OG (Organic Gardener) DJ Cavem Raps about Kale
Hip-hop and healthy eating are twin inspirations for Denver’s DJ Cavem, who deftly melds music and food justice with both rhymes and activism.
If you’ve ever met Ietef Vita, it was probably no surprise when, last month, the Denver hip-hop artist and his wife, Alkemia Earth, were photographed with another notable and attractive couple: President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama. Vita, better known as DJ Cavem Moetivation, was born and bred in Five Points, but he shows up in some far-flung places — like Uganda, where he made a cameo on national television in 2012; in O magazine, which declared him a “Guy We Like” in 2013; and in a documentary, From Gangs to Gardens, which premiered at the Hollywood Film Festival last fall.
At 28, Cavem is the country’s most evangelical eco-conscious rapper, an artist with a gift for combining savvy marketing with a unique mission: As an OG (that’s “Organic Gardener”), he uses music as a platform to increase awareness about healthy eating, food justice and the joys of living green.
“My goal is to educate people around food justice, climate change, conscious consumption and plants as medicine,” says Cavem. “The more we address growing food, the more we can address climate change, changing attitudes and taste buds and feeding the mind body and soul. We all have to do our part.”
Cavem’s message of simple, clean living has kept him very busy over the past few years. He’s released albums and videos, toured with some of his musical heroes and studied indigenous farming in Africa. This spring, he and Alkemia were featured speakers at TEDx Manhattan; their talk garnered thousands of views on YouTube and caught the attention of the First Lady, who invited the pair to the White House as part of the fifth anniversary of her “Let’s Move” initiative. DJ Cavem and Alkemia Earth were invited to the White House as part of the “Let’s Move” initiative.
“It was one of those things, you don’t really know it happened ’cause it was surreal,” says Alkemia. “There were people fromSesame Street, Rachel Ray, famous athletes. It was an amazing experience. We were real humbled, just kind of taking it all in.”
“It was the first eco hip-hop performance ever at the White House,” says Cavem. “And from all the other chefs who were there that day, we stood out. So they” — the Obamas — “invited us into the house, to come made food. They wanted us to show them how we get down.”
Quenching food deserts with hip-hop
Cavem’s music and philosophy are informed by his roots in northeast Denver, a bonafide food desert where liquor stores and pawn shops are still abundant, grocery stores are scarce and where a young Cavem had a brief career as a gang member. (In a video for his new track “Hybrid Lex,” Cavem cruises around the warehouses and utility towers of industrial Denver on a lowrider bike, extolling the virtues of plants.) Teaching people to eat and live well starts with inspiring simple shifts — first in lifestyle, then in consciousness.
“You can’t ask poor people to give money to causes or to start by building solar panels on their house,” he says. “Everybody in the ‘hood doesn’t have to start that way. You can start simple by increasing your consumption of plant-based foods. Growing food and living healthy.”
This month, Cavem will release Ecotwerk, a full-length album that is designed to educate as well as to entertain. The album tweaks the concept of twerking (“Twerking is like stripping. I’m talking about earth stripping, mineral stripping, diamond stripping”) and features guest appearances by Cody Chesnutt, Speech and Bianca Mikahn. Cavem plans to take a curriculum based on the album into Metro-area schools.
“We’re not just here rapping in schools for no reason,” says Cavem. “Young people have to have access nature. When you think different about nature, you think different about cutting down trees. The reason why people are desensitized and don’t really give a fuck about the planet is because it’s something they don’t really have to deal with.”
DJ Cavem raps are unexpected, espousing organic farming and a healthy lifestyle.
Cavem’s website is a multimedia assemblage of music, cooking tips and recipes, videos and links to his multiple social media platforms and projects, including the Keep It Fresh campaign, which he and Alkemia launched last month. The pair are also close to finishing a vegan cookbook, Damn Near Raw, which Cavem says will be released by a major publisher in 2015. When they aren’t writing and rapping, Cavem and Alkemia are making the rounds with a new series of Culinary Concerts, which combine their dual passions of plant-based medicine and music.
“The Culinary Concerts are like a concert, with all my plant-based music and raps about gardening,” says Cavem. “We’re performing recipes, talking about food as medicine. Like, we perform the recipe for our ‘Conquering Dandelion Lemonade,’ which is kind of our signature when we go out. We also have some really fresh kale recipes. We have a raw vegan cheesecake you can make live on the spot.”
“The Culinary Concerts are basically a mashup of live performance and a chef demo,” adds Alkemia. “We wanted to make it more of an interactive experience. We’re not just approaching it from the health aspect, like, ‘Eat like this to look sexy.’ We’re accessing the mind and the heart through the food and the music. Sexy is a side effect.”