Rapper Dupre ‘Doitall’ Kelly now wants to do politics and join the Newark, New Jersey, City Council Member of ’90s group Lords of the Underground says arts and culture can create jobs

It was the early ’90s. 1993 to be exact. Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was top of the charts. “Whoomp There It Is” by Tag Team was rocking clubs. “That’s The Way Love Goes” by Janet Jackson was the swoon fest of probably the decade. And this was all according to Billboard‘s top charts. Meanwhile, BET crowned Lords of the Underground, a hip-hop trio from Newark, New Jersey, as the best rap group for hits from their album released March 6 of that same year, Here Come the Lords.

Twenty-four years later, group member Dupre “Doitall” Kelly has traveled the world, achieved fame, and is now bringing his talent back to his hometown. He is running for another title — an at-large council seat in Newark. If elected next year, he will be the first platinum-selling hip-hop artist to be elected to public office in a major U.S. city.

Newark is no stranger to being led by men within the arts community, as poet Ras Baraka, son of the late Amiri Baraka, serves as mayor. Kelly is a native of Newark’s West Ward, where he attended public school and honed his craft as a rapper. He attended Shaw University, a historically black university in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he became a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. With his group he earned platinum and gold success, and as an actor he appeared in hit shows such as The Sopranos, Oz and Law & Order.

He currently serves as co-founder and executive director of 211 Community Impact, a nonprofit that promotes literacy, good health and giving. Alongside a host of other organizations in early 2017, Kelly helped raise funds to purchase a lift bus for children at John F. Kennedy School in Newark.

After a meeting with his campaign staff, Kelly spoke with The Undefeated about his run for City Council.


How did you decide to engage in politics?

My decision was made because of my journey through living the hip-hop culture and seeing how it has grown into a culture that influences and inspires the world. I decided, why not use it to help my community on an elected-official level?

Why is it important for hip-hop to have representation in government?

It is super important to have someone at the table of politics that understands and speaks the language of the community. For the last 20 years, hip-hop culture has been the most popular on this planet and is indeed a movement by definition. Hip, meaning in the now, and hop being a form of movement. If looked at that way, you can see that hip-hop is the now movement.

How do you feel about Jay-Z’s latest album?

I feel like it’s part of the evolution of hip-hop. The points and subjects Jay chose to address with a feel of honesty were topics that a 25-year-old Jay-Z would have never talked about. The experiences that he has encountered on his journey, using hip-hop as the vehicle allowed him to articulate to the rest of the hip-hop community and beyond in such a way that in my mind displayed his genius.

Do you hope more people within the hip-hop culture engage in local government?

Yes, I pray so. I hope to be the spark that ignites the flame of any and everyone who has a platform that can galvanize citizens in every city. If that happens, we can really effectively make changes in our communities.

What plans do you have for the city of Newark?

I plan on making a greater investment into our youth by bringing new innovative ideas that will generate revenue through arts and culture that can be used to spur job creation. Keep our young people engaged and residents invested into making the quality of life better for everyone in every ward of the great city of Newark, New Jersey.

What did people say when you decided to run?

It depends on which person you or I ask. When asking seasoned political figures, they would say, ‘Maybe you should wait until the next election to be ready.’ If you asked a person from 35 to 55 years old, they would say, ‘You have my vote and I’m with you.’ If you asked a 25- to 34-year-old, they would say, ‘You are going to win this by a landslide,’ but clearly don’t know what it takes to enter into a political race, let alone win one. If you ask an 18- to 24-year-old, they want to know more about me and once they find out, by searching the internet and doing their research of what I have done in the community, they also say that they are with me. The 60-year-olds-and-over residents want to know who I am, but more importantly where I stand on certain issues and policies.

Interesting theory based upon age ranges. How old are you?

Well, if you have heard the classic Lords of the Underground single ‘Funky Child,’ the intro begins with ‘The year is 1971.’ … I will let you math experts figure out what age that makes me. [Laughs.]

Who are you mirroring this campaign off?

I am mirroring chess players like grandmaster and Hall of Famer Maurice Ashley and Garry Kasparov.

What is your mission statement for your campaign?

My mission is [to] add on to the great things that are happening in the city of Newark, New Jersey, and help create bigger and better opportunities for the residents, entrepreneurs and local businesses. I also will talk to the people of the community in every ward to work on a solution to get residents to come from out of their individual silos, making every neighborhood in the entire city inclusive. When people love their city, they can change it.

As someone passionate about our home teams, will the New Jersey Devils win the Stanley Cup this year?

Absolutely. (Laughs)

LL Cool J talks hoops, giving back and being a Kennedy Center honoree ‘Wherever I go, hip-hop goes. When I stand there, I’m standing there for the culture.’

LL Cool J is often mentioned as one of hip-hop’s young pioneers who burst onto the scene years ago and remains a relevant staple in culture. His head-bumping beats, charismatic concrete rhymes, and swagger of a Kangol bucket hat and heavy gold chains introduced hip-hop in a way that can never be ignored, only used as a blueprint.

His first single in 1987, “I Need a Beat,” put the music label Def Jam on the map. Thirteen albums later, at 49 years old, rap’s first sex symbol will be the Kennedy Center’s youngest honoree since Stevie Wonder and the only hip-hop honoree in the center’s 40-year history. It’s no coincidence that the Grammy Award winner hosted the Grammy Awards five consecutive years from 2012-16. And then there’s acting. He’s starred in several hit films and shows, which landed him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year.

August 2017 marks the 13th year that the Queens, New York, native is holding his annual Jump & Ball community camp in his hometown. The summer camp is free, and hundreds of kids participate in competitive basketball as well as double Dutch, chess, kickball and handball.

At Daniel O’Connell Playground in Hollis, Queens, LL spoke with The Undefeated about his commitment to giving back to his hometown, how Michael Jordan’s dominance in the game corrupted his New York Knicks fandom, his report card on Magic Johnson’s leadership at the Los Angeles Lakers and, of course, hip-hop and fashion.

Using a line from his ’90s hit “Mama Said Knock You Out”: Don’t call it a comeback; I’ve been here for years. With more than 30 years in the game, LL Cool J is not slowing down one bit.


What started Jump & Ball, and what keeps it going as it celebrates its 13th year?

I know from growing up in this neighborhood [Southeast Queens] that there’s nothing to do. My grandmother always told me that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, so when you don’t have anything to do, you’re on the corner [selling drugs]. I wanted to give the kids in the community something to look forward to. There were a lot of hustlers out here when I was growing up. They weren’t doing everything right, but they would throw ball tournaments. And for us as kids, we were like, ‘Wow, we’re having fun.’ I wanted to do it the right way and pay it forward, back to the kids.

For 12 years, I was just throwing basketball tournaments and letting the kids play ball. But we have kids looking up to players like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, so I felt this year going forward that I needed to introduce them to a little more structure where they could learn skills and how to play competitively.

How would you describe Queens, New York? What does it mean to you?

For me, it’s home sweet home, but it’s something different to everyone. If you came out here and got your chain snatched, it might not mean the same thing to you that it means to me (laughs). But I love being here; it’s a family. I just want to keep doing the right thing for them and keep it going.

Are you still a recovering New York Knicks fan?

I’m a loyal New Yorker, but I’m going to keep it absolute 100 with you: Michael Jordan ruined everything for [all other players for me]. I was trying to be a Knicks fan, but MJ was killing the game. But, yes, I’m a Knicks fan first. I love my man [Charles] Oakley and Anthony Mason. Antoine Mason, Anthony’s son, is an unbelievable player too. I’m in Los Angeles, but I’ll never be a transplant. That’s never going to happen! The idea that I’ll be in L.A. and become a pure L.A. guy is ridiculous. I’m New York all the way.

How do you feel your friend Magic Johnson is doing as the new Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations?

That’s my great friend, I love him, and I’m just so happy for him. I believe in what Magic is doing with the Lakers. He has the right formula and understands the players and life after basketball. Look at me, it’s like I’m doing recruiting for the Lakers (laughs). Lonzo [Ball] is going to be incredible. His father is hilarious; shoutout to the entire Ball family.

You’ve been a huge supporter of the BIG3 tournament. What drove that fandom?

It was a genius idea by [Ice] Cube. I love to watch Al Harrington, DeShawn Stevenson and all these guys go out there and play. It’s going to keep getting better and better. Players can go from Jump & Ball, then a Division I or II college, maybe the NBA afterwards and then the BIG3 league. The BIG3 is a perfect complement to the NBA for the players that get out but still want to hoop. It’s crazy dope.

LL Cool J spins a basketball during week four of the BIG3 three on three basketball league at Wells Fargo Center on July 16, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Rob Carr/BIG3/Getty Images

Is hip-hop evolving or do you feel it’s losing heart?

[You have to first ask yourself,] ‘Lost heart to who?’ If you’re a 35-year-old and you grew up listening to one thing and now you have a 15-year-old listening to another thing, then maybe it lost heart to you in that sense. But from an artist to fan connection, it hasn’t lost any heart. I feel the connection is as strong as ever. I’m always going to love the culture of hip-hop and be a believer of its original foundation. I’ll forever be LL Cool J The Original, but at the same time, I don’t have a problem with new music. There are a lot of great artists out here … but there’s always going to be someone putting out some garbage [music], whether it’s 1987 or 2077.

How does it feel to be the first hip-hop artist to receive the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors?

I would have never imagined it in my wildest dreams. Wherever I go, hip-hop goes. When I stand there, I’m standing there for the culture. I’m not standing there necessarily with or against the powers that be. I’m standing there for the hip-hop culture.

You recently did a photo shoot with [fashion designer] Marc Jacobs and Salt-N-Pepa for the fashion issue cover of InStyle Magazine. What inspires your style?

My style is inspired by where I’m at right now [Queens]. I just have the resources to maybe get every piece instead of just one now. I can wear what I have on right now for a magazine cover or if I was at Mr. Chow’s [restaurant]; it would look fancy. But here in Queens, it looks regular. I didn’t forget where I came from. I dress, talk and walk the same. I’m just growing and making my dreams come true.

It’s no surprise Drake dropped three new tracks — here are the three reasons why He owned ‘Summer Sixteen,’ and now Aubrey Graham’s quest to stay relevant this summer has officially begun

On the last track of his long-awaited playlist More Life, which was released mid-March, Drake did the unthinkable: In the final four lines of the song, he informed the world that he was taking a sabbatical from music. Even more shocking, the Toronto hitmaker professed that the time off would take place during a time of the year when he always flourishes creatively.

Takin’ summer off, ’cause they tell me I need recovery / Maybe gettin’ back to my regular life will humble me / I’ll be back in 2018 to give you the summary / More life, Drake floated on the playlist’s 22nd track, titled “Do Not Disturb.”

The declaration itself is jarringly out of character, and its contents are strange. For the past four years, when the weather heats up, school’s out and the rooftop parties are in full swing, it’s inevitable that the season’s soundtrack is brought to you by Drizzy. Receipts below:

2016

One Dance,” “Controlla,” “Too Good (featuring Rihanna),” you name it. “Summer Sixteen” — the name of his track that inspired a 60-show journey across North America with Atlanta rapper Future, the highest-grossing hip-hop tour of all time — belonged to Drake, all sparked by the release of his fourth studio album, Views, in April 2016.

2015

The smash hit “Hotline Bling” sticks out, but don’t forget the two diss tracks directed at Meek Mill, “Charged Up” and “Back to Back,” from which the Philly rapper has yet to recover.

2014

Diddy gave Drake a beat and asked him to ghostwrite for it. But Drake took it for himself and delivered the undeniable “0 to 100/The Catch Up” in July 2014 — one of his definitive tracks that never made one of his albums.

2013

Drake gave us the smooth “Hold On We’re Going Home” in August 2013, which teed up one of the best albums — if not the best — of his career, Nothing Was the Same.


After such prolific summers, how would Drake take off in 2017?

It looked like he wouldn’t. Until now. But Drake recently made his way onto three new tracks. There’s the Louis Vuitton 2018 spring/summer runway theme “Signs,” a remix of PartyNextDoor’s “Freak in You” and a Metro Boomin-produced collaboration with Migos rapper Offset, titled “No Complaints.”

As his trademark season was approaching, Drake’s bold proclamation at the end of “Do Not Disturb” proved to be a bluff. He couldn’t resist the urge to release music this summer, and here are the reasons:

  • For a brief moment, Drake wasn’t the man anymore

Nearly a month after More Life dropped, Drake became a bit of an afterthought because of the release of the already certified platinum album DAMN., from Kendrick Lamar. The drop had to irk Drake at least a little bit, for the simple fact that it was Kendrick. Those two have been going at it for years, with a subtle beef dating back as far as 2013. And now, to Drake’s chagrin, Kendrick is the current leader in the clubhouse of critical acclaim.

  • Jay Z is set to drop his first album in four years

I shouldn’t even worry, backward n—-s / 12 solo albums, all platinum, n—- / I know you ain’t out here talkin’ numbers, right? / I know you ain’t out here talkin’ summers, right? These are Jay Z’s seminal lines from DJ Khaled’s Grateful track “Shining” (also featuring Beyoncé) that debuted in early 2017. Was Hov taking a shot at Drake? That’s what everyone thinks. Even though Drizzy began his career by rapping I never cried when ’Pac died / But I probably will when Hov does, asserting his admiration for the man many consider the greatest of all time— GOAT of hip-hop. The two MCs have butted heads quite a bit over the years, through bars and petty chess moves. Drake continued the trend with three new tracks on the brink of Jay Z releasing 4:44, his first album since 2013. Coincidence? Probably not.

  • Drake’s personal life became a bigger focus than the music

Not once, but twice, since the release of More Life, claims have been made that Drake has gotten a woman pregnant. First, a former stripper named Layla Lace alleged that the Toronto artist was the father of her unborn child, though the rumor was quickly dispelled. Then, TMZ reported that former porn star Sophie Brussaux was pregnant with Drake’s child — and she’s got a baby bump to support her claim. “If it is in fact Drakes child, which he does not believe, he would do the right thing by the child,” one of the artist’s reps said in a statement to the New York Daily News. So, in a way, the new music is a proclamation from Drake that, after all that’s happened out of the studio in the past few months, “I’m still here.”

Regardless of why you think Drake made a return, the reality is he’s back with new music that will certainly be in rotation this summer. The question, though, is this: Is there a new summer 17 project from the 6 God in the works? We shall see.

Baltimore kid stunts on chess tournament in Nike slides Cahree Myrick is a gawd for this

When I grow up, I want to be like Cahree Myrick.

I didn’t know who he was until this morning when this crossed my desk. I have no context for this photo other than what’s tweeted. Alec Ross, by the way, is running for governor in Maryland. But his political career aside, let’s talk about the sport.

Chess, for years, was the purview of dudes on park benches and European dudes who took things extremely seriously. Over the past decade, it’s grown quite a bit in the black community, with after-school programs being the primary vehicle. Here’s a story about one in Ferguson, Missouri, for example. As a concept though, the effect of teaching black kids to play chess is such a marvel that it’s been the subject of pretty serious academic study, too. You might be familiar with Maurice Ashley, the first black chess grandmaster, who’s been at the forefront of this movement.

But let’s talk about this kid. I have a kid brother in middle school. He dresses exactly like this every day possible. When I was his age, I dressed exactly like this, every day possible. It was my outfit for walking to the gas station to get snacks, maybe hitting the mall with a friend or lounging at my cousin’s house. This young man decided to rock it to a chess championship. And he won.

I have no clue what any of his competitors wore, but I like to imagine that they wore the kind of stuff your parents forced you to wear to Sunday school — you know, just in case someone took a picture. My man Cahree rolled up in some slides, banged a couple of checkmates and walked away with a trophy.

This is black boy joy.