Hangberg hip hop artist, emcee and youth project facilitator Peter Michaels is heading Stateside, where he will work alongside Chicago-based music and video producer Evan Brown.
It has been a whirlwind year for Mr Michaels, a South African kung fu champion, having experienced the lows of being wrongfully arrested on abalone poaching charges to the highs of cementing his relationship with Mr Brown, known for collaborating with hip hop luminaries such as Lil Wayne and Young Thug.
In the wake of his arrest and subsequent release from prison in October last year, Mr Michaels sat down to write the track Not Guilty, which tells the story of his arrest along with 18 other poaching suspects.
The track, which is currently enjoying significant airplay on Bush Radio, aims to spread a message of justice. Mr Michaels and long-time friend Ricardo Domingo, who form Q-Drive Productions, are also working on a music video to accompany the song, filmed in locations like Hangberg, Ocean View, Woodstock and Salt River.
“There are a lot of people in this world who are wrongfully arrested. They never get a chance to defend themselves. I am considered a role model to the youth of Hangberg, and this even happened to me,
Not Guilty tries to speak to this issue and to those people who have had an experience like mine.
“I think police can handle situations far better than they do, and this song tries to get that message out.” As with many things in Mr Michaels’s life, how he came to meet Mr Brown had the air of the pre-ordained about it.
“About a year ago, I was working out in my local gym and I saw this guy near me. He didn’t look like a local, he looked like he could be a hip hop artist. I went up to him and introduced myself and we got tchatting. We also discussed the Harvest Youth Project, which I manage in the habour.
“A few days later I saw him wandering around the harbour markets, and I invited him to check out our project. He fell in love with it immediately, and told me this was exactly the kind of thing he was looking to get involved in.”
So inspired was Mr Brown that on his return to Chicago he established the Meet & Teach community project at the University of Illinois, and in December last year returned to Hout Bay with a group of American students to teach multimedia skills to underprivileged youth.
“Evan has been giving his input on the music video for Not Guilty, and at the end of March I will be going over to Chicago for two months to work on a song and video with him,” Mr Michaels said.
“While I’m over there I will be performing in clubs and at schools. It is a huge opportunity, and it’s a chance for me to get my foot in the door in the US.
“For me hip hop is all about telling a story about who you are, where you came from and where you’re going. I think people will be inspired by my story, growing up in Hangberg and overcoming all its challenges.”