The purity of being a part of an artist’s grassroots movement is one of a kind. Over the past three years while building LineForLine there may be no better example of this then watching Vel The Wonder develop as an artist. Having heard her music for the first time in January 2016, her journey since then has been nothing short of beautiful. Like the most flavorful pozolé with a nice kick of spice, Vel’s recipe is constantly stewing while she prospects her next chance to kick her freshness in your ear.
This past Sunday marked the completion of her 29th revolution around the sun, and to celebrate Vel dropped her pearls yet again, performing for the Underground Scholar’s Initiative (USI) at their Just Culture event. Already a very special occasion, the event was held to raise awareness about USI and their focus on creating a Prison-to-School Pipeline for those disproportionately affected by mass incarceration. To top it off, the show was held in the heart of UCLA’s campus on the Wilson Plaza lawn on one of those crystal clear days where even the moon is visible.
From a listener’s perspective, Vel uses her words to deliver vivid images of beauty and struggle from the standpoint of a young Latina graffiti artist growing up as one with L.A.’s hip hop culture. And while her current upward trajectory is undeniable, a quick Google search of the name Vel The Wonder will show you that she has been at this since at least 2012. Capturing the evolution of this heritage with every line of her rhymes is what really makes Vel the selfless young reina she is today. More importantly, it is what made her performance so fitting given the nature of the event.
It is no secret young people often make mistakes (some more regrettable than others), but mistakes none-the-less. However, when it comes to African Americans and Latinos the incarceration rate for mistakes made is disproportionately higher than the rest of the society’s youth. As a young latin woman that admittedly lived the life of a rebellious young person, Vel was, and is the perfect example of what is possible for all youth. When you combine her music and message with the drive of organizations like the Underground Scholars Initiative, as Big Poppa said, “Sky is the limit”.