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Meet Maynard Okereke of Hip Hop Science in North Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maynard Okereke.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I graduated with a degree in Civil/Environmental Engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle. Music & acting had always been a passion of mine, but as I was focused on my education and career, I never took the time to fully exercise my dreams. After working with an engineering firm for a number of years doing high infrastructure projects, I finally reached a breaking point and decided it was time to explore my creative talents. I put in my resignation, packed my bags, and drove down to LA with a goal to fully invest myself in creative opportunities.

While doing a number of film, commercial, and music projects, I never lost sight of my passion for science and learning. I always used music as a tool to dive deeper into topics about the world around me and wanted to find a creative way to express my love for two seemingly differing fields. I started Hip Hop Science as mostly a comedic sketch idea, using song lyrics as a mythbuster to analyze and verify different subject matter. The Hip Hop MD became my character that I spoke through, an atypical Bill Nye persona that would take seemingly laughable and over the top subjects, and break down in more interesting, scientific ways. As I continued creating content, I soon realized there was an actual educational need for this type of discussion. People were learning about complex scientific topics through a more easily relatable and palatable format, and I wanted to find a way to use my voice to be more impactful.

I developed the Hip Hop Science platform out further with a mission to encourage more minority involvement in the STEM fields by bridging the gap between music, entertainment, and science. My journey into the sciences had always seemed like an outlier, as I didn’t see mentors, teachers, or professionals that looked like me in these fields. I realized the strong disparity there was with minorities, particularly African-Americans, entering into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) fields. Many times we feel isolated or excluded because of the lack of representation, and also because we don’t have voices within those professions that speak to us. I wanted to show that you could be able to easily talk about science subjects like black holes & biomimicry in nature, just as easily as the latest fashion trend or rap album release. If I had platforms and educators that we’re able to speak to me on that level, my journey and exposure to the science fields likely wouldn’t have been such a daunting experience. Hip Hop Science became that cross-connection, using everyday things that we talk about in entertainment & music to explain complex scientific matters.

I now work as a Science Communicator with my Hip Hop Science Show platform. I work with a number of educators, institutions, organizations, and businesses to not only help educate and inspire minority youth to pursue careers in STEM but also how to use curiosity as a tool to learn more about the world around them. My work has sent me on amazing exploratory trips to wildlife areas, museums, and science centers, as well as sit down interviews with incredible scientists. Through my vlogs and social media posts, I highlight interesting and relatively unknown discoveries in the world of science and use comedy, music, & entertainment as a vessel to better understand the material. It’s been amazing seeing how my work has inspired future scientists & innovators, as well as people that long felt they didn’t have a voice that spoke to them. I look forward to continuing to grow my platform and using my love for science and music to uplift interest in STEM to minority & underprivileged communities.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s definitely been a trying journey. Coming in, I never had the vision of being a science communicator. I knew I had a love for entertainment and education and just wanted a way speak my authentically true self. The most difficult part was the transition of leaving a fruitful & successful career, and diving into the unknown here in Los Angeles. Having to make a number of sacrifices to make ends meet and staying persistent at my craft when opportunities kept closing. During this process, I’ve also been an entrepreneur on another business venture. I started a seasoning company called JADA Spices, carrying a line of healthy, vegan, all-purpose seasonings. Nurturing that business from ground up and dealing with the daily grind of sustaining a brand while developing my platform has been a test of patience for sure.

Hip Hop Science – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
As an entrepreneur, I take pride in being able to work on multiple different projects. My Hip Hop Science platform helps encourage more minority involvement into the STEM fields. I use music as a teaching tool to explain complex scientific subjects and work with organizations to help inspire the next generation of scientists. I specialize in creative content, social media, public speaking, and hosting through this platform. My work has become known for being a valuable educational resource and motivation for underprivileged youth and minority communities. I am most proud for the opportunity to use my voice and presence to break the stereotype of what a scientist looks like. Our education system needs a change as our communities become more diverse. I aim to show that diversity in the workplace and STEM careers is a critical driving force behind innovation. I want others to be inspired by my stories and use their curiosity to take them places they never imagined.

In my work with my seasoning company JADA Spices, we look to encourage healthier home cooking by offering vegan, low sodium, msg free products. We want to make it easier for people to cook delicious yet healthy meals using the best ingredients. I believe my work with both ventures goes hand in hand because as entrepreneurs, we need to find ways to solve our world’s critical problems. Lack of educational opportunities and access to healthy foods are just two of many problems that affect underprivileged communities of color.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success to me is simply being able to reach my intended audience. A lot of times we get clouded in social media numbers or finances. I think those are a both a result of continuing to do great work and staying consistent with a set mission. A larger following on platforms really just means that I have the ability to affect a greater amount of people with my message. However, getting an email or direct message that my work impacted their lives from just one or two people is such a positive reminder that I can truly be a force of change in little ways.

Through my Hip Hop Science platform tho, I can use the amount of organizations that I work with over a set amount of time, the students in those organizations, and the communities they represent as a good barometer for whether my outreach is successful. Seeing the faces of people that need to receive the message, and partnering with platforms or other science communicators that relay the information as well, is evidence that our voices are being heard. I can use these partnerships to help further stimulate interest with other groups, promote my content, and showcase the value of having unique voices within the sciences for groups that may be looking for innovative ways to target their own audiences.

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