Visiting Assistant Professor of Film
Born in New York City to parents from the Lower East Side and Seattle, Washington, respectively, Mtume Gant has held many different titles—actor, emcee, director, filmmaker, music producer, and educator—in his life as an artist. A graduate of the prestigious LaGuardia High School and the acting program at Purchase College, he has worked heavily on stage, screen, and TV, most notably as a cast member of the HBO show Oz. But if you ask him where he’s honed his craft, Grant will tell you that his greatest teacher has been the blocks of New York City, where he found his voice as an artist.
After moving to Los Angeles in an attempt to further his career within the Hollywood superstructure, Grant chose to break off and seek his own path, taking a break from the commercial world of acting. As the son of a jazz musician (he is named after virtuoso musician James Mtume), he decided to venture into his second passion, hip hop music. He quickly became a mainstay within NY’s underground hip hop community, releasing three albums in four years: Nat Turner Reloaded (2006; Rap Reviews.com Top 10 Albums of the year), Ronin (2008), and The Ecology (2010). He also made marks as a producer, doing cuts for Stones Throw artist Homeboy Sandman with the song “Airwave Airraid” (featured on Peter Rosenberg’s show on Hot 97), Masai Bey, Bisco Smith, Creature, and many others. Grant’s versatility ultimately led him to the hip hop/jazz fusion movement, working with virtuoso composer Dana Leong and the Spanish Marc Ayza Group. With these opportunities, Grant found himself on stages around the world, in such countries as China, Finland, Italy, and France, and at such festivals as Sweden’s Umea Jazz Festival and Brazil’s Savasi Festival, sharing bills and stages with the likes of Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, Esperanza Spalding, and DJ Spooky.
But always the dramatist at heart, Grant remade a commitment to working once again in the world of theatre and film. In 2012, he premiered his first play as writer in the co-authored (and co-starred) production Fields of Grey with acclaimed UK writer/performer Avaes Muhammed at the Contact Theatre in Manchester, England. Directed by former Contact Theatre artistic director Baba Israel, Fields of Grey was well-received, putting Grant on the path toward filmmaking. He made his directorial debut on short film vignette for singer/songwriter Conchita Campos’s song “Easy My Mind.” Months later, he started production on his first film, Spit, which was screened at nearly two dozen film festivals, earning about a dozen award nominations and even winning a few, such as Best Short Film at the 2016 Coney Island Film Festival. He is touring his second short film, White Face, around the film festival circuit, furthering his reputation as an artist with a radical voice about today‘s issues around race, identity, and class in America. He is also currently in development for his first feature film, I Don‘t Live Today, anticipated to go into production in Spring 2018.