Real J. Wallace mistook an AA meeting for a game of Duck Duck Goose.
“I was raised in San Diego, and one of my most memorable [memories] is being six, and my Mom taking me to my Auntie’s AA meetings. We sat in a circle and I thought that we were going to play Duck Duck Goose. I learned a lot that day, and I listened to people’s stories.”
That’s hip-hop artist Real J. Wallace, aka Ramel Wallace, aka the Last Black Man in Barrio Logan, talking about his local upbringing. Regarding local live shows, he opines, “The Belly Up is hands-down the best music venue in San Diego. From the location of the bar, to the sound system, to the seating. The first time I went there, I opened up for Blackalicious, and it was unforgettable.”
“I grew up on 2Pac as an artist and as a political figure if not mythological,” reflects Wallace on his musical influences. “I remember him being murdered, yet seeing his video of him in Heaven. It was as if he had predicted his own demise. A book called Religion in Hip-Hop talks about this concept and the concept of prophecy within hip-hop.
“The prophetic nature of hip-hop made me want to take a deep dive. I wanted to be able to see myself in some sort of future. They say a black man isn’t supposed to live past 25; I feel like hip-hop helped me see past that. I remember watching Nas perform the ‘Made You Look Remix’ with Ludacris and Jadakiss during a Hot 97 concert. I watched it in middle school on MTV. This was the first time that I said to myself, ‘I want to be like them!’”
Civic responsibility followed, though. “ThChrch was a creative space in Barrio Logan created by members of the creative community and a few teachers from Platt College. We noticed the gap between creatives that could afford school, and those that didn’t have access. We were blessed with an opportunity to open a space in 2014 with an investment... and never looked back. The function was to provide a safe space for artists to practice their craft and build a business. For the first year we rented out space to creatives and allowed them free rent. BeatBox Records emerged from that and a host of other businesses and creative ventures.”
“I am The CEO of The Holyfield, and we started off as the music studio within ThChrch. The Holyfield is an organization that focuses on identity construction through unique art modalities, storytelling, and content. We work with people on the individual level, and we work with companies and nonprofits on the organizational level. Recently we licensed a song for a podcast called Dear BAMf. We also work with the San Diego African American Museum of Fine art where I am also a board member.”
Asked about the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, he’s blunt. “The entire process has created Post-Traumatic Woke syndrome. Everybody got woke in a week. This is deep social trauma, I wish people would take time to process that. This is pain beyond comprehension....”