Forty-two-year-old Quan Neloms counts himself lucky that his childhood overlapped the golden age of hip hop. Make a movie based on his teenage years growing up in Detroit in the ’90s— which by the way, he’s working on a screenplay for — and you’d see a lunchroom full of kids pounding out beats on tables and friends circling up in groups to rap or beatbox until the bell called them back to class.
After school, the venue would switch to the Hip Hop Shop, a Detroit clothing store where Neloms and his friends came of age at Saturday open mics with J Dilla, Eminem and musicians from the D12 collective, before these artists were known to national audiences.
Neloms, a veteran Detroit educator who’s been a lecturer at UM-Dearborn since 2021, likes to joke that his early studio experience made him the first member of Lyricist Society, the after-school group he started in 2009 when he was a high school teacher at the Douglass Academy for Young Men in Detroit.
Typically, the Lyricist Society process starts with the students discussing subjects, writing rhymes and laying down some foundational instrumentals, which they workshop as a group until they feel a track is ready to record. Then they hit the studio, aided by a professional producer who volunteers with the group. They also make music videos, which the kids shoot and edit.
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