Phoenix MC Random Juggles Teaching, Rapping, and Superhero-Dom

A lot of rappers call themselves teachers, but few have self-applied the title as accurately as Raheem Jarbo. For Jarbo — a.k.a. Random or Mega Ran — it's no holier-than-thou, conscience-rap boast. He teaches middle school English and social studies at Omega Academy in west Phoenix. At Omega, Jarbo puts his rhyming abilities to use in the classroom. On "Freestyle Fridays," if all his students ace their vocabulary tests, Jarbo performs an impromptu rap as the students hold up vocabulary words for him to use.

A little odd, sure. Effective? Jarbo says so. After a rocky start to his teaching career at another Phoenix charter school, Jarbo says he's happy to have found a school that appreciates his creative teaching techniques.

"In some schools, unfortunately, there's no room for creativity because they've gotta pass these state tests," Jarbo says. "They set up a curriculum — ABCD — and you have to do that, whether the kids are getting it or not. You can't do it a different way."

Random: Teacher, rapper, superhero.
James Johnson
Random: Teacher, rapper, superhero.

Details

Random is scheduled to perform on Saturday, October 31, at the Hilton Phoenix East in Mesa and on Thursday, November 5, at Club Red in Tempe.

Related Stories

More About

"I try to do as much as I can and bring it into the classroom in a positive way, because they're in seventh and eighth grade," Jarbo says. "It's the hardest time of their life. They're going through changes and they don't know how to react to them, so I try to make it as fun as I can. They still hate to write. Trying to get them to write is the hardest thing, but I love it. I kind of feel like I'm where I'm needed."

Starting with the Phoenix MC's first mixtape, TeacherRapperHero, Jarbo has managed to combine his biggest passions — teaching, hip-hop, and video games — into a three-pronged career that has earned him, if not yet fame and fortune, at least a degree of Internet notoriety and, more importantly, happiness and a sense of accomplishment.

Writing has never been a problem for Jarbo. He began writing and performing hip-hop as "The R" in his hometown of Philadelphia. He renamed himself Random (after the shape-shifting Marvel comics character) in the mid-'90s and released his debut album, The Call, in 2006. Later that year, after gradually growing tired of the brutal winters of the Northeast, Jarbo found a teaching job in Phoenix. After the move, his musical output grew exponentially. In less than four years, he has put out five full-length albums (one is a Japan-only release), an EP, and the aforementioned mixtape.

Jarbo frequently collaborates with his roommate and fellow Philly transplant, DJ/producer DN3. He's an unabashedly positive MC, with a flow reminiscent of Blackalicious' Gift of Gab and lyrics that eschew violence and "bling" culture for a more hopeful, uplifting vibe. The lack of profanity on his albums may make Random an anomaly is today's hip-hop world, but it's not a product of self-censorship, he says.

"I talk about some heavy stuff, and there are some heavy issues, but [cursing is] just not a part of me," he says. "I don't do it in everyday life, so it's easy not to do it in a song. Plus, if my mom heard it, I think she'd kill me . . . If I had to really censor myself, then that would suck because words are like colors in a painting. If you've got to say something, you can't just say, 'I'm not gonna use blue because blue offends that guy.' You can't do that. You've got to speak your mind."

Despite his accomplishments as a teacher and socially conscious rapper, Jarbo's biggest claim to fame has been the third component of the mixtape title: his "hero" persona, Mega Ran. Jarbo says the idea to make a concept album based on the classic 8-bit Mega Man video games stemmed from what was supposed to be a self-imposed hiatus from hip-hop.

"Right after I got [to Phoenix], I tried to remove myself from hip-hop for a moment, because I didn't want to make the same album twice," Jarbo says. "I felt like I had said everything I had to say in The Call. I rapped about everything I wanted to rap about. I set the music down and started playing video games."

While playing Mega Man, Jarbo was drawn to the background music and began hunting down MP3s of the game's soundtrack online. In 2007, he released Mega Ran, in which he portrays the titular character, rapping over samples from the game. Because of the questionable legality of such a project, Jarbo created a separate MySpace page in an attempt to distance Mega Ran from his work as Random.

Word of mouth spread and Mega Ran started gathering an underground following among fans of nerdcore, a subgenre of hip-hop devoted to all things geeky. Perhaps not surprisingly, it's one of the only areas of hip-hop populated mostly by white guys, but Jarbo sees himself as an emissary between nerdcore and traditional hip-hop.

"Every rapper's from the mean streets, so it's almost not cool — it's totally not cool — to embrace your nerd side," he admits. "But every one of these guys has played Nintendo . . . when they were growing up. They all did all these nerdy things. We all watched Star Wars. We all watched cartoons. We all have done that, so there's nothing wrong with embracing that part of you that's there, instead of suppressing it. That's what I feel like I'm trying to do: Here's the cool table, the hip-hop table; there's the nerdy table, and I'm kinda in the middle. I like to sit at the middle table so I can maybe call a couple guys from the hip-hop table over and some guys from the nerd table and we can eat together."

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Johnny Gobs
Johnny Gobs

YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAA RANDOM IN THE HOUSE 2NITE 2 NITE.

I REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I HEARD RANDOM I WAS GONNA COMMIT SUICIDE BUT AQUA SOUL SAVED ME LIFE!!!

I apologize im on drugs but random rocks

Louie
Louie

Jarbo is a Teacher.

Jarbo is a Rap Star.

Jarbo is Real!

It�s great to see Random Jarbo get a little local attention. �Bout time the local press take a look around to see what�s happening here.

I know Jarbo. I know him pretty well. I worked alongside of him. To me, he was a great teacher and then he revealed his Music-Message-Rap thing. He does a great job of it. And the PhoenixNewTimes article does him justice.

It might be kind of interesting to keep track of this honest voice into beats. Jarbo is inclusive, not divisive, what this world needs now.

More, more.

Louie

RD
RD

It's great to see the New Times focusing on the positive aspects of the Valley Hip Hop Scene. Random is definitely the breath of fresh air that music needs. Keep it up Ran!!!

JOE MCPORNO
JOE MCPORNO

GOOD TO SEE RANDOM ON HERE!! LOOK OUT!!

tim wallis
tim wallis

An incredible emcee and one of the nicest, humblest guys on the planet. With his music and teaching careers, it's incredible how much time he can still find for his fans and other up and coming rappers. Great article on a great role model.

There's more Random at www.nerdyrottenscoundrels.com

BadServo
BadServo

Nice article. Very pleased to see some much needed recognition thrown towards a very talented artist. Not only is he a gifted teacher, and a damn nice guy, but he takes the time and effort to really connect with his fans. This assures his continued success when so many other overnight hit, major-backed, musicians fade into memory.

His one of the truest voices in hip-hop and has the rare gift of not taking himself too seriously. I look forward to his future projects as well as more excellent spotlights such as this in the pages (digital and otherwise) of the NYT.

EL3G
EL3G

Really good read. Random is a shining of example of all that's good in Hip Hop right now. Keep doing your thing homie.

p.s.I feel you on getting tired of the blistering Philly winters, lol

laziejim
laziejim

Random seems to take all the negativity out of hip hop. His songs are more about real life situations and less about money, guns and women. His album, The Call, is a truly inspired piece of art and it is a shame that more artists (hip hop or not) out there today do not make music in the same vein.

Random
Random

Thanks for the comments and thanks to the New Times for the look. Anyone brave and curious enough to check it out should come out to Saboten Con this weekend at the Hilton Mesa... :)

hear some music at www.myspace.com/random215 and get freebies at http://random.bandcamp.com

Gerard Lelionis
Gerard Lelionis

This a good article on a great on a good rapper/teacher/hero, hopefully Random starts getting the recognition he deserves.

Panda Derek
Panda Derek

It's great that there are still schools that don't follow a universal standard...i feel schools like that condition their students to compete for the same future, a future will limited capacity/possibilities...i'm glad random found a school that welcomes his diverse teaching skills...so, the students can aim for different directions, instead of conforming to a system that rejects many, due to its limit...�random� kind of teachers contribute to a student�s identity that will differ from students of other teachers, because their uniqueness influences their students, in many ways...in a society where so many people share the same ambitions, life is boring...like, the music on the radio...this week's top ten hits are last week's top ten hits�great music is made daily...these consistent top hits get old�but, because many are conditioned to accept it, they omit diversity in their life...that system promotes ignorance, the lack of diversity...so, thanks to random and the other non-uniform teachers...they contribute to a better life...also, random/mega ran puts on a great show, regardless, if the sound system works or not�don�t believe me?...pull the RCA cables from the sound system and experience it for yourself...haha

Mark Pheonix
Mark Pheonix

RANDOM FOR THE WIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

L.F.P.
L.F.P.

Wonderful story. We need more examples of positivity in hip-hop and dedication in teachers. It looks like Random is managing to do both, and do them both well. Way to go!

count
count

It's true, Random teaches many of us who aren't in his class. I've learned/listened to his brilliant message for a while now. He's a refreshing change to the main stream hip-hop that so many people know, one listen to his album 'The Call' and I've made believers of a few people.

 
Phoenix Concert Tickets

Concert Calendar

  • September
  • Mon
    1
  • Tue
    2
  • Wed
    3
  • Thu
    4
  • Fri
    5
  • Sat
    6
  • Sun
    7
Loading...