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Exclusive: Dewey Da Don of Urban Republic Shares How His Life Turned Around After Attending Usher’s 'New Look' Program

Photo credit: Thomas Springer of Feets McCoy Films

Dedication, determination and drive is what describes James Harris who is better known as Dewey Da Don. 

Dewey, a 26-year-old from Kansas City, participated in Usher's New Look program in 2007 and says the R&B singer showed him a different path to success. 

Defying the odds, overcoming adversity 

Growing up, Dewey watched his mother work three jobs to care for him and his younger brother. He recalls how he was exposed to a lot as a child and he grew up fast in the streets with a hustle mentality. His father was a drug kingpin in Kansas City who recently finished serving a 10 year sentence in a federal prison. 

In high school, Dewey was a straight-A student, but says it was hard for him to connect the relevancy of what he was learning on the blackboard and apply that to his life. 

He says he was always a leader and remembers leading people down the wrong path and believing in the stereotypes placed upon him, thinking he would end up like his father. 

After getting caught carrying marijuana during his senior year in high school, Dewey experienced a wake up call when the opportunity was presented to him to apply to Usher's New Look program. Competing with 500 students, he was one of the few selected for the program. This allowed Dewey, for the first time, to go on a plane and experience life outside of his local community. 

Usher's nonprofit organization, which focuses on education and also exposes and teaches youth the business side of the sports, music and entertainment industries, is a key part to Dewey's success. 

“With anybody, no matter where you are on the totem pole, you can always learn something,” Dewey says. 

“I always try to learn something from somebody and leave somebody with something they didn’t know about.”

He learned in Usher’s camp to follow the right path and channel his passion into power. This is when Dewey discovered he had a passion to serve people and wanted to help them identify their own passion.   

In 2009, Dewey experienced what he calls, "the biggest highlight" of his life. He had the opportunity to attend a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C. during his second year as a mogul in training at New Look.

Dewey was a part of a panelist where he spoke to Congress about the importance of continuing funding programs, such as New Look, during a time when the nation was experiencing an economic crisis. He says he spoke for himself and other millions of other kids like him across the world.

“The most probable tool or ability as a leader is to inspire other people to do great things, and I had that opportunity that day," Dewey says. 

From mopping floors to becoming an artist and CEO

Fast forward and now Dewey is a business man, a philanthropist and an artist! 

He says, since joining New Look, he has learned to match his educational track with what he's passionate with, something traditional schools lack. He is still currently an executive board member and digital program director for Usher's program, and he is the CEO of a production company, Loud Pack, which he started while attending college.   

As Usher's protege, Dewey is not new to music and entertainment, and he found his own success along with a high school friend, Novacain. 

Dewey and Novacain shared similar tastes in music and both previously worked together at Sonic, mopping floors for $5.25 an hour. 

Novacain, who already had his own thing going on with music, decided to take a chance by partnering up with Dewey. The duo began creating music, realizing how much their lives were parallel to each other. 

They both went through similar past struggles and started channeling their past emotions, frustrations and phases of their life into the music. 

"It was a way to channel and turn this pain into power," Dewey says. "It's more beneficial for you to articulate what it is you went through and how you're feeling, and channel it into a medium of your passion."

The duo created the hip hop group Urban Republic which represents where they came from; the hood, the streets and the transformation of making it from the streets to somewhere higher. 

Dewey Da Don (left) Novacain (right)
Photo credit: Thomas Springer of Feets McCoy Films

Dewey says life doesn't stop in the streets,"It's nothing wrong with coming from the streets. But, with education, you empower yourself, come back and do something."

The two Urban Republic members say they compliment each other well. They describe their personalities like the rap duo Outkast, a group they look up to. But, Dewey says Urban Republic has their own flavor. 

Both members left Kansas City and eventually moved to Atlanta to further pursue their dreams, personal projects and endeavors while continuing to make music together. 
Photo credit: 
Thomas Springer of Feets McCoy Films

Urban Republic just released an EP "Killa City State of Mind" and they're ready to hit the streets with their newest release "From Atlanta With Love," set to be released in early 2016. 

Novacain says, some people may view the lyrics of their music as negative, but explains it is a “reflection of the realities from which they have experienced" and to those who live(d) it. 

Giving back, life lessons

While traveling, Dewey has met many children from all over who are dealing with different situations, similar to his past. He says, there are a lot of talented youth, but they don’t have the resources to reach the next step. Dewey has created a motivational speaking platform for underprivileged youth. He currently has a S.W.A.G (Strong, Willing, and Gifted) scholarship and a GoFundMe account to award children with an educational and entrepreneurial scholarship.  

Dewey says, he wakes up in the morning thinking, ‘how can I help someone?’

“The more people I can help, the more I can be of service to the youth, they’re going to get more opportunities,” he explains. 

Dewey, who is also a father, advises kids to exude confidence and never be afraid to fail.

He says, "The thing about fear is, it doesn’t even exist, it is created in our minds. If you fail it is not the end of the world, but you have to try."

“No matter what or where you are, people are going to stereotype you and place you in a box," he says. “But a stereotype is not true until your actions reflect that.”

Dewey's band mate, Novacain, says the number one lesson that changed him was to keep pushing and to keep moving forward.

He further explains, "sometimes you want to get weary or want to give up or want to just stop and turn back around. But, if you keep pushing and fighting through, you never know what’s on the other side."

Dewey adds, "At the end of the day, we all have to recognize, we wouldn’t be where we are without the help of someone else."


Follow: Urban Republic Dewey Da Don NovaCain 

Check out more of Urban Republic's music on SoundCloud, plus some of their music videos below!

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