Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, to an educator/poet and an NYPD detective, Eshod Howard’s (aka Eternal the M.C.) upbringing included teachings about Black revolutionaries and hip-hop. His mother’s extensive library introduced him to the Black Panther Party, the Civil Rights Movement, and the foundations of poetry. But it was his father’s militant personality that created room for Howard to immerse himself in the ideologies of civil rights leader and activist Malcolm X.
“At age eleven, I was watching Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X,” Howard says. “I was so entranced that [it] was the only movie I watched every night for a whole summer.”
From that point forward, he made a commitment to be an inspiration to his community through music and activism. As he was growing up in New York City, widely considered the birthplace of hip-hop, elements of that culture surrounded Howard daily.
“I would walk outside to go to the store and see a cypher breaking out,” he says. “It was also possible to see someone you know breaking—we always saw graffiti on the walls. [Hip-hop] was always a part of me.”
In his younger days, Howard’s father was a b-boy, and had attended high school with the legendary Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers. By the time he began high school, he was aware he could rap but shied away from broadcasting it to those outside of his inner circle. It wasn’t until he attended Shaw University, the first historically Black institution of higher education in the South, that Howard began to flourish as an artist and performer in front of audiences he did not know.
Although there were pockets of hip-hop on Shaw’s campus, it was only off campus that he was introduced to a wider variety of open mics and, most importantly, NC State’s widely-known weekly Monday cyphers.
When asked how he defines his artistic identity, Howard says that he would “define myself as a lyricist, poet, humanitarian, who is on a path to [being] legendary…I care immensely about my people.”
In his music and in real life, Howard centers Black people and Black stories. In a time where Trap music has dominated hip-hop radio stations for quite some time now, and conscious music has become less visible in mainstream markets, Howard is both proud and confident in the music he creates.
“Most of what I talk about in my tracks is revolutionary,” he says. “Betterment of my people talk…humanitarian talk. I feel comfortable enough in my artistry to just make quality music, my brand and music. I can stand on it anywhere in the world and be my true authentic self. And that takes a lot, a lot of courage. A lot of artists miss that.”
Howard’s tenure in music has allowed him to cross paths with some of hip-hop’s most dedicated conscious independent artists, from North Carolina emcee Cesar Comanche to Brooklyn’s Wordsworth. His current goal is to become a college professor; in the meantime, he’s been afforded academic opportunities as a guest speaker and lecturer at a number of universities and festivals in the Triangle area. Most notably, he has spoken at UNC Chapel-Hill, NC State, William Peace University, and the Innovate Your Cool Conference at the Art of Cool Festival in Durham.
Howard’s humble personality, his affinity for others, and his lyrical abilities set him apart from what’s trendy in hip-hop today. It is his commitment and dedication that will allow him to eventually lead a revolution through his music.
Eternal the M.C. is a 20/21 artist-in-residence of the Commons at Carolina Performing Arts. His performance will be presented in digital format during the Commons Festival, which will take place Fridays and Saturdays from January 29 through February 20, 2021. The performance is free with registration, which opens on January 15, 2021.
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