Next Level: The Philippines


In March 2023, five Hip Hop artists traveled to Manila, Philippines, as part of the Next Level program. Artist-educators AQ (MC), D-Cross (Beatboxer), Knockers (DJ), and Sanchel Brown (Dancer) joined Site Manager Big Piph to perform for audiences and collaborate with local artists to promote cross-cultural creative exchange and conflict transformation. Team Philippines is part of a larger Next Level cohort of American MCs, DJs, beatmakers, and Hip Hop dancers seeking to create a global community through Hip Hop culture.

Founder of the Mobile Music Box and member of Mobilize Creative Collaborative, AQ uses imagination, music, and making to engage people and communities in play. Rooted in hip hop and black rhythmic traditions, the dynamically talented AQ is a block party in the flesh: He can rap while programming beats and improvise a hook with the audience as they play along on instruments they made together by hand. An accomplished performer, DJ, and producer who has participated in tours, cultural exchanges, and residencies as far from home as Pakistan and Moscow, AQ uses analog electronics, synths, samples, and natural recordings to create otherworldly environments and simple grooves for his witty songwriting. He also performs live improvisations and collaborates with other musicians and visual artists to create immersive experiences. A Kenwood, Chicago resident, Aquil is a teaching artist in his community and father to a young son.

Derick “D-Cross” Cross is a Queens, NY born Brooklyn-based multi dimensional visual and vocal hip hop artist D-Cross has performed at venues nationally and internationally, including Madison Square Garden and Lincoln Center. This “Vocal Beat Expressionist “. talents have been highlighted on MTV, The Electric Company TV series, Nickelodeon, and BET’s 106’s and Park. His vocal skills have also appeared on the award-winning Alfac “Pigeon Rap” ad and 7-Up’s “10” campaign. D-Cross was a featured artist on Season 3 of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam as well as DefPoetry Reunion Shows (live) (2017, 2018, &2021) and the 2002-2003 Hottest Poets Spoken Word Grand Champion. Mr. Cross has also served as an Arts Educator for over two decades. He obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts from SVA (The School of Visual Arts) regularly creating paintings, murals and sculptures.

Knockers has been DJing full time for 9 years and during that time has found a couple of different passions. The art of Djing/Turntablism has truly fascinated Knockers and ever since discovering scratching, he has made it a life goal to win a DMC championship. Knockers was blessed enough to realize that goal a couple years ago. Covid and the birth of his first child put competing on hold for a little but Knockers fully intends to come back to his first love. In addition to the joy of competing, Knockers has found teaching to be a hugely rewarding experience. Working as lead instructor at Scratch DJ Academy's Miami location for the past 4 years has been amazing. He enjoys spreading a love of music and Next Level is his next step.

Sanchel Brown is a mother, performer, and choreographer originally from Baltimore, MD. Her performance highlights include World of Dance Philadelphia, The Kimmel Center's 2018 Jazz residency, Let 'Im Move You: This is a Formation, Urban Bush Women Apprenticeship, Davido’s Coming to America Tour and Theatre Horizon's Black Nativity (Barrymore Win!). Her choreography highlights include Theatre Horizon's "The Color Purple" Regional PREMIERE (nominated for Outstanding Movement/Choreography) and Yale Dramat's and Theatre in the X’s production of "Dreamgirls". She is a 2022 receipient of the Broadway World outstanding Choreography Award. Sanchel has recently founded Nubienne Productions, a production company catered to aligning the performing and energy healing arts. Recently, she has shifted her focus into her self produced works including her hit dance play Home To Homeland and musical titled Wheelz of Life © The Rollerskating Musical. Sanchel currently teaches an array of movement and fitness classes including her original “AfroClub '' dance class fusing Baltimore House and West African Dance Forms inspired by her frequent travels to Senegal, West Africa.

Epiphany “Big Piph” Morrow is a Stanford-educated engineer who decided rapping was a better career choice. This community builder from Pine Bluff, Arkansas performs regularly with his seven-piece band, Tomorrow Maybe, and is lead coordinator of The F.A.M. Project which empowers future youth leaders to become present ones.

He has a one-man show entitled “The Glow”, described as if “TED Talks were a Hip-Hop concert wrapped in an OG Spike Lee narrative” that is now a digital series with PBS. He also facilitates hip hop workshops, is a noted speaker, and is currently finishing his new creative endeavor, Far From Finished, which is a web series and soundtrack.

Learn more and watch the project here. 

Project summary

Next Level: The Philippines
Regions: East Asia and Pacific
Countries: Philippines
Impact Areas: Cultural Diplomacy
Program Areas: Culture
Partners: Public Sector