Brandon “STIX” Salaam-Bailey: Founder of ThinkWatts Foundation and Rapper
Stix is a man of many talents who represents his home of Watts, California in the truest sense of what it means to put on for his city. A successful rapper, record producer, and songwriter, Stix first started off as a dancer and a founding member of the Krump dancing style. After pivoting into the hip-hop world as an artist, he leveraged his talent and connections to give back to the community through the form of his THINK WATTS Foundation. From partnerships with LAFC, LA Clippers, and the LA Rams, to local businesses, the foundation has developed financial literacy programs, custom container housing solutions, a weekly meal program, and entrepreneurship training in the Watts neighborhood. With the new THINK WATTS HQ in Freedom Plaza, the best is yet to come for the impact Stix will continue to create in the community.
Q: What does The word Community mean to you? How does YOUR definition of that word drive what you do everyday.
Stix: Community means Family. Home. Resources. Working together and helping each other out. The goal is to build a true community where I come from so that we can serve each other and not need the assistance of any outside entities or governments to economically produce for our own. That is true economic development. When we are economically efficient that is when the community is thriving. To build our own systems, resources, and programming to sustain on our own, that is what community is.
Q: Watts seems like more than just a geographic location to you. It’s part of your life, your business, your brand, and your identity. What does Watts mean to you?
Stix: Watts is my brand, my staple. I even have a book coming out called MegaWatts. It’s the Motherland. It’s like my Africa. It’s also the hub where a lot of Los Angeles culture has come from. When black individuals originally moved to California a lot of them moved here to Watts. From there is when we branched out and moved to areas like Compton, Crenshaw District, and other areas. Watts is historical and I call it the economic hub and motherland for all black culture in Los Angeles, CA.
Q: How have you leveraged your talent as a lyricist and hip-hip artist to create the impact that you do now. Your pen and your voice have definitely made its mark in Los Angeles.
Stix: Well the goal has been to utilize talent and impact to generate change in communities that we grow up. People always tell celebrities to use their voices. I like to use my influence to get companies to do more in low-income communities. So it is more than just using a voice and talking about something but it is actually action. I have been able to leverage my own influence in the music and entertainment business to do deals with the organizations like the Rams, LAFC, the Clippers, the Dodgers, AT&T, Starbucks, LAUSD, and a multitude of others to gear their attention to focus on programming and activations in low-income communities. We’ve done everything from building 13 outdoor basketball courts, an indoor gym, a Planet Fitness gym inside of a school that is free, financial literacy programs, toy-drives, food drives, essential goods drives, and so many more community outreach activations. How I do it is tell these large companies, okay so you want me to do a song or something music related for your team and brand well then you have to partner with my foundation and make a donation towards an actual activation in the inner city. So basically I leverage my influence and talents to do deals to do things in the communities.
To all the brands and corporations out there, if you want to work with Stix you got to do something in the community first.
Q: As a veteran in the hip-hop world, what message would you give to other local rappers on making a difference in their communities?
Stix: Well you know, giving advice to local rappers is such a tricky thing. A lot of rappers think they already know everything, and I say this having been one of them. But if I could I would say to have purpose because your career is bigger than rap music. You are in the entertainment business. The music business is a part of the entertainment business but there are so many layers to this thing. Don’t ever think that all you need is music. Every famous and successful musician has branched off and done something else. Think Will Smith, Jay-Z, Puff Daddy, Beyonce, and whoever it may be. You need to look beyond just music and do more than one thing. Try to identify what your purpose is and be able to execute a multitude of things.
Q: Okay, last question. We know that everything you do is focused on helping the community. But if you could take a year off and do something solely for yourself, what would you do?
Stix: I would travel to Bora Bora with my family and just chill for the whole year in a little hut on the water. Just kick back, enjoy life, meditate, pray, enjoy the environment and enjoy being still and quiet. We live in a world with a lot of noise where we are always on the move and thinking and doing so sometimes we gotta find a way to just be still and do nothing. That way we can open our mind to simply receive more information and manifestations and just more period.