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5 minutes with hip-hop ambassador Saraph the Sunman

James Mclawhorn, aka Saraph the Sunman, is one of Columbia’s great hip-hop ambassadors.
James Mclawhorn, aka Saraph the Sunman, is one of Columbia’s great hip-hop ambassadors. Submitted

Hip-hop in Columbia has many ambassadors of the culture. One of the city’s greatest heroes is James McLawhorn, better known as Saraph the Sunman. His stretch is beyond Columbia, and beyond the United States for that matter, adding title as an international artist touring in France and Switzerland. When he’s not making music, McLawhorn is a school teacher.

Q. How do you apply the experiences with music to your style of teaching?

A. Balancing my time as a hip-hop artist and school teacher can be very exhausting, yet exhilarating. I make sure that while I’m at school, I’m extremely professional, approachable, and thorough with all my endeavors. My students know that I genuinely care about them and want them to be successful in and out of the classroom, yet they understand that I am stern, firm, and fair in regards to my expectations.

When you’re a hip-hop artist as well as a teacher, you can be easily viewed as a distraction in the classroom if you are not professional. I make sure that who I am as an artist is an asset to my students and am better able to relate to them because I’m familiar with their culture. Ultimately, this brings about a better learning environment due to the students comfort level.

Q. Tell us a little about your international traveling.

A. Being an international recording artist is a dream come true. When you go to other nations and experience different cultures, the people give you an unbiased response to your art, which differs in the states. In Paris, a place many consider to be the capital of the Western world, the folks treat me like I’m on the same level as major label recording artists, minus the record deal. They still have a great love for hip-hop, which is dying in the U.S., and they respect the art form of being an emcee.

By traveling abroad, I’ve learned that our market as an American artist is much larger than our city, state, or region. Hip-hop is the most popular form of music, and our market it literally is the entire world. Viewing my market in this manner has opened up a large consumer base and has led to musical collaborations with artist from Burkina Faso, Portugal, Ghana, Senegal, Morocco, and many other nations. I’m very thankful for the opportunity.

Q. What are some projects you have in the works?

A. I have a lot a great projects in the works. My album “Eye Luv U,” will be released in early summer. I have completed group projects with Promis Hugee and Venecia Runningwolf, Blak Salt, and THE Everglorious, which are mindblowing experimental albums that blend funk, soul, hip-hop, house and world music. In Paris, I’m part of a collective known as Off the Record with my friend Supa Yaway from Burkina Faso. I’m blessed to have been given many opportunities to appear on Sacred Radio’s online interviews by DJ Idem. I’m also featured on M.K. Nocivo of Portugal’s new single, “Khame hame Hype,” which is currently getting FM spins on terrestrial Paris radio stations. These, along with other endeavors, will be released soon. You can find more at www.sunmanmusiconline.com.

Q. So what’s next for you?

A. My dreams and visions for the future are to continue to build my brand internationally and expand my fan base. I know that the internet has minimized the power of major labels, and I can be successful without relinquishing the rights to my music or merchandise. We live in an interesting time as an independent artist and I intend on fully taking advantage of the blessings of living during this era.