A ‘Dope’ Style Of Music
Behind The Music With Liberia’s Lasanna ‘Ace’ Harris; Producer And Philanthropist
Adrienne Tingba, Contributing Writer
With a recent trip to Liberia in early April, US-based music Producer Lasanna Harris, who goes by the stage name Ace Harris, set out to reconnect with his roots and give back to the community through the church. Though the trip was short-lived he was able to gather a deeper understanding about his Philanthropic Mission project, as well as his people. We joined Ace in a dialogue to get to know more about him, his work in the music industry, and his trip to Liberia.
Here is the conversation.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Wow! What a life you’ve lead in such a short time! I mean, a Liberian producer going on to nab a Grammy nomination, and win the 2015 GMA White Dove Award for best rap/hip-hop album of the year! Really great stuff. Please, tell us a bit more about that journey.
LASANNA HARRIS: Hey! It was a been quite a long journey, but a blessed one. Growing up, I’ve always had a passion for music, so, I decided to follow that passion and pursued it all through college. Even when I graduated, I worked in corporate America for a few years, but then left my job in Marketing to pursue music full-time. It hasn’t always been easy, but through a lot of hard work, persistence, and prayer, I’ve been blessed to accomplish some things and establish a career for myself.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: I understand that your love for music started in the church. How would you say that experience has, or continues to influence your life and your music today?
HARRIS: I grew up playing drums in the church! As a kid, I was very interested in rhythm, sound, and melody, so being around musicians, and also learning some skills from my oldest brother really helped excite that passion for music I carry with me today. The church is where my foundation is. It helped shape me spiritually, and culturally too, given that my church is mostly West Africans and Liberians. That upbringing has really guided me through the years.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Speaking of church; Your recent visit to Liberia was very short-lived. What was the visit all about?
HARRIS: The goal was two-fold: Connect with my country for the first time, and also do some work with the Mission that my church has in Bong County.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: What is the Mission you came to work with, and how do you plan to sustain the relationship and great humanitarian work you’ve started?
HARRIS: The church, founded by my father who is also the Bishop, is called ICF Ministries, located in Atlanta, GA, USA, with a branch in Monrovia as well.. I pretty much grew up in the church, and so, I’ll always be connected to the Mission of Hope that we have in Bong County, which is a school of about 300 students. We have a curriculum based on academic advancement with a biblical filter. We not only teach them, but feed them two meals a day, and house some of the students and staff on site as well.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Are there other humanitarian projects you have worked, or plan to work on? What are they?
HARRIS: I’m always doing work around the city of Atlanta. Working on music, and helping people have always been two things I’m passionate about. So, no matter the setting, or wherever I go, that’ll remain my focus.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Having been born in the United States, I’m sure that came with its own challenges and identity crisis as a first generation American. In withstanding and overcoming all of that, what would you say has been the driving factor pushing you back to your roots in Liberia and Africa at large?
HARRIS: Being a first generation American, I grew up with this duality, especially growing up in the suburbs. My American friends were sometimes ignorant to my culture, and sometimes negative towards that part of me. And so, I used my heritage to help educate them and show Africans in a positive light — something that my dad taught me. Out of fear, there were times that I ran from my culture and didn’t embrace it fully. As I got older, I began to realize that my Liberian heritage is my distinction, and that I needed to represent that in every facet in my life. Now, I wear that banner loud and proud. Even in the studios when I’m working: one thing they can always be sure about me is that I Love Jesus, and I love representing Liberia!
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: I see that you’ve started a project working with emerging African Diaspora Artists called ATLiberia. Tell us more about it, and what you hope to achieve with its expansion and growth.
ATLiberia is a brand of embracing Africans in the diaspora! For me, it is my personal makeup: Atlanta Raised, Liberian Made. I put out a project a few years ago showcasing this duality in the form of dope songs merging Afro-Beats with Hip Hop. I have some new music dropping very soon this Summer to keep the movement going! Look Out! Also, go listen to “Shayo” by Toye, produced by me and my Producer, DJ Tag, which is the warm up record for the project. Working with these other Artists has been eye-opening, and we are excited to keep the project going.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Liberian music is currently experiencing an increase in interest and popularity, with many new talents emerging daily, however, what they all cite as their biggest challenge is the lack of support to the industry. What advice can you give to these new Artists and Producers, and what plans do you have to influence the industry, if any?
HARRIS: Well, when I was in Liberia, I saw a lot of people playing their own Liberian music! That was so encouraging! I think we have to continue to support and embrace each other as Artists and consumers of the art. It is also important that we give the Artists space to create as they see fit. Sometimes in Liberian music, we pigeonhole some Artists because they don’t speak heavy Koloqua in the music. This style of music is dope, and I love it! But it’s not the sound for every Artist. It is important that we allow for diversity in our music, and lean on the fact that as long as the Artists is reppin’ LIB, then it’s a WIN for all of us! #LongLiveLiberia.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Being a husband and father, how do you balance your work in the entertainment industry and that at home? What advice would you give to other male entertainers struggling to find that balance?
HARRIS: Yes, it is not easy! I have a loving and supportive wife who holds me down and gives me much grace. However, I try not to overuse that advantage and ensure that I am intentional about the balance. It’s very important to have a balance. It does me no good to grow professionally and financially, while my family life is left empty emotionally. I think God rewards those who manage their time well and keep their priorities in order. I would advise anyone, not just males, to just be intentional about what you value. If family time is important to you, then carve out time and stick to it in the midst of a busy schedule. Relational development, just like career development, takes effort and work. Be intentional.
FRONTPAGEAFRICA: Where do you see yourself going with Ace Harris the Brand, and Lasanna Harris the man? Where will you be taking your music?
HARRIS: Right now, I’m the Director of A&R at Reach Records, Lecrae’s record label. We have a roster of 8 artists that are doing their thing and really growing. My position basically involves Creative Project Management and Artist Development. I’m still producing as well, but also growing into this executive role and learning to delegate some of the creative parts of the business. As for my long term plans, I’ll continue establishing myself as a Executive Producer, finding talent, curating projects, while also seeing how to raise awareness of Afrobeat music in pop culture.
**Lasanna ‘Ace’ Harris can be found on all social media as follows:** Instagram/Twitter: @aceharrismusic/ Facebook: Lasanna Ace Harris/Youtube: Ace Harris