Palermo Stone has grown from being a Woodland Hills High School kid messing around making music for fun, to a well-recognized recording artist with a handful of successful CDs stuffed in his back pocket.
Now the 23-year-old, up-and-comer in the Pittsburgh hip-hop scene has gone home to enlist the help of WHHS students to create original album artwork for a new CD, "RARE," set to release Dec. 21.
“I know many of the students are hip-hop fans, and I want to help them see that they can use hip-hop for positive and even educational purposes to better their lives and the lives of those around them, like I have,” Stone said.
Stone, who used to be part of Mac Miller’s crew, is part of a collective art movement and small label he created called RARE Nation, which stands for Revitalizing Art; Reinventing Emotion.
Other artists, photographers, musicians and DJs are part of what is considered the RARE family, all of whom desire to bring back originality and passion to todays music and art.
Now Stone is bringing the RARE dream back home.
“I wanted to find some way to give back to Woodland Hills, and this is the best way I know how,” Stone said.
Art teacher Michelle Hutterer selected two seniors interested in pursuing careers in graphic arts to work on the album artwork for RARE. Both students worked individually and met with Hutterer for consultation on their projects.
Hutterer said she was pleased to see Stone come back to the Woodland Hills community as an example to students to be true to their roots.
“I think it’s really a positive thing. It gives them a sense of community to see people leave here and pursue their dreams” said Hutterer, who grew up in the Woodland Hills area, decided to stay to teach there and personally values the community.
The two students' artwork could be spread throughout the country.
Stone and Rami Bensasi, a Pittsburgh hip-hop music reviewer, expect the album to have a national reach because of a high-profile track recorded with famed New Orleans artist Dee-1.
Stone also mentioned his own fanbase reaches globally.
While students in the Woodland Hills School District might be into hip-hop, Stone and his friends have another unlikely listener in the administration.
Superintendent Alan Johnson is a self-acclaimed hip-hop fan.
While he said his iPod might not be full of the genre, he admitted that listening to popular music helps him understand his students better.
Johnson likes RARE music because, unlike some artists, they sing about relationships, community, and Pittsburgh.
“They’re trying to be about the art form that they care about and it’s not about violence,” said Johnson who thinks that hip-hop often gets a bad rap for being violent.
Like Hutterer, he wants his students to get a reality check from hearing about the young artists’ experiences working towards success.
The bottom line, he said, was that successful performers are like business savvy entrepreneurs fighting hard to get on top. Afterall, Stone has a degree in entertainment business from the online Full Sail University.
“[Students] think they’re going to go out to be a NASCAR racer, NFL player or hip-hop artist. You can do whatever you want to do but you’re not going to do it without hard work,” Johnson said.
Johnson wants to continue evolving the school’s connection with the RARE artists, even suggesting that he would like to have the two main artists—Stone and Ads Antalik—teach classes or lectures on the music business.
“To me, I just see nothing but positives coming from that,” Johnson said.