By Alicia Brown
Khaiim Kelly, better known as RapOet, does it all—he is a creativity and culture teacher, poet, artist, inspirational public speaker and even Hartford’s first city troubadour. In all he does, his community-minded spirit and exceptional talent leads the way.
Originally from New York City but now with deep roots in Hartford, Connecticut, Kelly is an international Hip-Hop artist known as Self Suffice. He has performed around the world with Pulitzer Prize poet Alice Walker and Grammy-winning MC Common and his positive use of rap music has been recognized by former President Obama’s Champions of Change, The New York Times, NPR and others.
The arts have always been a central part of Kelly’s life. As a child, he rapped in a way that he self-describes as “just sounds and noises” that eventually became words, then sentences that flowed into structure, timing and something more. This evolution of using words as powerful tools for learning in new ways has fueled Kelly’s mission. He loves making the mundane interesting, and helping his students transform challenges into understandable, consumable art.
“It isn’t the conscious, it’s the subconscious that makes it interesting,” he shared. “I take something people should know about and make it fun.”
Kelly fights for peace with words and lyrics and brings that passion to the classroom at colleges including Yale, Trinity and other arts programs across the globe. In a welcomed yet somewhat unconventional way, Kelly uses Hip-Hop to help students grasp concepts in a fun and engaging way. Central to his highly in-demand RapOetry Workshop and Rap ‘n Rhythmetic lessons “are alignment, access, and integration,” as he puts it. In other words, when the RapOet is invited to instruct or perform, participants can expect to be enlightened.
“It isn’t the conscious, it’s the subconscious that makes it interesting. I take something people should know about and make it fun.”
He teaches with his whole body and soul—something that’s evident to anyone who has had a chance to sit in on a class or be in his audience.
RapOet’s MIFT program—which stands for “Making it Full Time” helps artists and creatives get that “extra fuel for their rocket” as he describes, to remind them of the power of art in and of itself. A coaching program built for artists by artists, it focuses on turning “what you love to do into what you actually do for work”—words Kelly certainly lives by.
Among the many creative talents he shares with the world, Kelly also designs clothing and merchandise, which are available on his website. His favorite? Not surprisingly, his “Black history is the root of all history” gear.
In all he does, Kelly leaves an impressionable mark. While he could have chosen many paths and taken opportunities presented to him that would further his personal success at the expense of pushing positive rap aside, he has dedicated his life to bettering the world through the art of positive rap and poetry—he’s a true change-maker.
Find RapOet on Instagram, Facebook or his website. Kelly is available for speaking engagements, performances and workshops.
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