Lanny Wilson (born July 27, 1976), better known as GaKnew Roxwel (gə n(y)oō  |räks wel), is an African American multi-facetted artist, author, and parent educator from Compton, California.

 

  At a young age Lanny became known amongst his peers as a visual artist, winning several citywide contests in middle school and having his art displayed at the African American history museum. However, sketching was quickly replaced by writing lyrics as he was swept away by the desire to be an emcee. Lanny took on the pen name GaKnew in high school and, after a few years of schoolyard battle rapping, started his recording career as part of a hiphop collective called the Underground Poet Society (UPS). UPS was composed of three groups and two solo artists all prospectively signed to a budding record label that never bloomed. The label folded in the midst of recording its debut compilation. Not wanting to waste their material, GaKnew and several of the artists pieced together the remains and released “The Grand Opening” in 1999. The lack of guidance and understanding for how to pursue a professional music career made it difficult for the group to agree on a direction, and UPS unofficially disbanded soon after the project's completion.

 

  The breakup left GaKnew producer-less with notebooks full of lyrics, which he then took to spoken word open mics. Within four years he became a two time Grand Slam Champion at arguably the largest weekly open mic venue on the West Coast, Da Poetry Lounge (DPL). In 2004 GaKnew headed DPL’s slam team as they battled more than 70 teams from throughout the U.S, and took first place in the PSI National Poetry Slam. He performed on Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam, appeared in several spoken word documentaries, and featured on the limited edition DVD of Belly, starring Nas and DMX.

 

  Poetry also introduced GaKnew to activism. In 2001 he joined a program called Mentorship 2000, which offered weekly workshops to incarcerated youth at Central Juvenile hall. Around the same time he united with the non-profit organization known as AIM, founded by Tupac Shakur’s ex-manager Leila Steinberg, and became the director of AIM's after school programs.

 

  GaKnew became a staple in the Los Angeles poetry scene, but his desire to make music never left. He returned to his hiphop roots in 2005 and formed the band Fresh City. Fresh City featured GaKnew's newly found MPC beat making skills with live drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, and four emcees. The band went on to dominate the first two rounds of the Emergenza International Battle of the Bands before parting ways 2007.

 

2007 also marked a new beginning for Lanny. His experience with Mentorship 2000 and AIM landed him a job as a social work investigator for a children’s law firm. Working with children in foster care during the day and music at night, in 2008 GaKnew released his first self-produced solo album titled Mannequin People, which many Angelenos consider a local classic. The new profession and fatherhood strongly influenced his music, which could be heard on songs such as “Grammy” where he displays his desire to use artistic success as a vehicle to heal his community. He also recorded songs with Slim Kid Tre of The Pharcyde, voice over work for Nike Battle Grounds, and the Disney film Let It Shine.

 

Monthly trainings at his job put Lanny on the course of studying child development and psychology. A year after releasing Mannequin People he embarked on a concept project that would unknowingly take him five years and a few college courses to complete. His sophomore solo endeavor coupled the CD written like a film, Sound of Silence, with his first book, Under the Influence: Where Hiphop Meets Psychology. The project simplified knowledge from the psychoanalytic sector into a package for everyday people to digest.

 

During the process of writing Sound of Silence and Under the Influence GaKnew also rediscovered his passion for visual art. He connected with the Los Angeles graffiti crew Rocking The Nation (RTN) and began painting murals throughout the West Coast with uplifting messages. Rapidly gaining recognition, he was hired to paint the backdrop for Chris Brown’s 2012 Billboard Awards. GaKnew also created a community event called Art In the Park: Los Angeles in which he and fellow artists take art supplies into local parks to provide art exploration for the youth.

 

  His desire to heal the community grew larger than the desire to be an emcee. In 2015 GaKnew went a step further in his mission to educate by entering the Trauma-Informed Nonviolent Child Raising Training and Certification course at Echo Parenting. GaKnew is currently in the process of starting a nonprofit organization, REPAIR Family Support Service, which focuses on helping parents with children in foster reunify with their children through parenting classes and life coaching. The core program is merely the beginning of the REPAIR MOVEMENT. As the hiphop duo Dead Prez once said, “It’s bigger than hiphop”.

 

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