In the late '90s, David "T.C." Ellis began grounding himself back in his hometown of St. Paul after a whirlwind half decade of touring as Prince's hip-hop sideman. A few months after setting a modest recording studio in Midway, teens from the neighborhood were already knocking on his door for a chance to perform and learn about record engineering.
Realizing that he had a unique opportunity to reach youth that were at risk for dropping out of high school, Ellis founded the pilot version of what would eventually become St. Paul's High School for Recording Arts with just 15 students. Two decades later, HSRA has developed into a successful charter school with over 200 students and an 80 percent graduation rate.
On Friday, December 15, HSRA will celebrate 20 years of improving the lives of youth through hip-hop with a student and alumni showcase on the school's campus at 1166 University Ave. in St. Paul.
Also slated to perform are up-and-coming locals Lewiee Blaze and Tay the Air Nomad, winner of Go 95.3's Shut Up & Rap open mic series, plus more guests to be announced.
The concert coincides with the debut of 20th Anniversary Back-Catalog Releases, a compilation of student material culled from the school's sizable vault. Released on HSRA's in-house, student-run Another Level Records, 20th Anniversary is a window into the lives of the student body, with subject material ranging from the political to the personal.
Tickets will be available for HSRA's showcase for a suggested $5 donation, or a contribution of winter clothing to the high school's homeless student program. Music starts at 7 p.m.