South Siders drop EP to raise scholarship funds


Courtesy Angela Gudger of Uneek D Picshun

Hip-hop EP Better Man features three young South Side artists with proceeds funding scholarships.

By Alexa Rixon

Three young South Side men, working to raise scholarship funds through The Better Man Than Me Foundation, dropped  collaborative hip-hop EP Better Man on iTunes Sept. 19 to help fund these scholarships.

Darius Washington, 23, one of the EP artists, said he and other collaborators—rapper Jayson Roberts, 20, and Ken Willis, 19, a producer and student at SAE Institute—are striving to be better men and want to motivate neighborhood youth who are clients of the foundation to further their self growth and education.

“This EP was something I wanted to do from my heart and give back to the children that are coming after me, the ones that look up to me,” Washington said.

The Better Man Than Me Foundation has worked to “promote success and responsible stewardship among young men” since 2011, said Paul Phillips, the foundation’s founder and CEO.

The foundation aims to provide at least one scholarship each year to young men entering their freshman or sophomore year of college, Phillips said. Applicants must write an essay about themselves, their aspirations and what they have done or will do to give back to the community. This year it awarded a $5,000 scholarship in August. The award amount changes every year depending on funding, and the group’s long term goal is $10,000,  Phillips said.

Phillips was raised by a single mother, and now that he has three college degrees—including a Doctorate in Divinity from the Hope Seminary and Bible Institute—and success, he said he wanted to give back to young men by teaching them leadership skills and stewardship. He said he accomplishes this with mentoring activities such as basketball with invited halftime speakers. Topics include stopping violence, goal setting and relationships.

The goal of Better Man is to encourage everybody, particularly young men, to grow and not give up, Phillips said. Three main songs written by the artists include “Unbreakable,” “Unstoppable” and “Unleash.” Phillips said the idea was sparked in February, and he picked the titles and concept while the three artists wrote lyrics based around them.

“Unbreakable,” written by Washington, is about not letting any roadblocks get in the way despite pain and emotion.  “Unleash” is a reminder not to hold back any talents and let them show, and “Unstoppable” is described as an anthem about not being discouraged by life’s ups and downs.

Music is not only a vehicle for raising scholarship funds but part of the foundation’s core because many young people are interested in rapping, Phillips said.

“We wanted to encourage the children to express themselves in a positive way through music and to teach them how to plan for their career, whether it’s in music or not,” Phillips said.

Growing up in West Englewood, Washington said he lost many friends to gun violence, and he encourages kids to take their own direction to become a success.

“[I tell] the kids behind me on the block, ‘If you have a dream, chase after that dream. If you want to go to college, go to college,’” Washington said. “You don’t have to be like the guys on the streets. You don’t have to be ‘the man’ or the shooter or anything else that’s going on in Chicago right now.”