Jersey City teens try to rise above hardship with new hip-hop track ‘Winning Pain’

From left, Jahmir Wiggs, aka WW Jwizzz, Ibn Sharif Shakoor, and Jahmair Pickett, aka Mairgzz. The hip hop single “Winning Pain,” from WW Jwizzz and Mairgzz, is the product of Shakoor’s Beyond the Surface social emotional learning program funded by the Jersey City Arts and Culture Trust Fund.

Jersey City teens Jahmair Pickett, aka Mairgzz, and Jahmir Wiggs, aka WW Jwizzz are the duo behind hip hop track “Winning Pain,” released last week on YouTube.

In the song, WW Jwizzz, a 2022 graduate of Innovation High School, and Mairgzz, a junior at Lincoln High School, rap respectively about being broken down mentally, let down constantly, and still trying to win despite the pain of those dynamics. Mairgzz’s lines speak to eschewing partying and the fake love that prevails outside for a higher power and winning not just for himself.

What winning amounts to has, in some small part, been shepherded by Jersey City educator and therapist Ibn Sharif Shakoor.“

The end goal is to influence students’ perceptions on life, help them find their voices and identify positive coping methods through the practice of self-expression,” Shakoor said.

“So many things are subconsciously embedded in our minds and we have these survival tactics that we pick just off the environment alone, let alone any trauma that we experience.”

“Winning Pain” is part of Shakoor’s Behind the Surface Hip Hop social emotional learning program. Funded by the Jersey City Arts and Culture Trust Fund, the program builds on Shakoor’s own creative output as a hip hop artist, his role as a licensed therapist, and the work he’s developing as he earns his doctorate in education at Saint Peter’s University.“

When I get to my dissertation, I’m probably going to do something in the form of hip hop using my program,” Shakoor said. ‘The dissertation title isn’t set yet but something to do with hip hop and its influence on student perceptions and things of that nature.

The Beyond the Surface program is what happens if I’m analyzing lyrics and taking those concepts and how other artists utilize that approach and actually creating our own content with them.”

Shakoor found the participants through The Spot JC Foundation, which he co-founded with Terrence Williams. Though the nonprofit no longer has its previous Greenville, Bergen-Lafayette-bordering space at 15 Wilkinson Ave., Shakoor wanted to continue the work.“

Both of those students worked with me closely over the years just being around me and the community,” Shakoor said.“

As far as students developing the ideas (for songs), I try to be hands on and hands off,” he explained.As students get older, the work is more about expressing what’s on their own minds instead of analyzing what other artists are saying, Shakoor said.“

In this particular case, I just let both of them do their thing, let them know that this was a mental health theme and you can attack it however you choose.”

“Winning Pain” was engineered and recorded by Winston Pickett, a 2018 graduate of Hudson County Prep where Pickett studied audio technology. The song is produced by Henry Speedy Baby Perez and the music video is directed by Darryl PressureOnline Sanford.

Shakoor plans on releasing three songs from the Beyond the Surface program as an EP by January on all platforms, he said. Find “Mairgzz & WW Jwizzz- Winning Pain Prod. By Speedy Babyy” on YouTube and Shakoor on Instagram at @ibnsharifshakoor.

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