Dr. Bernard Ashby is a Miami cardiologist with the heart of a lion. He sees a battle for the lives of the youth in the city, and is promoting entrepreneurship, creative expression, and an end to senseless gun violence. He’s doing it with a tech startup that invests in local recording artists.
His new venture, the FDF Project offers local talent a label deal, opportunities for recording music, a digital platform to showcase their work, and business mentorship.
Here’s what he had to say about hip hop, financial education, and the history of the Miami Sound.
HSM: Good afternoon and thanks for your time. Congrats on the new platform. Can you describe the project?
Dr. Bernard Ashby: I was born and raised down here in South Florida. I went away to school and training for about fifteen years and in the three years that I’ve been back, three of the guys I knew in the hood where my cousins and family live were murdered by gun violence. It’s almost a weekly occurrence. My own cousin was shot and almost lost his life before I moved back. I’ve personally been involved with creating awareness through programs such as My Future My Choice sponsored by WPLG 10 news. Gun violence is a public health issue, and it’s often overlooked and underreported because not too many people are paying attention. I try to inspire kids to make better choices, and it was through this endeavor that I developed an interest in these young men and their goals. I decided to align my personal and business interests with my social interests. As a result, I created a tech startup and digital platform called FDF Project.
Many of the young people I’m working with embody those exact traits. They work hard and do whatever they can to stand on their own two feet. The unfortunate reality, however, is that many of them don’t have an education; they don’t have work experience; and many have criminal records. In other words their resources and opportunities are severely limited. So they hustle, get locked up, and become permanent second class citizens, and to me that’s very un-American. It’s important to equip them to function in a society that consistently worked against them. I am a big proponent of small government and that includes the scaling down of federal welfare programs.
We believe one of the best ways to do that is investing in the American people through a greater allocation of resources towards education and other programs that create the ability for folks to work while simultaneously scaling down the ginormous criminal justice system and other regressive systems that prevent upward mobility for Americans while eliminating the very incentives that lead to criminal activity.
Through my work with the young men, I found that they’re mega talented in music, but everything is failing them. Where they come from, they’re known for football and gun violence. A big reason for the football is Luke from 2 Live Crew. He created a football league for the youth that has basically served as a pipeline for kids to go to college and the NFL. Thereby, facilitating the upward mobility of hundreds of families. Per capita, Liberty City, a single neighborhood in Miami, produces more NFL stars than anywhere else. I’m sort of doing the same thing, but with music.
About a year ago Lil Ted, MajorNine, and Yogi released “Spend Some Time.” It has over a million spins on Soundcloud. We cleaned it up, made a video for it and we’re launching it on the 4th of July. Two of the artists on it are signed to my label. Lil Ted is currently in jail right now due to a minor probation violation. He was shot when he was fourteen. One of his best friends was murdered recently. He wants to make music and break this cycle of violence, and I want to help him accomplish that.
Yogi is also from Miami. He sings and raps basically like T-Pain on steroids. He sings better, writes better, produces better, and he’s only twenty.
Chad Thomas goes by MajorNine. He’s dropping a mixtape on July 7th. Chad is a mega talent. He’s probably going to go to the NFL next year. Right now, he’s one of the players on the defensive side of the ball for the Hurricanes. However, he’s even more talented in music. He plays several instruments, all self taught, and he plays them well. He can produce and write. He has his own studio, and he’s already a business man. He did the intro track featuring Raphael Saadiq on the new Rick Ross album. The Washington Post did an article on him after the album dropped, and his buzz has continued to grow with the release of a song he contributed to with DJ Khaled and Drake called “To The Max.”
Now we’re going to launch FDF, and let everyone know what we’ve been working on. However, what we’re more concerned about is sharing the stories that the public doesn’t know. Some parts of the country have been systematically ignored and neglected for years. As a result, kids are getting shot left and right. Three of our members have been shot recently, one in a drive-by about three or four weeks ago; another one of our artists was shot in the abdomen in a drive-by at a wake in which his good friend Eggo lost his life. Just last night another one of the young men we’re working with got shot.
People are dying. Fuck Zika as far as i’m concerned. Gun violence is a much a more pressing public health issue based on the actual death and disability it’s causing compared with Zika, which gets a hell of a lot more attention. These kids are dying and we need to put our collective resources into ending this. I’m trying to stand up as an advocate for them and help them develop their collective voice. I’m also a capitalist. I’m helping them boss up and mentoring them in business and interpersonal relationships so that we can make money together, re-invest in the community, and free people up to truly be able to strive for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This isn’t welfare. This is an opportunity.
HSM: How did you get into music?
Ashby: I’ve always been a fan of music, but I think of myself more as a nerd. I pay attention to everything I listen to in an analytical way using data to best predict outcomes. I practice evidence based medicine and follow the same approach with music. I look at trends and I realized that these Miami artists have just about all the variables required to be successful in music. Once I realized this, I decided to step in and help them reach their goals. It might sound like it’s wonderful for them and that this is an altruistic pursuit, but I am actually investing in them and believe they can be widely appealing and profitable. Yet, it’s really up to them to be their own bosses. We’re empowering them through financial literacy, assisting them in earning their GED’s, improving their credit scores, and putting them in a position to build and keep their own wealth.
HSM: What do you think of Miami’s music history? Are you familiar with Henry Stone’s music and artists like Betty Wright, George and Gwen McCrae, Latimore, Timmy Thomas, Little Beaver, Jimmie Bo Horne, Clarence Reid, and so many more?
Ashby: I love it. Part of what we want to do is bring that sound back. We feel that people forgot about Miami’s influence on music and we want to remind everyone about that history. We want to put people on notice about the rich history and culture we have down here and I’m eager to do that on a world stage. I’m very familiar with that music and I know Henry and Joe Stone’s involvement with the development of Miami’s musical roots. That’s why I want him involved so we can pay proper tribute to that Miami Sound from back in the day. It’s our music and we wanna pay homage to it.