Ensuring safety by day, busting rhymes by night

Emma Peters

CAMPUS SUPERVISOR Dustin Sharpe has professionally rapped since he was 18 and has performed with Kanye West. Sharpe is also featured on Bassnectar’s new album.

By day, he keeps students safe, chats with them in the parking lot, and oversees the hallways of the school. But after school hours, new campus supervisor Dustin Sharpe hits the studio as a professional rapper.

Sharpe, whose MC name is D.U.S.T., began rapping professionally when he was 18 and has since produced five solo mix tapes. Over his 13-year career, he has performed with several distinguished rappers such as KRS-One, Method Man and Ice-T.

The acronym D.U.S.T stands for Direct Universal Sound Technique, which stresses his goal for his music to be universally appealing. His lesser-known alias, Young Lion, was born when a sound engineer called him a “young lion” for his rough, strong voice during a studio session.

“My style is universal because people who don’t even like hip hop or rap music gravitate towards my music,” Sharpe said.  “I don’t make gangster rap, I don’t make anything that’s easy to put in a box.”

His work process when writing a song is loose and open-minded.

“I try to be rhythmical,” Sharpe said. “My words are like a drum, and I try to do things in patterns and rhythms. Different music will tell me to do this kind of style.”

Not only is his style unique, but the themes in his songs also stray from those in the conventional radio rap genre.

“I like talking about real things that are affecting the world, like the starving kids in the world, the world of politics, and love,” Sharpe said. “I try to make music for people who are struggling. If you listen to it, hopefully it will empower you, give you some hope.”

Sharpe said he tries to keep his music positive.

“If you turn on the radio and listen to a rap song, half of the time it is going to be about a sex, drugs, money and rock ‘n roll,” Sharpe said.  “I truly believe that as a whole, you have to have some kind of uplifting message along the line.”

Sharpe, who hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, has been influenced by African musicians like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Hugh Masekela, as well as American artists such as Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.

After leaving South Africa when he was 15 years old, Sharpe lived in Brooklyn, New York, for two years before settling in California. In the Bay Area, he became part of Zion I, an underground hip-hop group from Oakland.

Sharpe toured with Zion I in Europe and recently performed at the Snow Globe festival with them in Denver, Colorado. On Oct. 5 they performed at the Mezzanine in San Francisco.

He will also appear with Zion I at San Francisco’s historic Filmore Auditorium later this year.

So far, Sharpe considers himself relatively successful.

“There have been times when I’ve said, ‘I’ve made it!’ I’ve shared the same stages and the same lineups as my childhood heroes… [But] music has highs and lows. It is all about the consistency of my music,” he said.

His most recent and debut solo album, Diamonds and Dynamite, is available on iTunes and on his website, dustuniverse.com. See his 2008 hit, “Forgive and Forget” on Youtube.