In 2009, rapper Rise-Ascend (f/k/a Ankh Amen Ra) released his debut album, Divine Composition. The Washington D.C. area-based emcee did not have an agent and he was not signed to a record label. He was just making music for the world to hear.
Not long after, he received a Facebook message from a producer in Sweden named Direction, who expressed an admiration for Rise’s lyrics. The two began to collaborate through cyberspace, and the pairing proved to be a success: “Once I heard his music, over the course of sometimes 48 hours, sometimes three days or so, I would have a song written, and you know I would send him a message back like, ‘Hey Man, the song is done, let’s keep moving,’” recalls Rise-Ascend during a recent phone interview with HipHopDX. “Then after awhile it was like, ‘Hey we need to do an album,’ so we went ahead and made an album.”
That album, Hurry Up, Tell the World, is hugely important to both Rise-Ascend and Direction for many reasons. For one, it is their debut collaborative effort, showcasing both of their respective talents. More importantly though, it promotes an awareness of human rights injustices in China - specifically, the ones being levied against the Falun Gong practitioners. It is an ideology both Rise-Ascend and Direction adhere to. According to Rise-Ascend, “Falun Gong is a cultivation practice: a practice of mind and body and it’s something that helps people to improve their morality and their spirituality…And it’s something that’s really been the core of my personal development.”
Central to Falun Gong are three pillars known as Falun Dafa: truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. Rise-Ascend stresses that his and Direction’s adherence to Falun Dafa has helped them spiritually. Rise-Ascend changed his stage name- which had previously been “Ankh Amen RA” - and he felt more uplifted and positive than ever before. But the injustices in China only fueled his passion further: “Once I found out that on July 20, 1999, the Chinese Communist Regime started viciously persecuting Falun Dafa practitioners in China, I knew that I needed to use my voice and use my music to help inform people and tell people the truth about Falun Dafa.” He doesn’t see it as a task, though. Instead, it is more of a privilege than anything. “Obviously Hip Hop has a history of…bringing awareness to issues. So for me it was natural to use our music to inform people about the persecution of Falun Gong.”
“The most viciously persecuted group in China are Falun Gong practitioners. Some people know that Christians are persecuted in China, Muslims are persecuted in China. Pretty much anyone who doesn’t believe in the Communist ideology is a target for persecution.” Rise-Ascend noted that Falun Gong practitioners are vulnerable to being attacked in their own homes by the Chinese Government, a disturbing fact, mainly because their mission is to promote truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. They also are spreading awareness about government-sponsored torture chambers and brainwash centers, something the general public is not fully aware of. Rise-Ascend asserts, “They [practitioners] could at any time have their house raided, you know, be arrested and be placed in a torture chamber and be murdered simply for trying to be a good person.” He firmly stands by this analysis of the injustice.
Aside from Hurry Up, Tell the World, and their spreading awareness about the mistreatment of Chinese Falun Gong practitioners, Rise-Ascend and Direction are currently promoting their new single, “Split A Mountain,” available for free download on their website MusicToStopThePersecution.org. Citing a desire to target a wider audience, Rise-Ascend notes that the track “…does have a Dubstep type of feel, it has that Electronic, new-age type of feel to it, but yet it’s still something that has a righteous feel to it; has an uplifting and inspiring feel to it.”
For now, check out Rise-Ascend and Direction’s website and music. The duo still have yet to finally meet each other face-to-face, but that hasn’t deterred them from planning for the future: “I feel really confident in saying that in the near future, you’ll probably be seeing us coming out and doing a show and performing the music for the people,” says Rise-Ascend.