Patty Dukes and Reph Star are Afro-Latino hip hop artists, runners, and advocates for social justice. As Circa 95, they’ve performed all over the world, including at Carnegie Hall and SXSW. Their blueprint for how music, running, and hip hop can powerfully coalesce has earned them a Tracksmith Fellowship. In today’s episode, they talk about remaining true to yourself, expanding your horizons, and appreciating and giving back to your community.
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“That’s what Circa 95 represents. It’s to just be yourself. And it’s not only us, it’s you, it’s everybody that wants to be down with Circa 95.”
Circa 95 was born when Patty and Reph were trying to figure out how to engage more with their community. As Patty says, “our music is really about the people, it’s really about where we come from.” The name comes from the decade, which was the golden era of hip hop and an influential time for them, and is also a play on the numbers.
“Because for us it is our 9 to 5 to do music, art, and culture. This is our lifestyle every day. Everywhere we go, we are Circa 95. We want to make sure that young people, especially when they’re walking into spaces, that they don’t all of a sudden have to put a suit and tie on and change who they are, that they are accepted for who they are wherever they walk into a room.”
“We don’t want to leave this world with an empty backpack.”
Society tells us that if we have a passion, we have to focus on it to the exclusion of our other interests. Patty and Reph disagree. “We don’t have to compartmentalize ourselves as human beings,” Patty says. “We’re all born with a backpack that’s empty, but we want to fill it with the skills and the things that we love that carry us through our lives.”
“We planted those seeds and now look, boom, it’s like we have a full garden.”
Running crews have played an important role in building community in city neighborhoods. In New York, even when they couldn’t run together during the pandemic, members asked themselves, “How can we support each other? How can we continue building throughout the boroughs? And that’s still going on to this day, we’re still connecting with each other, we’re still supporting each other, and we’re showing up for each other.” It took time, but the city is filled with running crews now.
“There’s a little Bolt in every neighborhood, Mo Farah everywhere, there’s a Sha’Carri in every block.”
There’s so much untapped potential in many neighborhoods, and Patty and Reph want to help kids realize their talent. “We want to get the kids off the block that’s like chilling on the corner. Like those are the kids that we want running.” They’ve succeeded; some of the kids who started running with them have gone on to complete marathons.
“You know for Lena Horne to have lived there, Paul Robeson, you know what I mean? Running by those buildings where they would have come out of, it’s like we are the artists now, but they were the artists of that time.”
Running enables you to see the spaces around you in a new light. For Reph and Patty, it’s been a way to learn about landmarks that are important to them as people of color. It’s a way to connect with your neighborhood’s history, and by extension, your own.
“Try to say ‘yes’ more to the things that you’re scared of, try to say ‘yes’ more to the things that make you nervous, and get into those feelings and work them out and challenge them.”
You have to be open to opportunities, willing to connect in different ways, and believe that you have everything that you need to succeed. “Imagine that the world is conspiring to make everything happen that you want, right? That the world is on your side, that you have everything in your disposal even though you might not think so.”
“Running reminds me every day that I’m in my own race, that I’m in my own pace and I do not have to chase anyone. I only have to chase me.”
Comparing yourself to others is usually a recipe for failure. As a runner, it can mean being injured when you push yourself too hard trying to keep up with someone else, or being angry with yourself for not being “fast enough” or “good enough.” You have to let go of your ego, and remember that “they’re just running their race and you have to run your own.”
“We’re trying to keep it real as much as possible and real with ourselves, real with the world around us, real with Tracksmith, with running communities. It’s all real and that’s what we strive for, reality. The good, the bad, everything in between.”
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“Thank you” to Patty and Reph. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.