Special Projects

On Chess and Hip Hop
October 9, 2014 - April 26, 2015

Saint Louisans reflect on how the strategies used in the game of chess can mirror the realities of navigating the hip hop industry, lifestyle, and art.


Chris Shaw

On Chess & Hip Hop: Chris Shaw

Christopher (Klevah!) Shaw was born September 18, 1985 in Saint Louis, MO. At a young age he began his interest in music, which his family saw, and began fine tuning the art. Chris studied music history and composition in the 6th grade, learning symphonic instruments under the direction of Mr. Allen Merry. By the time Chris reached high school he was advanced in music composition and played the flute at a high level. High school took his knowledge further as he began to nurture his ability to arrange, direct, and produce musical pieces. Using his composition skills to arrange top 40 tunes for his school’s marching band to producing music for the schools dance teams. Somewhere near the middle of his high school era he decided to seriously pursue a music career being a producer. He went onto college on a full music scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he was a member of the Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South or M4, a southern band power house. Being here Chris engulfed his self in the competitive culture of black college bands all while mastering the art of showmanship. This gave him the idea to form his own production company. After leaving Pine Bluff, he traveled to Memphis where he stayed an entire year learning more about the music culture. Once the lease was up on his apartment, the hometown of Saint Louis was the next stop. Over the next years he became a father to 2 beautiful girls. In late 2012 Chris met Tony Thompson of Kwame Building Group and opened The Central studios, later turned into TBeats Studios where he currently produces and records.


Tiffany Foxx

On Chess & Hip Hop: Tiffany Foxx

The city of Saint Louis is known for churning out successful recording artists in the music business. Popular names such as Nelly, J-Kwon, Chingy and other Top 40s artists have all emerged from the Midwestern city. Another name to soon be recognized amongst the phenomenal musical talents representing St. Louis is female rapper, Tiffany Foxx. Tiffany Foxx discovered her love for music at a young age. In her youth, her artistic talents were cultivated by playing both piano and the clarinet; while her creative talents were unleashed through her love for writing poetry. As she became exposed to one particular popular artist from her hometown (Nelly), Tiffany Foxx began to fuse her artistic and creative gifts. As she started to put her poetry to music, she unlocked ability in herself that she never knew she had – songwriting. This ability quickly transcended that of the simple hobby of a young girl. As she rigorously practiced and cultivated her skills, Tiffany Foxx developed into the immensely talented emcee she is today. In 2007, Tiffany Foxx joined forces with two female rappers, also from Saint Louis. Together they formed the rap trio, June 5th. As a female rap group, Tiffany Foxx, Scar La Don and Brooke Holladay coined the term “street couture” to describe their signature sound, which reflects influences from musical legends of the Rhythm and Blues and Hip Hop musical genres. In 2009, their breakthrough efforts earned June 5th a career spotlight in one of Hip Hop’s most reputable magazines, The Source.

About five years later, after encountering their share of deception and disappointment at the hands of people in the music business who were trusted to guide their career, the group would make a difficult, but unanimous, decision to forever remain loyal to their June 5th union, but to dissolve the musical entity and support the solo career of Tiffany Foxx. With the continuous and relentless moral and professional support from her sisters in music, Tiffany Foxx is making great strides in her solo efforts. Throughout her musical career with June 5th, Tiffany Foxx worked with Hip Hop heavyweights Eric Sermon, Snoop Dogg, Nelly, Jim Jones, Akon and more. Since embarking on her solo music career, Tiffany Foxx is currently working with reputable hit maker, Bangladesh. With Bangladesh taking her under his wing, her project has gained much momentum. Her debut solo mixtape is entitled Yellow Tape, and is slated to be released summer 2012. Tiffany Foxx attributes Lauren Hill, Queen Latifah, Lil Kim, Eminem and Adele as being her irreplaceable musical influences. A reflection of her personal style, Tiffany Foxx’s music maintains the description of “street couture.” In her music, you can hear her love for fashion and style and her story of struggle and sacrifice. Having claimed personal triumph over tragic events in her past such as sexual assault and other personal struggles, Tiffany Foxx refuses to allow any worldly force to keep her from realizing and living her dreams. Regardless of disappointing deals with past managers and shady industry characters, she remains focused. Having overcome both professional and personal obstacles over the years, the dominating theme for Tiffany Foxx in life and music is that of pride, independence, perseverance and humility.



On Chess & Hip Hop: Laudie

“It’s ya boi, Laudie on da track” has been a phrase well-known to St. Louis over the past two years with the emergence of Laudie, one of the hottest producer to come from St. Louis. Born in Panama City, Panama, Laudie and his family moved to the United States and settled in St. Louis, MO, when Laudie was just ten. By his freshman year of high school, Laudie found himself mesmerized by music. With no proper musical training or guidance, he and his childhood friends began making beats and songs in his parent’s basement.

In two years Laudie has produced 11 records and reached over 50 combined markets. He has won Producer of the Year, two years in a row in St. Louis at the Traffic Music Awards, with such a history of radio breaking music, a 3-Peat is most certainly not out of the question. With such musical talent, ability, and passionate grind, Laudie will continue to make the airwaves ripple with a unique and industry-ready sound. As for the future, Laudie is building the foundation for a successful run as a producer in the mainstream music industry. While continuing to work with local St. Louis artists, Laudie is also producing for national artists, continuing to work on Deez Beats Productions and is beginning to work on breaking out as an artist and not just a producer. Be on the lookout for Laudie as his impact is just beginning.



On Chess & Hip Hop: DJ A.J.

Cultivating a love for music since childhood, DJ AJ has been an influential part of the Saint Louis music scene for more than 20 years. DJing started as just a hobby for DJ AJ, but with the help of DJ Snow (a.k.a Snowy Two-times), he turned into a full-time job. Practice and a lot of hard work made it possible to become one of the most well-known street DJs in Saint Louis. 

In 2000, DJ AJ landed a position at KATZ-FM 100.3 the Beat as a staff mixer and later moved into the 5 o’clock drive slot. Maintaining that slot, DJ AJ became the mixshow coordinator as well as a top on-air personality. In 2005, DJ AJ formed a coalition of five DJs called the Derrty DJs, which has since swelled to sixty and is still growing. It is the only nationally recognized DJ coalition from the Saint Louis area and is the biggest in the Midwest.

Now, DJ AJ has his sights on independent promotions, nightclub ownership, artist management as well as uplifting and growing the REAL underground House movement in the Saint Louis area as well as continuing to be one of the most influential and respected DJs in Saint Louis and the Midwest region.


Harlan Hodge

On Chess & Hip Hop: Harlan Hodge

Harlan Hodge, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, spends the majority of his energy helping individuals and groups reach their greatest potential. He is the owner of Imagine Services, a business consulting agency. He masterfully guides groups through inspirational and thought provoking workshops. These workshops ultimately lead to greater peace and productivity for group participants.

By exercising faith and perseverance, Harlan has overcome several of life’s challenges. Harlan is the first college graduate in his immediate family. He completed studies at Tennessee State University, The University of Missouri St. Louis, and Washington University in St. Louis. Harlan has a Bachelors and Masters degree in Social Work and Social and Economic Development. He has written and presented on a variety of topics including; motivating black children to perform, fatherhood and building effective communities. He has co-directed Focus-Youth Leadership St. Louis since 2002 which is one of the largest High School Leadership initiatives in the Metropolitan Region. He is also the author of Character Chess: 10 Character Lessons from the Game of Chess.

Harlan embraces the media as a forum for influence and change. In 1999, Harlan created Imagine Videos, LLC, a communications company dedicated to the promotion of strong values and good character as the foundation of leadership. Brylan Mason Hodge, Harlan’s son, is the motivation for his efforts to create stronger and safer communities.


Jihad Khayyam

On Chess & Hip Hop: Jihad Kayyam

For over 13 years Jihad Khayyam has been in the field of human development. He is originally from New York City but his formative years were spent in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. His claim is not from rags to riches but from shelter to service. His avocation is working with African American youth to instill self-esteem, self-efficacy and the Science of Risk Avoidance. He has traveled throughout the United States speaking and aiding the messages of; Unity, Fatherhood and Education. He is the father of two brilliant children; Jihad II (16) Ayonna (14) in which he is the chief consultant for their financial literacy firm (Young Money Financial Group). Mr. Khayyam has received many of awards but he felt most humbled when his family was bestowed the distinguished honors of being the recipient of the 2011 Ambassador Andrew Award for Outstanding Ethics & Service to Family and Community. Jihad Khayyam fervently believes that in order for African Americans to be progressive they must strengthen the family and engage self-reliant economic enterprise.


Robert Jones

On Chess & Hip Hop: Robert Jones

Mr. Robert L. Jones is a proud single dad to five beautiful children. In 2006, Mr. Robert Jones founded the U Make It Happen, Inc., a tax-exempt public benefit corporation organized under Chapter 355, RSMO. The authorities predict and plan the construction of prisons based on our children’s third grade and fourth grade standardized test scores. These statistics inspired Mr. Jones and his school tour team to bring fun to education. He has developed a series of programs to meet the varying needs of urban youth ages 5-17 residing in at-risk environments. Mr. Jones is also an established music producer and his production company produced the U Make It Happen educational videos. Mr. Jones’ videos meet the Missouri Show-Me standards. The U Make It Happen educational videos, school tours and mentoring program have transformed attitudes to the youth by encouraging education, self-improvement, self-confidence, self-respect, personal responsibility and strong work ethics, while discouraging illegal and self-destructive behavior. Mr. Jones has made his way through the perils of the streets, students can readily relate to and identify with Rob as one of them.

Mr. Jones is currently employed with the city’s Parks and Recreation Division. His experience with the youth have taken his position to the next level with the incorporation of his programs.