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Sunday, August 2, 2015

In East Palo Alto, a Rap Duo’s New Chapter Begins (@TheHoodstarz @Bandaide650 @ScootDogg650)

For Band Aide, one half of East Palo Alto-based rap duo Hoodstarz, 2012 was a year of dramatic change. There came freedom: after an 18-month stint in San Francisco County Jail and a halfway house, he was finally free to return to his life and family.

But there was also tragedy. That same year, his stepbrother was shot and killed. The event admittedly had Band Aide “kind of going haywire,” and he knew he needed a change of pace.

Instead of jumping back into the music he and partner Scoot Dogg had been creating for nearly a decade (they were among the leading voices of the mid-2000s hyphy scene), he decided to take a step back and hone a new craft. After enrolling in a one-year program at Le Cordon Bleu, he dedicated himself to becoming a chef.

Once he completed eight months of formal study and four months as a line chef at Los Altos Golf and Country Club, Band Aide graduated from the culinary institution, a fascinating next step for the rapper — and one Band Aide admits he needed.

“I [cook] to get away from a lot of the madness,” he explains. “I try to practice my four T’s: Take Time to Think,” and points out that shifting his focus from rapping to cooking “gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it, to get my priorities back in order… It’s definitely an art I can have and take with me forever, no matter how old I get. As long as I’m able to move around, I’ll always be able to cook.”

While his time at Le Cordon Bleu granted him some time away from beats and rhymes, his focus has since returned to music — he and fellow Hoodstarz member Scoot Dogg have been busy independently promoting their mixtape 56 Months since last November. But he’s still been able to put his culinary skills to good use. As he notes recently over hearty portions of Mexican food at El Burro in Campbell, he’s now able to better cook for “my peoples.”

He’s talking about the 20 people he and his wife, Tannea Gardner, oversee as part of their nonprofit, A Gardner’s Heart Independent Living, which supplies housing and services to mental health patients. What started with a single patient in a rented home nearly five years ago has since blossomed to three homes in the East Bay.

“Our main goal is to help them stay out of a hospital, to keep them positive and away from the dangers that come with being a mental health patient,” explains Tannea Gardner. Services include taking care of meals, transportation, case management, help with doctor’s appointments and day-to-day living.

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