Brian "Raydar" Ellis

Assistant Professor
Also affiliated with: 
617 747-2845
For media inquiries, see Media Relations.

"I think one of the things that impacts my teaching is the idea of relatability. I'm not too far removed from most of the students I teach. We get a lot of the same jokes, and there's a certain level of comfort. I teach Hip-Hop Ensemble and Turntable Technique, and I was one of the first students in that class, when it was brand new."

"My whole goal with Hip-Hop Ensemble is to blur the line. Right now, the perception of hip-hop is a standoff. It really comes down to a debate over what a musician is. Some people think pushing buttons isn't being a musician, it's production. But there's validity in the music I'm making. I'll have students playing samples live, like an instrument, as if they were playing a piano. For me, a rapper with a DJ is not any different from someone singing and someone else playing a guitar. It's voice and an instrument."

"You don't approach hip-hop like rock, just like you don't approach rock like reggae. I like to compare hip-hop to doing a flexed arm hang. You have the pull-up and the flexed arm hang. Initially in class, musicians will be trying to show off everything they know, but hip-hop is more a process of finding that groove and locking it in, playing your role. It's really more a test of restraint."

"My students are kind of aware my career, from Facebook and MySpace and the company I work with, Revive Da Live. My experience [collaborations with Mos Def, Roy Hargrove, DJ Rob Swift, and Cee-Lo of Gnarls Barkley] tends to come into play instantly. Every semester I have to deal with an MC who doesn't yet know how to cue the band and rap at the same time. I can say, 'If you saw the clip on Youtube, this is what was happening.'"

Career Highlights


  • B.M., Berklee College of Music, music business/synthesis
  • Vocalist
  • Leader of Champs vs. the League
  • Member of Igmar Thomas & the Cypher, Chris Dave and Friends, and Short Bus Alumni
  • Performances with 7L & Esoteric, 5 ft. (Black Moon), Kev Brown, Mos Def, Renee Neufville, Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Casey Benjamin, and Meshell Ndegeocello
  • Recordings include Late Pass (debut album), Boombox (Raheem Jamal), Egoclapper (Esoteric), and Mr. T's Revenge (Short Bus Alumni)
  • Publications in URB MagazineElemental MagazineThe SourceOkayplayerHHC, and Stealth
  • Currently producing records for hip-hop group the Godbody and Esperanza Spalding
  • Currently recording an album with Chris "Daddy" Dave