Hip Hop and spoken word artist Gaknew Roxwel stands next to a mural that he painted. (80272)
Hip Hop and spoken word artist Gaknew Roxwel stands next to a mural that he painted. Credit: Photo courtesy of Gaknew Roxwel

Gaknew Roxwel has made a name for himself through Hip Hop, spoken word, and painting. He has used all of those talents to produce “Under the Influence,” a book which tells the story of an at-risk youth who starts getting in trouble at an early age.

This story is partially based on Roxwel’s life growing up in Los Angeles, and about the children that he comes in contact with while working as a social worker at the Children’s Law Center of California. The similarities he has dicovered between he and the youth have influenced him to be socially active through his various mediums of art.

“I feel like my life has influenced the book,” Roxwel said. “Me as a youth growing up in the inner city, and moving around a lot. My family dynamic, having a troubled family and me always trying to figure that out, led me into social work.”

Roxwel has been a social worker for seven years. He has been rapping since childhood, and became a well-known spoken word artist after performing on “Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam.”

“The poetry and rapping go hand-in-hand,” Roxwel said. “As a rapper I have always been socially aware. But the climate of the industry changed, where Public Enemy and groups like that didn’t really have a place in the industry. It was becoming more like Puffy Combs and Wu Tang Clan. So there wasn’t really a place for the type of music that I was creating.”

At that point, Roxwel was asked to mentor troubled youths, and his focus changed.

“I thought that I wanted to be this entertainer, or this rapper, but really where my attention and my focus was on was troubled families, because I had a troubled family,” Roxwel said. “So here I am now, a social worker, which came from doing music.”

“Under the Influence” which focuses on a 13-year-old boy who learns about himself through his various life experiences, is constructed in the same fashion that Roxwel’s career as an artist is, combining his writing with his musical inclination. The book is accompanied with an album.

“Thirty years ago in African American culture, aggressive parenting and physical discipline was typical,” Roxwel said. “It wasn’t thought of as any big deal. But now there are many parents ending up with open cases with DCSF (Department of Children, Schools and Families), and their kids are being taken away. The growth of the foster care system in my opinion is largely in response to aggressive parenting, which is now considered abusive.”

“Under the Influence” can be purchased online through Roxwel’s website, www.gaknew.com, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, and ibook. There are both paperback and digital versions of the book. Roxwel’s Hip Hop and spoken word performances can be found on youtube.com.