Travel Tapes with the Ambassador

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  • Published on June 20, 2023
  • In Videos

Toni Blackman, the first official U.S. hip hop ambassador, recounts her journey from the Bay Area to exploring hip hop culture around the world. Follow Toni Blackman’s story to Taiwan and Senegal as you learn more about her musical journey as hip-hop ambassador representing her culture around the world.

Play the full series back to back or check out our episode guide below.

1. A childhood in the Bay Area

In part 1 of Travel tapes with the Ambassador, artist and social entrepreneur Toni Blackman details her childhood in the Bay Area community of Pittsburg, California. This industrial city was ethnically diverse and laid the foundation for her ability to connect as a global citizen with people from various nations and continents. Even as a young girl her sight was set on leaving California and making her mark in Washington DC and New York City.

2. Hip Hop time in Taiwan

In part 2 of DETOUR’s Travel Tapes with the Ambassador artist and social entrepreneur Toni Blackman outlines several of the 48 countries she has visited as part of her work as a cultural ambassador. She shares some her experiences in Asia in particular. Listen to hear why she had “an incredible hip hop time” in Taiwan and what this avid traveler considers to be one of the most beautiful places in the world.

3. The musical journey

Did you know that the United States has many different types of cultural ambassadors? From quilt-making, to basketball, to jazz, and of course, hip hop. In part 3 of DETOUR Travel Tapes with the Ambassador, Toni Blackman chronicles what a cultural ambassador does and how she became the first official U.S. hip hop ambassador in 2001. Her first post was in West Africa, and that was just the beginning of this musical journey.

4. A show in Senegal

In this final part of the series, Toni Blackman recounts the last show of a tour that ended in Senegal where the crowds were much larger than anticipated. Despite multiple rehearsals, Toni manages a surprise turn of events on stage that requires her to freestyle her own set. Flowing with the various African rhythms was challenging to the young artist but eventually became her favorite way to perform. This episode ends with Toni recalling the huge press conference that took place on this tour where, despite being unprepared, she was put in the hot seat by reporters. It was an experience that truly tested her mettle as a cultural ambassador and reminded her that heavy is the head that wears the crown.

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