"People are watching from all over the world and they're seeing that Seattle is where it's happening."
Daniel "King Khazm" Kogita doesn't say this to boast. Shy, soft-spoken, and wheelchair bound since childhood, Khazm doesn't boast about anything, but he's been instrumental to the Seattle hip-hop scene, so he could if he liked. He'd rather talk about his community service and his music, which is obvious the moment you walk him in his home and see his awards and music studio.
"It's in my nature to give," again, not boasting, "I do it out of necessity."
His outlet for giving is 206Zulu, a branch of hip-hop founder Afrika Bambaataa's Universal Zulu Nation, a New York-based group that has striven for equality and empowerment, while advancing the elemental aspects of hip hop: deejaying, emceeing, b-boying/b-girling, graffiti and knowledge. The Seattle chapter founded by Khazm in 2004, which has grown to roughly 80 members, just celebrated its fifth anniversary with a hip-hop festival at the Seattle Center, featuring performances by local artists, graffiti exhibitions and a film showcase, all centered on hip-hop as a vehicle for positivity.
"I'd always been into hip hop and graffiti, but Bambaataa brought this whole other level of using music and art as a vehicle for social activism."
This awareness has put Khazm deep into the Seattle community, performing at high schools with members of 206Zulu, holding panels at colleges, working in detention centers, and holding workshops on hip-hop. All of which have earned him a Mayor's Award for Excellence and a Kingship Award from Zulu, usually reserved for members who have been with the organization for a minimum of three years. It's an honor he earned within a year for his work.
"It's difficult to just get around since I'm in a wheelchair, but people see me and are inspired, so that one bit of discomfort for me can help a person a lot," he says.
Even before Zulu, Khazm made an impact with the 1998 documentary on the Pacific Northwest hip-hop scene, "Enter the Madness," produced by himself and members of MAD Krew, a group that promoted and organized shows and events beginning in 1995. From there, Khazm and Krew began Hip-Hop 101, a locally syndicated television series that brings exposure to emerging artists. Aside from his video work, Khazm hosts a hip-hop showcase on 91.3 KCBS every Saturday night.
"Hip-hop allows people to educate themselves in any subject," Khazm says. "It allows them to fight different issues, be involved in politics, and bring awareness on issues like youth violence."
For Khazm, it's even more personal.
"I left behind a whole section of my life surrounded by a lot of negativity. I'm biracial, disabled, and I was looking for a sense of identity. I've been able to overcome so much."
The essence of these experiences has been distilled into Khazm's next big achievement, the release of his first album, "Diary of a Mad," this fall.
"It's a concept album with boombastic rhythms," he says simply.
He isn't expecting a huge platinum release, but he does see his work as more politically conscious and outside the mainstream lyrically.
"There's people who exploit ignorance and glamorize violence, sexism, and misogyny," he says, adding, "They do hip-hop, but they don't know the worldview."
As a contrast, Khazm invokes his personal background. In the song "Dear Diary," he looks deep into the frustrations of his own life and the release music has provided.
"Dear Diary, help relieve this pain inside of me / I've been taken hostage from madness silently. Jaded, I readjust my vision and see the beauty from within the soul that I'm living."
Words like these demonstrate the background that he brings to his work at Zulu and the ideas that motivate the change he tries to bring in others. Khazm believes that art and music specifically improve lives in the community through this type of introspection.
"We get trapped in these daily cycles and we can break out if we become conscious. It's all in your mind."
Khazm isn't resting on his accomplishments. Aside from his monthly meetings and work with 206Zulu, he has performances lined up at the Northwest Folklife Festival, Sun., May 24. He's also looking toward the future of 206Zulu and hopes to see a stage in Seattle, specifically for hip-hop artists.
Until then, Khazm's work with 206Zulu and his music can be followed on his website 206zulu.com.