The music in the church parking lot Saturday was loud for a reason.
“It’s not really the music,” said Andre Williams, an Anchorage rapper otherwise known as Blaack. “The music is just a tool to reach out.”
On the chilly first day of November, Williams performed outside Mountain View’s Leake Temple AME Zion Church, one of the many stops in his informal, free-and-open-to-everyone MAD tour. The acronym stands for “making a difference.” Williams hopes the music will do just that.
Gripping a mic, he spoke to the handful of people gathered in the parking lot about respect, self-worth and the power to make change. He cracked jokes and greeted people by name and said it was all about connecting with others on a deeper level. Frederick Gunnar, a 20-year-old aspiring rapper, listened and said he’s been working to put those ideas into practice.
Gunnar was living at Covenant House — the Downtown shelter for homeless youth — when he first met Williams back in September, and he said the older rapper took him under his wing and helped him get the studio time to finish up his demo track. He said Williams helps him focus on the things that really matter.
“What matters in life is how you treat yourself and the people around you,” Gunner said, shoulders hunched against the cold in the air.
After Williams’ first few raps, most of the crowd moved inside the church to warm up and munch on free pizza before heading back out to the parking lot to catch performances by Anchorage artist Samuel Johns. Johns rapped about his Alaska Native heritage, and a song about struggles with domestic abuse.
“My goal is to make music to help people heal,” Johns said.
That’s why he agreed to come perform in the church parking lot Saturday afternoon. For Williams, the music is a way to bring people in and spread a message of hope. That’s why you could hear it from across the street.
“There’s so much negative going on right now,” Williams said during a break in performances. “I feel like, in the midst of the negativity is an opportunity.”