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On the Forefront of Hip Hop: Seattle’s ‘206 Zulu’ Turns 20

By Gurjot Kang

Edited by Marian Mohamed



The crowd watches as b-boys and b-girls prepare for a chance to earn their props at the Zulu Throwdown 2-vs.-2 Break Battle at Washington Hall on Saturday, Feb. 17. (Photo/Dash Pinck)


Uplift. Preserve. Celebrate. That has been the mantra at the heart of 206 Zulu’s work in Hip Hop organizing and community service for the past two decades. 


Founded in 2004 by local Hip Hop artist Daniel Kogita, known as ‘King Khazm,’ 206 Zulu is a Seattle organization dedicated to community education and empowerment through the celebration of Hip Hop culture. 


“We really kind of push our mission through a lot of amazing programs that encompass the different elements of Hip Hop [like] doing mural and graffiti competitions and festivals, youth mentorship programs with music, video production, and all different types of areas,” said Khazm. “It’s great to see the intersections of the different communities come together.”


As the Executive Director of 206 Zulu, Khazm’s love of Hip Hop has motivated and carried him forward his whole life; a passion he wants to share with others.


Before establishing 206 Zulu, Khazm was part of MAD Krew, a graffiti and Hip Hop crew he helped co-found back in 1995. The group later became a successful multimedia production company, producing the 1998 Hip Hop documentary “Enter the Madness,” which brought heightened attention to the PNW Hip Hop scene on a national stage.


“My upbringing started at a young age, in terms of being submerged in Hip Hop, starting with the element of art and graffiti, and evolving into poetry, live production, music, making beats,” said Khazm. “I like the creative exchange [of Hip Hop]...just sharing what I know and helping support people in their development…and their creative growth. Something I wish I had [as a kid].” 


Growing up as a teen in Beacon Hill, Hip Hop and street art played an influential role in Khazm’s life. As such, he recognizes the irreplaceable value and impact of youth music mentorship programs, hosted by nonprofits like 206 Zulu.


A pioneer in the Pacific Northwest and inspiration for similar Hip Hop non-profit groups across the country, this past month, 206 Zulu hit another big milestone. From Feb.15-19, the organization celebrated its 20th anniversary with five days of exciting arts and culture events open to the public. 


The 20th anniversary celebrations began with an official kick-off Thursday night, Feb. 15 at the Havana Social Club with DJs Supreme La Rock and Lady Love, and a Zulu Jam session, held at Madam Lou’s, the following Feb. 16 evening. The Jam session included a First Nations Hip Hop showcase and performances from artists ‘Abstract Rude’ and 'Medusa’ of the Los Angeles Project Blowed Hip Hop group. The Friday night Zulu Jam also featured high-energy appearances from Hip Hop legends like DJ Jazzy Jay and Grandwizzard Theodore, with a memorable performance from Coast Contra closing out the party. 


Home and anchor partner to Washington Hall, 206 Zulu’s anniversary celebrations continued at the historic location throughout the weekend, with a Zulu Throwdown 2-vs.-2 Break Battle event on Saturday, Feb. 17. With over $5,000 in prizes on the line, more than 30 breakdance crews headed onto the black-and-white checkered dance floor to take a stake in the battle. 


The crowd awaits in anticipation for the 2-vs.-2 break battle to commence at the Zulu Throwdown on Saturday, Feb. 17 in Washington Hall. (Photo/Dash Pinck)


The energy was electric as b-boys and b-girls alike stunned the crowd with unique performances. After some fierce competition from several contenders, including local group Massive Monkees, Rock Force Crew, the break group from Union City, CA, ultimately clinched the first place title.


Performers and attendees gather in celebration at the end of the Zulu Throwdown competition. (Photo Courtesy of 206 Zulu)


Sunday’s event the next day, on Feb. 18, served as a moment of reflection as attendees gathered for a “Meeting of the Minds'' discussion at Washington Hall (prior to Monday’s final anniversary 206 Writer’s Bench program). This all-ages open conversation event featured three different panels zeroing in on topics, such as the future of breaking (with break dancers Asia One, Alien Ness, and Ken Swift) to the evolution of street art (with artists Sire One, Desi Mundo, and Hera Won). The panels were facilitated by educator and journalist Open Hands, with music from DJ Zeta interlacing in the space between the conversations. 


During the panel on breaking, b-girl Asia One spoke on the inclusivity of breaking and her desire to continue showing up for young people interested in the art form. 

“Hip Hop is the culture that gave us a chance,” shared Asia One. “A lot of different [organizations] around the nation are moving Hip Hop forward through a non profit movement in order to reach…all the communities to promote equity, to promote inclusion, to change the narrative.” Organizations like 206 Zulu.


From left to right: Host Open Hands sits with panelists Alien Ness, Asia One, and Ken Swift during the breaking panel for the “Meeting of the Minds” event on Sunday, Feb. 18. (Photo/Gurjot Kang)


Throughout the breaking panel, Asia One and the other panelists, Alien Ness and Ken Swift, emphasized the importance of organizations like 206 Zulu, which prioritize youth programming and help pass on the torch and introduce the art of breaking to the next generation. 


“I feel like I have been blessed with a life [where] I fell in love with this music that has kept me dancing for 45 or 46 years now,” said Ken Swift. “And so I see that as a responsibility because I was given a gift…the most humbling thing you can do is to share it with the kids.”


The panelists also took the time to pay homage to the roots of Hip Hop music culture–descending from the history of African Americans and the children of Afro Caribbean immigrants. 


“Hip Hop is a narrative of Black and Brown people, especially in America,” said Asia One. “Hip Hop is a culture rooted in trauma and overcoming trauma through something very special…and it continues to do that all over the world.”


The “Meeting of the Minds” discussion wrapped up with the last panel on the impact of street art and beautifying community spaces. This panel featured acclaimed street artists Desi Mundo, Hera Won, and Sire One.


In celebration of 206 Zulu turning 20, artists Crayone, Desi Mundo, Hyro, and Sire One worked together on a tribute mural to the organization outside the King County Archives office. (Photo Courtesy of 206 Zulu)



From left to right: Host Open Hands with panelists Desi Mundo, Hera Won, and Sire One for the street art panel at the “Meeting of the Minds” event on Sunday, Feb. 18. (Photo/Gurjot Kang)


“When we hit these walls, we’re breathing life into them,” said Sire One, long-time Seattle street artist. “The words [Khazm] said to me…just make sure everything you’re doing is transformational versus transactional…and I hold onto that every day.” 


Honoring the culture of Hip Hop, uplifting communities, and inspiring the next generation–that is what organizations like 206 Zulu are all about. 


The legacy of the Northwest’s premier Hip Hop organization continues, even as the nonprofit’s 20th anniversary celebrations come to a close. 


To learn more about 206 Zulu and how to get involved, visit www.206zulu.org.



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