Saturday, October 16: 2:00 – 3:00 pm
Talented hip-hop artists Namel "Tapwaterz" Norris and Ricardo "Rickfire" Velasquez of 4 Wheel City are on a mission. Wheelchair users as a result of senseless gun violence, these rap visionaries have leveraged their musical gifts and life experience to inspire others with disabilities not to abandon their dreams.
On Saturday, October 16, 4 Wheel City will bring their ground-breaking music and message to attendees at the Atlanta Abilities Expo.
Both injured as teenagers in the Bronx—Velasquez in the crossfire of a neighborhood shootout and Norris accidentally by his cousin who was playing with a gun—the duo met through the efforts of Norris’ mother, concerned over her son’s despondency following his accident. When they found they had more in common than just their chairs, they launched 4 Wheel Records and completed two albums with Norris as solo artist and Velasquez as producer.
Then, in 2006—the same year Norris graduated from Lehman College with a Bachelor’s in business management—they realized that they were uniquely poised to make an even greater impact on their own communities and the wider community of people with disabilities. The pair kicked off 4 Wheel City, a broader, not-for-profit movement created to "inspire, educate, advocate and entertain." Now, in addition to performing their original music, they also offer motivational speaking for hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, fundraisers and events worldwide.
Their efforts caught the attention of rap superstar Snoop Dog, who collaborated with 4 Wheel City on the Welcome 2 Reality G-mix. “This is not just a record it's a movement,” Snoop said in a statement. “It's a feeling! I'm down with the movement, we are about doing something righteous.”
4 Wheel City’s use of music and hip hop culture to encourage inner city youth to resist the allure of street life and stay in school has also made national news. Click here for coverage of their Welcome 2 Reality program, where Norris and Velasquez combine a motivational lecture with an inspiring hip hop performance to convey the value of education, responsible decisions and ending teen violence to their student audiences.
4 Wheel City has also pioneered a revolutionary new brand of rehabilitation which they call “rap therapy.” They visit hospitals and rehab facilities where they speak and rap from the heart for people who are struggling with their own disabilities. "We have overcome many obstacles despite our injuries and the main reason has been our enthusiasm for our music, so if we can help someone else going through a hard time by sharing our music and experience we are more than happy to do so," commented the band.
“Just because you have a disability, that doesn't mean that your life is over,” says Velasquez. “We want to inspire other people to go ahead and do things…It can be anything that you have a passion for, or maybe you had it before and you thought you lost it due to your disability. Our main goal is just to try and inspire people to live life to the fullest.”
(Note: 4 Wheel City’s Abilities Expo performance will not contain profanity and is appropriate for all audiences. They save their edgier material for night club performances.)