Hakiiim, The Boy Who Will Be King

Learn how music artist Hakiiim is hustling to be the next king of hip hop

GREY Journal

“No one to guide me, I’m all alone; no one to cry on. I need shelter from the rain to ease the pain of changing from boys to men.”

Boyz II Men

There are boys and there are men. Then, there are those young men who aspire to be something greater than they ever dreamed. But growing into that, with the desire to have your voice heard, can be painful and wrought with unforeseen obstacles that can delay your moment in the sun.

That is what I saw two years ago when I first wrote about the “boy wonder,” Jibril Rasul Hakim, a then-16 year old music prodigy whose only goal in life was to one day be the master of his own destiny—a king. Hence the origins of his stage name King Hak!m.

Hip-hop artist Jibril Rasul Hakim "Hakiiim"

Hip-hop artist Jibril Rasul Hakim “Hakiiim”

At that time, he told me, “It’s rough sometimes…I go through stuff. For example, I’m a big dude for my age. I’m 6’4” and a half. People mistake me for being grown—19, college age—but I’m a kid. I don’t even have a driver’s permit. But I know what people see. So, I put how I feel about those perceptions in my music.”

He isn’t the first in his family to do so.

Jibril is the grandson of the late, award-winning jazz composer Talib Rasul Hakim (born Stephen Alexander Chambers). His great-uncle, Talib’s brother, Joe Chambers’ song Mind Rain was sampled by Hip-Hop artist Nas for N.Y. State of Mind. Broadway star and recording artist Brennyn Lark, currently on the TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, is his cousin and was featured in GREY last month.

It would appear he has some pretty big shoes to fill. However, Jibril, who now goes by the stage name Hakiiim, is determined to forge his own path. He is about to embark on a new journey, branching out on his own for the first time later this month when he leaves for college at NYU. There, he will study at the renowned Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music under industry leaders like Hip-Hop veteran Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who wrote the foreword for my client Alan Leeds’ book, There Was A Time: James Brown, The Chitlin’ Circuit and Me (Post Hill Press). Both men worked with Prince and Jibril will get the benefit of that knowledge and experience as well.

It wasn’t an easy road to get here from where he was two years ago. There were some trying times, disappointments and heartbreaking moments. But there’s also redemption, resiliency and the fortitude of a very deep and abiding spirit.

Here you’ll find an unrelenting drive to do better and rise above the challenges from two years ago. While reading this, at times, you will have to remind yourself that he is only 18. At other times, you will sit back and smile knowing what Kendrick Lamar says is true, “It’s gonna be alright.” The future is in capable hands and the boy who will become king has got it all under control, at least for now.

A: Did you ever think you would get to this place in time when you were about to enter college?

J: Um, no. Sophomore year was a hard year and I was kind of seeing it as a week by week kind of thing. Yeah, I just, I wasn’t focused on college. At a certain point, I began to realize I need to focus on my future and my life, so college seemed like the most valuable and really, the only option for me.

A: What are some things you’ve seen others go through that you were able to avoid, in general.

J: Drugs. One of my closest friends was shot and he’s now wheelchair bound. Another one of my good friends was incarcerated. Yet another one got shot and incarcerated. So, just seeing my friends go through a lot of pitfalls, I definitely had my mess ups and my pitfalls, but I never got that deep. I did my best to avoid that. Thankfully, I had my mother who, whenever she saw me slip up, even a little bit, she steered me in the right direction.

A: What role did music play in helping to keep you on the right path?

J: It saved my life. Music saved my life. I wouldn’t be here telling my story if I didn’t have my music. It kept me out of trouble, it kept me sane. It kept me from hurting.

Hip hop artist Hakiiim covering his face
Hakiiim covering his face
A: Do you feel that your school officials were as supportive as they should’ve been? More so, how do you feel about those who were and were not supportive?

J: Those who were supportive — and there were only a few — I could think of three off hand that got me through a lot of hard times. They would give me life advice and make me push myself further. They gave their ears to listen and were people whom I could just talk to, and who understood a lot of what I was going through in life.

One of them was like my “school mom” — don’t get it twisted, my actual mom was heavily involved in my education. She was going to school to make sure I got the education I deserved— but from 7:50 to 2:50, that one teacher was my buffer for everything [in that building]. Whenever I did good, she would make me food or bring me snacks. She was genuinely caring toward me. That was the biggest part.

A lot of people in schools don’t seem to care about kids. From a student’s perspective, she cared.  She would come to my classes everyday, every single day for a week and some change just to make sure that I’m doing all my work. She was there for everything. I would not have graduated high school if it were not for her. I’m telling you. Those who weren’t supportive, I feel like they didn’t help me. They unmotivated me. I felt like they tried to set me back a grade.

A: So based on what you’re saying about the teachers who weren’t supportive, what do you think could be done better to help all students, specifically black male students?

J: We need more teachers of color. I know every single district or company has a diversity quota, meaning they have to have a certain amount of people of color: black people, latino people, asian people, whatever, in the building. Most schools do meet that quota but typically the black person might be a secretary or the nurse, or a janitor. It may not be your history teacher. It may not be somebody impacting your education. So, more teachers of color and adults in the building who understand what black and brown children go through on a daily basis.

One of my boys, as soon as he got out of school, he had to take the city bus. He didn’t take a regular school bus. He took the city bus to work, then after work, he took the city bus home, to take care of his siblings. His mom came home from work around 10. So, teachers don’t understand that kids from like, ages 14 or 15 to age 18, in that 4 year period, we go through a lot of stuff that maybe they didn’t have to at our age.

A: And it depends on the kid, who might have siblings at home like you said.

J: Exactly, certain teachers just don’t help, and I’m not saying anybody needs to be put out of a job. But, whomever is in charge of those people, needs to reevaluate how they perform their jobs and if they are true to their mission. If a teacher is treating these black kids a certain way, he/she should not be teaching at this specific school with such diversity, anyway.

Hip hop artist Hakiiim
Hip hop artist Hakiiim
A: Would you say that you have or had a lot of male role models?

J: No. I never really had any positive male role models. The ones I did were kind of sporadic, in and out. My actual father wasn’t what a father should be. Others came for, like a season and then left. Nobody was a true positive male role model, besides my godfather, Dr. Cliff Watson. Men I needed to talk to weren’t men I should be around. Especially when I was young. So, no I never had a consistent male role model. My mother is my role model. She played mother and father my whole life.

A: In addition to her, what other support systems did you have, whether its people in your family, people in school you connected with or even friends outside of school?

J: My grandmother she’s a support system. My aunts are a big support system. My boy Nick is my dog. That’s my rider. My boy Amari. My boy Amara. He’s one of my big supporters. Those people support me.

A: Tell me about the road to college starting with your admission into NYU? What did you have to go through like before your admission, and then during the process?

J: In terms of the application process?

A: Yeah, all of it.

J: It was hard. It was mainly my mother breathing down my neck, like, write this essay, you have to get it like this. It was a struggle. It was definitely a struggle. It was first knowing what college to go to. That was the first part. Because you can have an idea of what you want to study, but not all schools may have that specific program. So NYU was perfect.

Applying there, my program specifically, was a little bit different. I had to do some portfolio stuff, make a video breaking down a song I made. And the essay process was probably the hardest because now we live in a generation where we don’t do the separate essays for different schools like back in the day. Now we have something called Common App. With Common App we write three essays, general questions, and they all apply to every single school. It’s difficult in terms of editing and making sure you sound intelligent, and respectable and you sound like you know what you’re talking about. That’s one of the harder parts. The other hard part is the waiting. That’s the anxious part.

A: What attracted you to the Music Production Program at NYU, more than just the music?

J: How specific it was. Because there are a lot of schools that have a music program, and a lot of schools that have a music production program. My specific school, it’s music production, it’s music business, it’s engineering, it’s artist development. It’s basically a program on the music industry.  And the people who teach us these things are people in the music industry. One of my professors is Bob Powers, the same engineer who engineered Jay-Z and A Tribe Called Quest. So, versus some other music school where it’s just someone who got his MDA in music, I have someone with industry experience. That’s why I was so attracted to my specific program.

Run album by hip hop artist Hakiiim

Also, too, the connections, not only Bob Powers, but we get internships at specific [record] labels. It’s like a pipeline to Def Jam or RCA, Republic, and Columbia. It’s a pipeline to what you want to do. Also to these specific buildings, so you get to be in the room with a Nas, Jay-Z, with Elton John, or with a L.A. Wilson.

A: So, what are you looking forward to most in college?

J: Freedom. I think when I was younger and trying to be bad, be down or be cool and be outside, I wanted freedom. But, when I got a little taste of it, I realize it was too much. I realized okay cool, let me go back to my sheltered home where my mother provides and I’m not trying to do that. That’s not fun. But I think now at 18 when I have a smarter mind, I’m wiser than I was. Granted I’m still a kid, I’m still a child. I just know more and I can think more.

But, freedom. I think that’s the main thing. Another thing is also getting the tools I need so that way when I’m done with my education I can provide for my family. I can buy my mom the house I want to buy her. I can take care of the people I want to take care of by getting the tools I need. I’m not going to promote dropping out of college, but with my program a lot of people don’t graduate because once they enter the program, they’re so immersed in the music business, they’ve already got everything they need. They get a gig, they get the money and go. Like, cool I’m set. Not me.

I think that’s what I’m excited about most, the freedom, and getting the tools I need to take care of you guys cause that’s all I ever wanted.

A: What do you think is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about growing up so far?

J: Don’t grow up too fast. If you stay on your path and just take your time, even if you’re forced to grow up fast, just take a step back cause you’re gonna see people around you who grow up fast, but they miss everything. So by the time they’re 18, they’re not looking right. Don’t grow up too fast. If you have to take on adult responsibilities as a kid, take like two seconds of your time, when you sleep at — just take two seconds to think — okay cool I’m still a kid. Just enjoy being a kid ’cause we still got time. I’m still 18, I’m still a kid even though, technically, I’m legal.

I have two more things: Think twice. Because you think once, your life’s gonna get messed up. Your whole life’s gonna get messed up if you don’t think twice. My mom has this amazing quote: “Don’t let your moment become your lifetime.” ‘Cause in the morning when you don’t think twice, you can’t take back the action. Whatever you do, you can’t take that back. So think twice.”

Don’t grow up too fast, think twice and learn to hold up your head up high! I don’t care what anyone says, everyone deals with self-confidence issues. Everybody on this planet has deals with, or has dealt with confidence. And if you say you don’t, then you’re a liar.

Growing up, I didn’t have the nicest gear cause my mom didn’t have the money. I was chubby. As a young kid you don’t have the tools to realize, “Hey I’m royalty, I’m worth something, I’m a King!” Once you learn that a little bit early, and growing up, you’re not going to feel like utter garbage.

A: What advice would give to people who either want to study in music like you or just have a dream they want to follow?

J: Follow it. Just keep going. Manifest it. Just stay on that path. Don’t give up. If you give up, that will be the biggest regret in your life. You’re gonna be stuck where you are, in your hometown, bored and doing nothing. You will be in a job you don’t want when you could’ve been living lavish in the hills working, popping like you’re Tupac.

Just keep working, keep grinding, don’t give up, it doesn’t matter what work you’re doing. Rapping, singing making beats, engineering, you’re an actress, actor — any kind of career, just pursue it. Somebody’s gonna listen. And that one person could turn into five, that five to 10, 15, 30, 100,000, 200,000, two million. You just keep going up the steps and don’t stop. That’s the worst. The worst thing you could ever do is stop. Just don’t ever stop.

Hopefully, Jibril won’t stop, either.

You can listen to Jibril’s EP Hope U Forgive Me and other music on Spotify, SoundCloud and iTunes.

How does Hakiiim’s story inspire you to be a hustler? Let us know down in the comments.

This article originally published on GREY Journal.

Aisha K. Staggers
Aisha K. Staggers is a writer of culture, politics, music and Prince. She is the featured weekly guest on The Dr Vibe Show's "Staggers' State of Things," as a political analyst and social commentator. Aisha is the creator and co-host of the internationally syndicated "All Our Own Show," a weekly talk program for Generation X Women of Color. She is the creator of the "Soul Since '74" blog on Medium and will launch the syndicated blog and podcast series, "For Colored Girls," this spring.

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