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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Go Forth! Grinnell Alums Impress: Sam Sellers ’00 Teaches and Inspires With Hip-Hop as Rabbi Darkside

A stage name like Rabbi Darkside carries certain connotations, but that doesn’t bother Sam Sellers ’00. Rather, it pleases him.
“I’ve always liked shattering expectations,” said Sellers in a phone interview.

This isn’t just talk. As an internationally known hip-hop artist, a self-proclaimed history buff, a public school teacher and a recently ordained minister, Sellers shatters expectations every day.

Sellers recently obtained national press for his work with the Fresh Prep program. Fresh Prep is a unique test prep program that uses hip-hop to prepare students for the State Regents Exam, which New York students must pass in order to graduate from high school.

Using hip-hop to improve the lives of public school students isn’t something new for Sellers. For the last 10 years, he has been doing exactly that in New York City under the title of Teacher Artist with the Urban Arts Partnership. He also works as a full-time middle school teacher, all while performing and recording his own music.

“Knowing that hip-hop had always been a huge learning tool for me […] it always made sense to me as an educator […] to use hip-hop to connect with students,” Sellers said.

Photo Credit: Rae Maxwell Photography 2011













Sellers was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, by a single mother who worked in early childhood education. Growing up, Sellers was very interested in poetry, namely Edgar Allen Poe’s works, and music. What Sellers liked most about the music he was exposed at this time was its thread of social consciousness.

“I soaked up a lot of music from my parents,” Sellers said. “There was always music all around me.”

Sellers started creating music himself when he was introduced to hip-hop culture in high school. At that time, he started freestyling and received the name he still uses today, Rabbi Darkside. A friend used it in an article for his high school’s unofficial satirical newspaper.

After being recruited to play soccer, Sellers came to Grinnell for college on a whim. While at Grinnell, Sellers, a political science major, played soccer, hosted a KDIC radio show for four years and participated in other activities, including planning Disco.

Sellers lived on North Campus for three years and in a house on High Street his senior year that has since been demolished.

“I lived in Norris when I was freshman,” Sellers said. “Is that still even there?”

Seller believes his time at Grinnell helped him grow as an artist as well as a person and very much led to what he’s doing now.

“[At Grinnell,] I was really infused with the desire to change the world through grassroots means,” Sellers said.

The weekend after he graduated from Grinnell, Sellers moved to New York City with two goals: to make music and to teach. Sellers only took one education class at Grinnell, but at the time, you could become a teacher in New York with a bachelor’s degree in any area of study, so he got a job as a social studies and English teacher at a middle school.

Soon after, Sellers also had luck in the music business. While reading the Village Voice, a free weekly publication in New York City, he spotted an ad looking for an abstract emcee. Sellers responded to the ad and quickly signed to his first record label.

From that point on, Sellers’ music career took off. He continued to gain exposure in the New York hip-hop scene and in 2003 he met the people he currently works with at Say Word Entertainment. Sellers has since released his first solo LP entitled Building the Better Bomb, performed all over the United States, Europe and South America, deejayed at some of the best clubs in New York, appeared on an episode of MTV’s MADE and brought the Hip Hop Subway Series to Europe.

Despite this success in entertaining, Sellers never stopped teaching. In fact, during his first few years in New York, Sellers taught full time. This made it difficult for him to break into the New York hip hop scene, but Sellers enjoyed it just the same.

“The question that every hustlin’ artist in New York City struggles with is how do you keep your motivation up when you’re working 40 hours a week for someone else,” Sellers said. “If you really want to do it, you’re going to find the time, and I’ve been very lucky to be able to merge the two passions.”

Though Sellers has performed all over the world, there’s one place he hasn’t done a concert yet that’s very important to him—Grinnell.

“I’ve been trying to come back to Grinnell for years to do a show! So let’s make it happen,” Sellers said. “I’m going to be out in St. Louis for a show at the end of October, [so] that’s good timing.”

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