Detroit’s Underground Music Academy

Legends Mad Mike and Wajeed have an idea to build support for communities of marginalized music makers – right in the heart of Detroit. That effort might have gotten upstaged by the election, so now is the perfect time to dig in – and recall some of Detroit’s own history.

It’s not an accident that current political noise is all about discounting the votes of Detroit residents. You could easily see an echo in the music industry. So maybe it’s time for some resistance again.

Underground Music Academy is an idea that’s been floating around Detroit for some time now, but it’s getting a home and a plan at an essential time. The location is incredible – next to the storied Submerge record store, around the corner from the landmark Motown Museum, and in the former offices of the NAACP.
With all that Motown history, though, and his own place in American music, WAJEED says he wants to build something international – so take note, world readers. “This space will provide for not just our community, but people worldwide,” he recently told The Face. “Anybody who’s marginalized, that’s who we’re here for. Anybody who has been slept on and forgotten, that’s our priority,” he says.
Check out the full interview with Ash Lauryn from the end of October (and for sure, elections and pandemics might well have meant you slept on this – and we shouldn’t):
Underground Music Academy is ushering in a new generation of revolutionary artists

That’s exciting, particularly as there’s a void left by the Red Bull Music Academy – and a chance, perhaps, to steer instead toward community-driven, grassroots efforts instead of big brands. Mad Mike, for his part, was an epic part of what made RBMA so powerful; he’s just a fantastic teacher and inspiration, according to absolutely everyone I know who’s ever been in the same room with him.
So straight to the details:

What they’ll teach: “both studio skills and business acumen,” the creators promise, with a plan to make placing students and launching careers part of the curriculum. That’s in keeping with the history of Detroit (there’s a reason that “hustle harder” phrase got traction), and in what places like Submerge have done.

Where it’ll be: 2990 East Grand Blvd. Second Floor – that’s the North End

What they’re fundraising for: that space is purchased, but it needs renovation – plus a budget for a website and equipment. They have a really low funding goal, actually, so no reason not to help for anyone in the industry with some spare change – see below.

Timeline: they say they’re trying to launch in 2021 with free online tutorials, and then opening the physical space in 2022. Here in Berlin, I’ve heard German DJ Sarah Farina getting really involved and has been sharing some encouraging developments – which is important as a link from Detroit to other scenes (especially as a number of Detroit-born artists have moved over here).

The mission: “As a lifelong Detroiter with over 20 years in the music business, I feel a great need to build a more inclusive electronic music community. Music will be the means for education, healing and building esteem.”
How to help: They’re fundraising on, with a $25,000 goal – and they’re already halfway there. Even twenty bucks can buy them some paint.
If you don’t have money but you’re in Detroit, they’re also looking for volunteers to help with cleanup, organization, and painting.