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Tuned in: Our own supastar

An ASU student is the only Southwest finalist in a national hip-hop competition

 by Heather Wells  published on Thursday, March 3, 2005


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Ben Harris has many titles: Student, actor, rapper, producer.

And on March 21, the journalism senior will add another one to the list: performer on the Anger Management Tour.

Getting a free trip to San Diego to perform with Xzibit on the Anger Management Tour is one of the perks of being a finalist in the national Hip Hop Supastar contest, presented by Sony Ericsson and Cingular Wireless.

Harris, a.k.a. Ol' Green Eyes, read about the contest in a mass e-mail. He decided to submit a song and his EP, which can be purchased at Hoodlums and Zia Records. A month passed, and after nearly forgetting he had even entered the contest, Harris got a phone call telling him that he was one of 10 finalists.

"I was surprised because it's such a big contest out of New York," he says. "I didn't think they would really look at anybody in Arizona, let alone the Southwest.

"But then this is something I've always seen myself doing. I make high expectations, big goals," he adds. "I think everything is working out how I've always planned and dreamed."

Getting to be one of 10 finalists in a national hip-hop competition has been a long road for the former small-town boy from Ladoga, Ind. Harris grew up the child of divorced parents and split his time between his white mother in Indiana and his black father in Phoenix.

"I grew up in two total opposites," he says. "A white family in the country and my black family in the city. People may say it's hard, but I think it's a blessing."

Experiencing different worlds opened him up to a variety of music. He says his father introduced him to rap.

"He used to always play Snoop and Dre in the car," he says. "I'm sure my mom wouldn't have liked that."

The music fueled his love for rap and R&B. After moving to Arizona from the small town at age 16 to live with his dad and finish high school at Desert Vista, Harris began writing and performing his own music. He formed the group Comen Dis'may with his younger brother and best friend, and has since become a solo artist.

Harris raps about topics ranging from staying on the right path to closing the generation gap to girls, which he calls his "specialty."

"I feel the beats talk to me, and they kind of tell me what should be said, how to use my voice as the final instrument to a great production," he says. "I have content and the ability to change it up. I'm very versatile with my style."

The versatility shows in his life, as well. Harris produces Sun Devil Television Channel 2's "Dating 101," recorded the song used for Channel 2 news updates, works master control at KAET-TV Channel 8, acted in ASU's production of "Grip the Mic Tight" last April and is the vice president of the Association of Multicultural Journalists.

"My parents are my biggest inspirations for doing so much," Harris says. "I feel blessed having two creative parents, both engineers. I feel I'm obligated to be successful using creativity and hard work."

Even though he has a lot of behind-the-scenes experience, Harris says he prefers to be in the spotlight.

"Performing is when I feel best," he says. "I consider myself an entertainer with a passion for music. That's what keeps me driven the most."

And performing seems to be his forte. Harris went undefeated in the Power 92 freestyle battles before winter break. Also, he has performed at the Devil House, Mist and Venue of Scottsdale. Upcoming performances include one at the Macayo's on Ash Avenue next Thursday to promote the Hip Hop Supastar contest and a performance at the Pike fraternity house March 26.

Harris says one reason he is successful is because he's different from other hip-hop artists. He fears mediocrity and cringes at the thought of being compared to other artists.

"One of my biggest fears is having people say 'He's just like,' " Harris says. "I always say I'm the first Ben Harris. I don't want to be the next somebody. I want to make my own category. I'm from the country; I'm not from where the majority of hip-hoppers are from. You know, hard times and all that."

He adds, "I want to be respected for being myself."

Harris says he plans on graduating next December. From there, he wants to go to California and become well known in music as an artist, as well as a producer.

"One of the reasons I call myself Ol' Green Eyes is because I feel like my eyes are two green lights keeping me driven down the road to success," he says.

To listen to Harris' music, go to www.olgreeneyes.com. To vote for Harris, text "supa" to 47827 from any cell phone. Go to www.hiphopsupastar.com for details.

The winner will be announced April 11.

"Help your boy out," Harris says. "This is a big contest, and I'm the only one representing the Southwest. I know there are a lot of talented musicians out here, and I feel like this can be a good step."

Reach the reporter at heather.wells@asu.edu.



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