Paradise Gray came up the South Bronx during the days of Reaganomics, when the failed “trickle down economics” theory was in full effect. With live entertainment being financially inaccessible, the young people began to create their own ways to have a good time. This raw, new music scene crafted on the streets of NYC is now a global culture known as “hip-hop.”

As a young street DJ, Paradise was mentored by some of the genre’s founding fathers: Disco King Mario, Pete DJ Jones, The Grand Imperial DJ J.C., and DJ. C.C. Howard. His life was formed by hip-hop; now, he’s using it to change the lives of young Black men.

As an entertainment manager and host for legendary club the Latin Quarter (AKA “The LQ”), Paradise was in the center of the “golden era” of hip hop, as the music’s most iconic artists honed their skills: Eric B & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-1, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, etc. Paradise and Lumumba Carson formed the BlackWatch Movement that spawned the group X-Clan. Dubbed “the Grand Architech,” Paradise was the main producer of both of the group’s albums: To The East Blackwards and XODUS. The X-Clan spoke before the Congressional Black Caucus and were nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

These days, Paradise serves as the Executive Director of Pittsburgh’s One HOOD, a youth organization committed to youth empowerment and violence prevention. He is a founding organizer of Pittsburgh’s Coalition Against Violence and is a part of many other local social movements. For all that he’s accomplished as a hip-hop pioneer and his commitment to community service, Paradise Gray is a true game changer.

To learn more, visit the Game Changers Project.