both contributed mightily with helping to make the 411 Music Academy come to fruition. Javin, who managed artists in the music industry, is very knowledgeable when it comes to behind the scenes in the music industry. The 411 Music Academy was held inside Patchwerk Studios to give the students the same experience that a major artist has when recording their hit record.


The 411 Music Academy provides the opportunity for the youth to get a better understanding on how the music industry works especially behind the scenes. 411 Brand has brought in heavyweights like Disturbing The Peace CEO Chaka Zulu, whom is also the manager of multi-platinum recording artist/actor Ludacris, to give them advice and guide them in the right direction. Also, Grammy nominated producer/engineer Mustafa, who has worked with Anderson.Paak and Young Thug, played a key role in the 8-week program.

John reached out to me and said I should come through Patchwerks Studios for a listening session to hear the finished product from the students that just completed the program. It was on a Saturday during college football season, but I didn’t mind sacrificing a Saturday because John supported me throughout the years. To be honest, I went in with low expectations because I was expecting to see skinny jeans hanging low with dreads with different colors (yeah I’m an old Hip Hop head and proud of it) and I thought the music would be nothing with any meaning, but I was there to support the Music Academy.

Click on the link below to hear 411 Music Academy Summer 16 Volume One

But that is what I get for prejudging our youth of today. The 411 Music Academy has managed to recruit the crème de la crème of talented ARTISTS in Atlanta. These young people were emcees (not rappers) because they all had a message in their rhymes. The students came from various backgrounds, whether they were from the most destitute of places or an affluent background, they worked magically together. There were also some of the best singing voices in the room that you have ever heard. You would of thought these students were platinum selling artist already. Lastly, the spoken word is definitely recognized in the 411 Music Academy because they believe ART is ART. The 411 Music Academy brings young people together from different backgrounds to make magic happen and that is what I experienced on that Saturday afternoon. Where emcees, singers, and poets all came together to let their voices be heard through the 411 Music Academy.

What prompted you to start the 411 Music Academy?

 We created the 411 Music Academy as a way to educate as well inspire young people interested in music to live in their talents. Our goal is to bridge the gap between the history of Atlanta’s incredible music scene and young people wanting to get involved in the music industry.
What are some of the topics the workshop participants want to talk about when they get the chance to record?
When you hear what these young people talk about it is inspiring. They talk about real stuff. Their ambitions to succeed. Their fears, what they are dealing with. Young people have a lot on their minds and just need outlets like the 411 Music Academy to give them a platform to express. We’ve had participants talk about everything from surviving Hurricane Katrina, to missing incarcerated loved ones and their questions about why their generation gets such a bad rap from older people. I feel like we should do more listening and less talking at today’s youth. They really are the future.
 What makes your workshops different from what other organizations are doing as far as helping young people make music?
I believe one of the differences is that we are focused on giving our students a full view of the music industry. From the relationships that we have throughout Atlanta’s music industry, we are able to put young people in front of individuals that have achieved a tremendous amount success in the industry. We also understand the importance of being creative and giving students all of the tools needed to share their natural gifts with other likeminded students.
What are some of the things young people want to know in regards to pursuing the music business?
A lot of the questions the young people had was how to share their music with the world and be compensated for it. They also asked how important is it to be an independent artist or should they sign with the record label.  In this day and age, they are growing up understanding the importance of ownership and maintaining their creativity but they’re lacking mentoring from people who have been there and done that. That’s what we are bringing to the table.
 What has been the most satisfying aspect of the workshop?
One of the most satisfying parts of the program is watching young people come together to create something great that didn’t exist prior to their meeting. Watching them individually be creative but collectively put together a project that they’re all extremely proud of, was extremely satisfying for me
What made you choose Patchwerk Studios?
Our goal as an organization is to always align ourselves with partners that have some credibility to their craft. Patchwork is a studio that has been a part of some of the greatest music we’ve heard coming out of Atlanta. Also, we want to allow young people an opportunity to sit in the same booth, walk the same hallway and work in the same environment of the same individuals that they admire, in hopes to inspire greatness out of them.
What do you see this workshop growing into?
Our goal is for the 411 Music Academy to have a national presence in several markets across the country.  The ultimate goal is to create a community for kids in Los Angeles to record with kids in Atlanta, to record with kids in New York and then kids in Chicago. We feel we have an opportunity to really bridge the gap and give young people an opportunity to express themselves and inspire their generation.
What kind of people have participated as workshop leads and guest speakers?
Many years ago, during the golden years of the music industry in Atlanta, I worked at V103 Radio. Many of the decision makers now, were my peers back then and we created life long friendships because there were only a few of us figuring it out back then. So just through relationships, we have been blessed to have individuals like Chaka Zulu, CEO of DTP and Ludacris’ manager, Uwanda Carter, Entertainment Attorney as well as Grammy Award Winning Producer Zaytovan who has worked with Usher, Future, Gucci Mane and many more. We are finding out there are a lot of artists, executives and producers that are interested in sharing their journey with our students.
What do you learn from being around young people so often?
One of the main things I learned from being around young people is that it’s ok to be fearless. Young people have so many ideas and so much creativity that it forces you not to be stagnant and stuck in your ways. Our programs deal with kids ranging from ages six years old to 24 years old from all types of backgrounds.  The way that they view the world is exciting and I’m blessed to be able to get up every day and spend time with our future leaders of tomorrow.
Is there a moment that stands out for you?
One moment that really stands out to me was when all of the kids got together the first day and we asked them to get up and freestyle and share their talents. This one young lady named Eshai stood up and sang! WOW! the energy in the room was crazy. I believe she inspired the entire room and forced everybody to bring their A game! It was at that moment I knew that we had something special.

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