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Steph Simon is a dope AF hip-hop artist, whose music is as authentic as his chilled, happy-go-lucky personality.
His musical taste, coupled with his lyrical artistry, is smooth and cultivates a sound that’s uniquely Black Wall Street. Meaning, his rhymes don’t sound like the dirty south rap, East Coast, or West Coast. Nor does Simon’s rap sound like the Midwest. Simon sounds like Simon. Or, I guess we could say, Steph Simon, sounds like Greenwood, Archer, and Pine.
The Greenwood District, a community christened with the name Black Wall Street by Booker T. Washington himself, is home to past musical geniuses and continues producing future ones.
Popular culture was first introduced to this community’s unique sound by the Greenwood, Archer, and Pine Band, more famously known as The Gap Band. It was then, the world had seemingly discovered that Black people lived in Oklahoma. Until recently, schools never taught about the 50 self-sustaining all-Black towns that once thrived in this Mid-Western state.
And Greenwood was the Black Mecca.
Today, Simon carries that same brand, that familiar sound, and style, but with his own birthmark.
Until Black America learned and began romanticizing about Black Wall Street, realizing the community wasn’t just legend or myth but a Black promised land, Oklahoma hip-hop artists were nearly invisible.
Simon shared a time that an A&R executive from an influential music label inadvertently shaded the Greenwood community. Similar to white scholars, journalists, and politicians who hid the truth about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and the Black excellence exhibited during Greenwood’s golden age.
“I like you, but don’t tell nobody where you’re from. Don’t tell nobody you’re from Tulsa,” the A&R said to Simon. “You can’t tell the [music] industry you’re from Tulsa. They won’t respect that.”
Ignorant to the fact that Black Wall Street is Steph Simon’s pedigree.
This proud son of Black Wall Street, of Greenwood, returned home and began sewing his community’s pride into his lyrics, stitch-by-stitch. Now Simon’s ancestors’ bones rattle joyfully within the Earth, dancing to his musical vibrations that rekindle their once stolen dignity.
Simon’s family and community recently celebrated a mural installation sponsored by T-Mobile, where he and other movers and shakers of his community are featured. His unwillingness to not sell out to racially-suppressed, institutional echo chambers within the music industry has made him a Centennial standout.
Simon is undoubtedly a leader of the cultural Renaissance happening in the real Black Wall Street — birthed in Tulsa, Oklahoma within 36 square blocks.
His interest in the arts began at Hawthorne Elementary School. He unapologetically mentioned taking ballet and acting classes, a rare opportunity given to a Black boy growing up in north Tulsa. But music became his oxygen, so he joined the choir. Simon’s first big musical performance was at a Black Rodeo in celebration of Juneteenth.
So how did Simon go from starting off as a singer to hip-hop?
He recalls the time when his family moved south of the I-244; a highway that acts much like the Frisco Railway line did during the Jim Crow Era, the city’s present-day racial demarcation.
“I lived in a state of mind of not going past the 244, my whole life. Staying in that boundary between Pine and Turley was my world.” Turley is the first suburb north of Tulsa.
Simon’s racial world shifted when his family moved south of the de facto color line. On his first day at Union High School, he found himself among a sea of White unfamiliar faces.
“My school environment went from all Black to all White. It was a cultural shock,” he explained.
At lunch, Simon decided to sit with the Black kids. It’s where he felt comfortable and welcomed. They formed a bond and created a rap group.
Today, Simon is the co-owner of a music label with former Dallas Cowboy running back Felix Jones. Jones and Simon grew up on the same block in north Tulsa in the Skyline Ridge neighborhood. The two named their label Skyline Star Records: Skyline, in honor of their former neighborhood, and Star, in honor of Jones’ NFL home team the Dallas Cowboys. Currently, Simon is the only artist on their label; however, he’s hoping to change that soon.
2021 marks100-years since the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and Tulsa artists, like Simon, have been preparing to make the centennial commencement memorable.
Simon has collaborated with one of the centennial’s most musically significant projects, Fire in Litte Africa — a multimedia hip-hop design that commemorates Tulsa’s 1921 massacre.
“With the centennial — my plans with the centennial is to spread awareness that this isn’t really a party. We aren’t really coming to celebrate, getting bombed,” Simon said, adding, “We are going to celebrate getting back to what Black Wall Street was and stood for.”
Black Determination, and