As a fresh community-based hip-hop album, Formula 734 poetically encapsulates shared stories of struggles and successes for men of color in Washtenaw County.
“I feel as though we’ve created a historical document for this particular time in history for Washtenaw County that people can refer to, or they can gain some primary source analysis of what it was like to be in Washtenaw County during the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest related to the death of George Floyd,” said Rod Wallace, who co-executive produced the project with Jamall Bufford.
In partnership with Washtenaw County My Brother’s Keeper (WMBK), the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, Wallace and Bufford assembled an intergenerational group of disparate male creatives to write, record and release a compelling 12-track album with emerging hip-hop artists, producers and engineers.
“Jamall and I started to talk about our desire to engage young people with hip-hop in a positive way that taught a number of different skills. We started planning for the project, and our first meeting was in November,” Wallace said.
From November to February, Wallace and Bufford hosted Formula 734 meetings and recording sessions every two weeks with male creatives and hip-hop collaborators to build trust, teamwork and camaraderie at Grove Studios, The Workshop and The Neutral Zone’s Orpheum Studio.
Each gathering included a meal and a huddle to enrich, energize and inspire participants before they wrote and recorded music with Louis Picasso, Tru Klassick, Sam Watson, Beretta Shells, Konphlict, King Ogundipe and Approachable Minorities’ Drew Denton and TJ Greggs.
“One of the intentions of WMBK is to engage in discussions with men across generations as opposed to only focusing on young men. There are men across the spectrum of color who need support and who need positive experiences, so we try to bridge that gap, and through this project, we were able to do so,” Wallace said.
Concocting Formula 734
With Wallace and Bufford at the hip-hop helm, Formula 734 weaves introspective rhymes, thoughtful monologues, crisp beats, old-school jams and deep grooves while authentically amplifying the voices of local men of color. All 12 tracks challenge false narratives about men of color and raise awareness about the underlying causes of systemic racism.
“We want change to happen in our communities, in our neighborhoods and in our schools. One album probably won’t accomplish that, but we want this to be a stepping stone in the right direction to some of the systemic changes that we want to see for black men and young men of color in our community and around the country. We want this to hopefully be a catalyst for the conversation that needs to take place about what’s happening in our communities,” said Bufford, who’s a WMBK project specialist and Formula 734 co-executive producer.