The East St. Louis rapper brings a musical program to the Griffin Center

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When you walk into Anthony Lucius’ home studio, prepare to learn.

In the middle of the room, there are audio equipment and instruments. Pictures of him performing and documents related to those performances are strewn on the wall. But two white handwritten posters filled with instructions and advice capture your attention above all else.

“The ability to move people through words is a gift like nothing else,” reads a poster titled “Substance.” “Add the right backdrop to this giveaway, and you have a winner.”

You know Lucius is an artist before he tells you he is.

The East St. Louis rapper and producer instills this show-and-not-tell approach to everything he does. He only releases music when he “has something to say” and he avoids attention. He lets his art speak for itself. That’s part of why Lucius, a natural teacher, is excited to bring his summer music program back to East St. Louis this year.

“Kids want to do something that interests them, especially in the summer,” said Lucius, who now lives in O’Fallon. “I think if they’re going to look at a computer in a community center, (then) let me bring my equipment and teach them (music). I watch it like I’m paying for it because I’ve been making music since I was 12, and I wish someone had given me the game before.

The program, titled Nothing But Hustle, will be held at the Griffin Center, an after-school program and summer camp in East St. Louis, beginning in July. Throughout the month-long course, children will learn the basics of music production and how to create their own songs.

Lucius started Nothing But Hustle with East Side Aligned, another youth-focused initiative in the city, about seven years ago to give back to his hometown, but the program came to a halt due to COVID-19. He has taught approximately 300 children since the program’s inception.

Now, after a three-year hiatus, Lucius plans to make Nothing but Hustle more collaborative. He will involve other rappers and DJs from the St. Louis area to teach the class. He also wants to implement the program as an extracurricular or optional activity for School District 189 in East St. Louis.

“If it was day one, I would show up,” Lucius said of what he plans to teach. “I was showing all the equipment and then demonstrating it piece by piece and explaining what that piece of equipment does, like what this compressor is, what a computer is and what it does. That’s pretty intuitive.

“Then I would let them connect it all together. The first thing is to know your gear, so I would make sure they know what they’re using, not just run to it and open the program. You need to know how to hook it up in case something doesn’t work properly. After that, we come to the fun stuff.

“All About Community”

Fun things include letting kids experiment with different beats and creating their own song that they could potentially share on TikTok or Instagram. Lucius enjoys watching the kids in his class get excited about making their own music.

“I’m all about community and building that community, whether it’s having my own community with music or having my own community with music and teaching kids and stuff as well,” said Lucia, 29 years old. “That’s why I do it. It makes me feel good to help my friends, to help the children. This is how my people raised me.

Lucius grew up in East St. Louis and attended the old Miles Davis Elementary School before moving to O’Fallon to stay with his mother. He went to O’Fallon Township High School where he participated in a jazz choir and learned music theory, which led him to pursue rapping and producing, which he does full time. since 2014.

His debut album, “Welcome to St. Lucius,” was released in 2017, he immersed himself in the St. Louis music scene, and he toured with Sofar Sounds, a global music company that connects fans with live performances. intimate and secret. But Lucius isn’t one to talk much about his job. Instead, he’ll let his music do the talking. “What’Cha Want,” one of his most recent singles, shines for its gentle steps on dealing with someone else’s expectations of him. He plans to release an album this summer.

“In my music, I tell stories about life and what I see, so I think that’s kind of my inspiration,” Lucius said. “That’s what I mean, kind of like what I see. I am realistic. I talk about what I see.

East St. Louis is one source of that inspiration.

Although nearly 20 minutes from what he considered home, Lucius will never forget the strong sense of community he felt in East St. Louis. He fondly recalls attending summer camps in the city while visiting the fatherly side of the family and always feeling protected.

Where my dad lives is in Edgemont and 87th Street, and basically everybody knows everybody,” Lucius said. “It’s something I love. I went to summer camps. It was one of those things where your mom knew your dad and things like that, maybe they grew up together and if they didn’t know each other they were going to get to know each other. You couldn’t get in trouble because they were going to tell your parents. That’s one thing I liked about East St. Louis that I didn’t get about O’Fallon.

He wants the kids in his program to feel the same.

Lucius’ passion for youth is what stood out to Griffin Center program manager Charmel Dixon. The center serves children between the ages of 5 and 14 who live in the city’s public housing estates. She said the program, which is free, is especially essential for the children served by the center because of the financial hardships they face at a young age.

“It was right before the pandemic, and he was showing the kids at the Roosevelt (Homes) how to make their own music and he also came to our Griffin Center,” Dixon said of the first time she met Lucius. . “The kids were so in love with him. He was showing them how the beats start and how this beat gets you here to this line of music, and he showed them how to create sounds to the music on their own and he showed them how to create lyrics with music. The kids fell so much in love with Anthony. They were so excited.

She admits she was more excited than the kids. She knew she had to include her program in the center’s summer camp.

Nothing But Hustle will run from July 5 to August 5 and will also be open to children who live within six miles of the housing projects. Dixon and her team are still finalizing other details about the program, but she said she plans to start promoting it soon, through flyers and by contacting each housing estate directly.

“It gives kids a different perspective on top of thinking I have to be the rapper,” Dixon said of the program. “Why can’t you be the producer? Why can’t you be the songwriter? Why can’t you do it all? By being there, Anthony will give our children a clear vision of what they can do.

“We have no problem with them wanting to be a basketball player, but why can’t you be the owner of your team? Why can’t you be the coach who teaches coaches? We want them to dare to dream bigger.

For Lucius, everything revolves around children. It is its substance.

“I just want to educate the kids,” he said. “I don’t see it as if I want this million dollar close-up or anything. It’s more about teaching someone (and) that they teach the next person. That’s how I see it. »

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This story was originally published May 23, 2022 6:00 a.m.

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DeAsia Paige joined the Belleville News-Democrat as a member of the Report for America corps in 2020. She is a community reporter covering East St. Louis and surrounding areas. DeAsia previously interned at VICE and The Detroit Free Press. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 2020.

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