Intergenerational hip-hop project based on Ypsi Form 734 is back this year with a second album and a focus on keeping young men out of the criminal justice system.
The album “Formula 734: Volume 2” and an accompanying documentary are part of a project by the My Brother’s Keeper Washtenaw Chapter (WMBK), a nationwide initiative that aims to address persistent gaps in opportunity for young men of color. Over the course of several months, a group of black men ranging in age from teens to 40s got together to make music and document it. Formula 734’s debut album was released in July 2020, along with a completed documentary a few months later.
“Formula 734: Volume 2” debuted earlier this year in partnership with the Washtenaw County District Attorney’s Office, a new addition to the program. Jamall Bufford, co-founder of Formula 734 and project specialist for WMBK, said the prosecutor’s office had identified a few young men involved in the criminal justice system and referred them through a diversion program for minors. Instead of going to court, they can go through the Formula 734 program. They are joined by older and more experienced mentors, as well as young musicians who participated in the first volume of the project.
“I would say it pretty much lives up to my original vision,” Bufford said. “…We use it as a diversion program to keep young black and brown men out of detention centers.”
WMBK member Rod Wallace is also the Educational Programs Coordinator for Ypsi’s Grove Studios. He says this year’s program also offers “an increased focus on job skills and career preparation with young people”.
“It was a very rewarding experience in that we saw a lot of creative and personal growth,” Wallace said. “As an alternative mechanism to be able to give young men options to stay off the streets, this has been invaluable to me.”
Bufford says the program not only had new young participants, but also new speakers who came to teach creativity and life lessons to the younger participants. Many participants had less musical experience than those in the first round, Bufford says.
“We had to devote more time to artistic development this time around,” he says. “And some of the younger men were hesitant to share what was going on with them. The first time, I knew everyone, and a lot of them, I had mentored them growing up or knew them from the music scene. This time There were a few people there that I didn’t know.”
Bufford and Wallace say the program isn’t just about making music, but finding out what young men care about.
“A lot of the discussion has focused on self-talk and mental health and that desire for understanding,” Wallace said. “The very first song on the project is called ‘Dark Nights’. It has the lyrics ‘I remember dark nights, I feel pain…’ I think a lot of what the artists brought to it was an opportunity to purge things.”
The co-founders expect to release “Formula 734: Volume 2” in late August, with the documentary to follow soon after. Those who want updates on the project can check out Formula 734’s website Where PageInstagram.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and project manager of On the Ypsilanti field. She joined Concentrate as a news editor in early 2017 and occasionally contributes to other Broadcast Media Group editions. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Image courtesy of Formula 734.