Flint rapper takes on politics, urges community to head to the polls

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FLINT, MI — After watching political tensions in Flint including the city’s controversial trash dispute and a mayor recall effort, Ira Dorsey who is known for his work with Flint’s Dayton Family said it was time for the community to step up.

The rapper used his lyrical skills to shed light on Flint’s water crisis and to get more people involved in the political process of the city, which has been dealing with the water crisis since 2014.

“I don’t care who you vote for,” said Dorsey. “ I just want people to get out here and vote.”

(Courtesy Photo)

Dorsey along with other community leaders held a number of rallies and voter registration drives to encourage people to head to the polls today.

“I knew that politics is a dirty game,” Dorsey said. “I just like to be abreast of what’s going on and when people aren’t speaking truth to power it was for me to do so. That’s my way of community everything that I’ve been through and lived through. I communicate with music anyway. It’s my opinion.”

He is known for lyrics about Flint streets instead of local politics.

Dorsey, 44, started rapping when he was 14 years old in the 90s after meeting another Flint rapper named Eric Paxton also known as Speedy.

“Speedy really gave me the style and motivation about rapping because he was way better than me. He was older than me. He was in and out of foster homes, he bounced around a lot,” Dorsey said. “So he had a lot of pain and he was the first guy I ever express his pain and talk about drugs and used drugs and he had positive messages too. He had messages anti-drugs and he had a song called Mr. Addiction. He talked about how Mr. Addition destroyed your life. If he didn’t die, Speedy would have been one of the biggest artists to come out of Flint.”

Paxton was shot and killed in the early 90s.

Dorsey later encountered Raheen Peterson during a rap battle on Taylor Street in Flint. After the battle, Dorsey said friends encouraged them to partner and so the Dayton Family was born.

The duo then connected with another Flint native, Matt Hinkle, to complete the group.

“Matt was that guy in the neighborhood,” Dorsey said. “We gotta go get with Matt because Matt got the paper.”

But Hinkle wasn’t fond of the first version of “Dope Dayton Ave,” which had two verses. So both Peterson, now known as “Shoestring “and Dorsey who was given the rap name “Bootleg,” went back into the studio to add a third verse.

“We recorded a third verse and we put Matt’s name in it,” Dorsey said. “We put all his homeboy’s names in it and we put everybody that was paid in Flint names in it and everybody that was affiliated with Dayton that would have some money. So we said somebody gone bite down. We took it back to Matt and he loved it.”

Hinkle who is also known as “Backstabba,” funded the project an ultimately the group landed a record deal with Atlantic Records.

“It just blew up the whole city,” Dorsey said. “We got signed with the largest record company in the world. We were teenagers we really didn’t know the value money or our worth. We flew out there with no lawyer, just street kids and we negotiated.”

The group struggled with legal problems throughout the 90s and ultimately, both Hinkle and Dorsey went to prison.

Everything took a stumble when Matt went to prison,” Dorsey said. “Matt was the structure. He was the guy who kept me and String chasing the goal. So, Matt got indicted, I went to prison and String was out there on his own.”

Throughout the years the group still managed to produce albums including solo projects and work on music projects with other artists keeping them relevant in the music industry low key.

But Dorsey’s recent song that hit social media in September slamming mayoral candidates put himself and the Dayton Family back in the spotlight.

“I knew that politics is a dirty game,” Dorsey said. “I just like to be abreast of what’s going on and when people aren’t speaking truth to power it was for me to do so. That’s my way of community everything that I’ve been through and lived through. I communicate with music anyway. It’s my opinion.”

As of today, the Facebook video has had nearly 40,000 views.

“At the end of the day, I was just doing me. I wasn’t really in it for that type of thing. I didn’t expect that,” Dorsey said of the attention he gained for the song. “That really wasn’t what I set out to do. I just set out to voice my opinion. I stood out on the sidelines. It was clutter. It was too much noise. I stood out on the sidelines. I listened to both arguments. I’m just a referee in the game.”

 

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