Interview: Learn More About Marcus Gray, Founder of Hip Hop Diaper Bag

Tell us how HHDB came about?

HipHop Dad or diaper Bag came about because of my interest in creating a space for hip hops consciousness to grow into.  It began almost 20 years ago with an epiphany I had that revealed to me the true potential of the hiphop culture.  The potential the culture has as a tool for self initiation into adult hood.  For boys and girls alike, but especially boys, there is a need for a rites of passage into adulthood.  Boys must be torn away from their mothers and test themselves in an area where their courage and confidence to contribute to the community can be validated by their peers and elders.  Hip Hop intuitively provides that exact environment!
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With this thought I began to write a manifesto of sorts I called The Physics of Hip Hop,
which is the current name of my umbrella corporation. In the paper I detailed my perspective on hip hops spirit and potential to raise children into adulthood. I write about hip hops shamanistic characteristics and compare it to other religions. From there I began a life long quest to produce art and products from this space of externalizing my understanding of what HipHop truly can be.  My second effort was hiphopchocolate.com. These were chocolates in the shape of iconic symbols of the Hiphop culture such as the turntable, shellt oe shoe, boombox and many more.  It was my version of the catholic communion which provides partakers to put hiphop culture into their bodies via chocolate and gives them an opportunity to reflect on their personal output and contribution to the culture. It was received well, but after some years working on the business side it became impossible to sustain without an influx of capitol.
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3 years later I began to meditate on the fact that hiphop culture and its community is not only getting older and wiser but is raising families within the culture. It was fascinating to me to go to a b-boy battle in Los Angeles and see all of the infants wearing colorful earmuffs being carried around by their parents.  The next thought was,  look at all of the amazing fathers hiphop has nurtured!  All of the black, brown and asian fathers who may not have had fathers of their own but are stepping up to the challenge of being a father.  Something I could attribute to the self initiation process of hiphop.  When young b-boys enter the cypher either to dance, freestyle or express theirselves in front of their peers magic occurs. They transform into more grounded, coherent men more able to respond to their expanding environment.  This makes them more willing and capable as partners and fathers. But where are the specific tools for hiphop parent?  How are we as a culture celebrating this space where parenthood and hiphop meet?  How are we acknowledging the evolution of the idea of father in disenfranchised communities?  Finally how are we holding space for hip hops parents who may feel as if they are aging out of this timeless culture?  Hiphop diaper bag is my answer.

 

Are you a dad yourself? If so, tell us what that means to you? Also, how to you juggle fatherhood and business?

I myself am not a father yet.  But I have a deep longing to learn from the experience of fatherhood. Another reason I made these bags is because I want to be a father so bad!  Im creating what I would want as a responsible father who loves hiphop culture.  I also made the bags so that I can connect and learn from fathers in the culture.  I want to know what their needs are and what they struggle with.  I want to know how their relationship with hiphop culture has evolved over the years. What their listening to, what their parenting style is.  How having or not having a father has shaped the way the are as a father.  Hopefully Dear fathers can help me tap into that community of wisdom. I can’t wait to be a father. My girlfriend is very aware.

Tell us about your experience with or without your father growing up? How has that impacted your life?

I grew up without the presence of my father for the first 9 years of my life.
My mother had me when she was 23. She was young and ran the streets with a black biker gang in Denver called the Sons of Darkness. The FBI tracked us in the 80’s because they thought she was Angela Davis.  She knew they were following us but she thought it was because of the gangs drug activity. Thus my little sister and I grew up sleeping under pool table and behind bars ( No Joke, I’m writing a screen play about it. ).  They never caught us or realized she wasn’t Angela Davis.
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My mother abruptly left the gang because of a near deadly motorcycle accident and quickly found Jesus and a new life as a medical transcriptionist.  it wasn’t long after that that my father returned to my mother.
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My childhood had a chaotic pace that had me reaching for more at a very young age.  Which is way I did gravitate to the spirit of hiphop and self awareness.  Id like to think that my childhood may have been different if my father was there during those times.  I know that I am lucky that he returned at all. But those years without a father definitely had me spinning for guidance and a positive role model.  Mine being the cliche pimp, drug dealer and hustler. But those also are the years that defined me and fortified me.  I would argue that hiphop culture would not be what it is today without the absence of its father figures which forced young men to find ways to relate, engage and define themselves. HipHop is in my DNA for the same reason, I can relate.
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After my father returned our life did a complete 180.  He became a postal worker, my mother worked at the local hospital. We moved into a lower middle class neighbor in Englewood Colorado.  Which blew my mind and primed me to communicate and relate to even more people as an empathetic artist and entrepreneur.
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I love my father Im grateful for the sacrifices he made to come back into our lives when he did.  Because of him i know even more the power of having a father and the influence a man can have on a growing rebellious boy and emerging woman.

If you could list 3 benefits of HHDB outside of its cool look, what would they be?

1. This bag is a physical symbol of hip hops maturity into adulthood.  I want the whole culture to know that hiphop is evolving and #hiphopisnotasingleparent
2. 7% of the profit of every bag goes to https://www.myfriendshousela.org 
3. Because of the nature of the pattern no 2 bags are cut and sewn the same! Each one is completely unique, like us.
PURCHASE HIP HOP DIAPER BAG
PURCHASE HIP HOP DIAPER BAG

If you could get 2 hip hop dads to rock your product who would they be and why?

Great question!! Jay Z would be my first dad!  Because i know he understands the path of a black man from vulnerable through knuckle head into self empowered creator of his own life!  Also, Beyonce’…just…BEYONCE’!!!  She has twins!  Thats double the diaper, double the bag! You think they even change their diapers?  If not I’d like to get one to their Nannys.
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Second dad would be Kanye.  For the same reasons as above but I also think he would appreciate my story and the message in the story behind the bags. I think he is one of hip hops most misunderstood shaman. I think he would like my message to hiphop culture that it is a tool for self initiation and expansion. But he also has the potential to steal my concept and take it around the world himself HaHa.  He’s a wild card
Honorable mentions 
Chance the Rapper
Will Smith
The Rock
Cardi B

Assuming you grew up influenced by the hip hop culture, list your top 5 hip hop artists of all time?

1. OutKast
2. Wu Tang Clan
3. Jay Electronica
4. 2pac
5. Childish Gambino

What struggles did you face launching your product and getting it out there? How have you overcome them?

Money, financing marketing, learning the diaper bag, parenthood and baby industry.  So many obstacles!!
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Currently I struggle with balancing business and work. Also known as make enough money so that I can invest in the business effectively.  I currently am applying to become a minority vendor for Macys. I expect that to work out. But then I will then have to find the money to place their initial order.
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I have tried and tried to get the bags to influencers and artists but it’s more difficult than i thought or I’m going about it all wrong. I want to build a grass roots following that understands the concept and vision but it’s a slow build as you must know.
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I want to reach parents within the hiphop culture but I also want to reach the culture as a whole as well as the street wear fashion culture. Not only is it a great diaper bag and symbol of hip hops maturation, it’s also insulated and makes a great gym bag or bag for a student!  Kids can literally use this bag from the time they are in diapers until they are in school. Im having trouble bringing that message to the proper demographic.
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I also am having trouble reaching supporters of black business’s in America. But I’m working hard to change that. I feel like Im still launching the product.  Which is why Im so grateful for this opportunity to share my story with your readers. One obstacle I really want to overcome is how to reach more press outlets such as yourself.  Me reaching out to you was an attempt to find my way into this world.
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 Im an artist learning to be a better business man.  My strategy has been to listen to a lot of inspirational marketing videos and contact everyone I want to work with through instagram or the internet in general. I would love to be able to hire a sales rep, rep for product placement and PR professional soon.  I Still have lots of work to do!

Will HHDB be coming out with more styles? What’s to expect in the future?

More styles, features and collaborations with artists on the bags! Also, Expect a full line of Maternity Street Wear soon!

If you could write a short letter to your father starting with “Dear Father,” what would you say?

Dear Father, Your creativity, resilience and love through thick and thin has helped me become a man I myself can be proud of.  Thank you for your continued support in all of my wild dreams and adventures.  I promise to continue to support you in the wild dreams you’re aligning with in this golden phase of your life. You’re the best father I could’ve hoped for.  Thank you for showing me how to be vulnerable and what a real man can give to his family and the world. I will always love you
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Marcus
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