Brian "Raydar" Ellis

  • Career Highlights
    • 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
  • Education
    • B.M., Berklee College of Music, music business/synthesis

In Their Own Words

"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.'"