Dr. Walter Hidalgo is a creative talent who wears a variety of hats: father, entrepreneur, teacher, author, mentor, spoken-word and hip-hop artist; he is a man with an unspeakable spiritual presence and is heavily involved in his community and education. Dr. Hidalgo used his background, knowledge, and love for hip-hop culture to co-found 73 to Infinity, a web series, broadcast on YouTube. 73 to Infinity explores the lives of creative artists in your neighborhood who are involved in fashion, music, social issues, art, and more.
Besides running the growing multimedia experience that is 73 to Infinity, Dr. Hidalgo is a world traveler who has given lectures on five of the seven continents. The developer of numerous workshops and conferences on topics from hip-hop to spirituality and youth empowerment, he continues to be a versatile free spirit who wants to change the world one lecture at a time.
We were able to catch up with Dr. Hidalgo, who shared his love for youth ministry, educating our younger generation, the culture of hip-hop, and his book, Beyond the Four Walls: The Rising Ministry and Spirituality of Hip-Hop.
What was the inspiration behind 73 to Infinity?
The inspiration for 73 to Infinity was a combination of things with the biggest being my book, Beyond the Four Walls: The Rising Ministry and Spirituality of Hip Hop. I showed the book to my best friend Steve, who is also my co-partner on 73 to Infinity, and it eventually evolved into what we have now. A platform to expose real-life events happening in your neighborhood related to hip-hop culture, music, art, fashion, global issues, and much more. We do this through a series of short webisodes and documentaries for the purpose of creating educational tools, raising consciousness, bringing exposure to mainstream and “low stream” professionals, artists, and organizations, and much more!
How do you choose who is spotlighted, as there are so many talented people in New York City?
It’s interesting, because there is an internal debate within the team at 73 to Infinity. We do look for what’s popping, what is current, and things similar to the 90’s era that raised us. I personally love to hear lyrics that stimulate me and add purpose to my life. A lot of artists say they’re about that life but aren’t.
As a society we are more prone to listen to people on Hot 97 and mainstream artists than we are to our educators, teachers, organizations, and people underground. However, we cannot just cater to hip-hop; we have to consider all the different generations involved in all cultures today and the various platforms.
Can you name some of the goals you have for the show and what you hope to accomplish?
Some of my goals are to reach a broader audience, translate the shows into different languages. Hip-hop has really been embraced internationally on a cultural level as well. People need to know this is beyond mainstream stuff and YouTube.
We want to get involved in films, create a curriculum that can be utilized in the education platform monetarily. Create something like Netflix’s The Get Down. In a nutshell, we are just archiving our history; these are real stories, real talent. Police officers, people who work at hedge fund companies but are DJs are night—the culture is super diverse.
Do you feel the younger generation has a different perspective of the hip-hop culture?
For a lot of our younger people who don’t take the time to learn the history they just want to speak to what’s hip and hot at the moment. They are not in tune to the culture. Then you have the individuals who know the history, know the pioneers, the game changers, and then there are the ones who just say “Fuck it, I’m a rock star,” and this is how I make money.
What makes a really good MC? When they have a universal sound and perspective and see it is across the board through action and talk. Someone in their early twenties who is well versed in ’70s and ’80s music, who not only takes the time to learn the history behind hip-hop, but thinks and reflects on it.
What does the hip-hop culture mean to you?
I look at culture as a way to create an identity in society; in our case hip-hop came when shit was fucked up. It is interesting that we are seeing a lot of things that happened in the ’70s happening now: police brutality, anger, violence, abandoned homes, and now we see it on a large scale because of social media. I see the hip-hop culture as having its fashion, music, its own language (in a sense), and I see it as being accepted by other cultures around the world. Food is a big part of hip-hop culture but we don’t embrace it as much as we should.
Hip-hop started in the Bronx and developed into its own thing. Grandmaster Caz was a big influence within the culture who was around during the beginning of hip-hop. Hip-hop culture is something that came from nothing; it allowed for creating an identity for the voiceless, and it continues to be that. That’s what the culture is—a way of life.
Tell us about your ministry and the youth you service?
For me, I think your spirituality, morals and ethics are surrounding in all aspects of your life, in everything that you do. Education and ministry with young people targets everything I love to do and they keep me hip and current. I’ve done a lot in this field from being a director of an after-school program for freshmen in high school, to teaching at universities, prisons, and treatment facilities. Depending on whom I am speaking to determines what I speak about, but it ranges from motivational to hip-hop, spirituality, to theology and more.
Beyond the Four Walls talks about your outlook on hip-hop, among other things. Was there a particular time or point in your life where you said, “Hey, I want to write a book” and this is the book?
The book actually is an extension of my master’s thesis. My family, friends, and best friend said, “Oh you should turn this into a book,” and through their motivation, I did. I already had the groundwork laid and the blueprint; I just continued doing the research. It’s a testimony written through this book: me traveling the world, meeting young people and organizations that changed my soul.
From the book to your web series to your social media posts, you continue to motivate and spread awareness. Who or what keeps you motivated?
A lot of different things. I wake up in the morning and experience the highs and lows of life. I’m a single dad to a daughter who continues to motivate me along with having an awesome family to be a sounding board. The search of people who walk around like zombies wondering what their purpose in life will be is a big motivation; soul has life. For me, just knowing that I am part of this thing called life is a humbling experience. I am not selfish about it, this is not about me; it’s deeper than me. I am just an instrument here to do as much as I can.
How has social media played a part in your life?
It has been useful on a personal level and business level: personally, I was able to connect with family and friends who otherwise because of distance I wouldn’t have been able to. Then business-wise, it is a great platform for marketing, starting dialogue, and creating a virtual community. For the first time in history, we are really able to instantly connect with people around the world, across borders and oceans. Back in the day you had to take horses to connect to people, it would take months. It’s a great platform; it’s a platform that allows freedom of speech.
Social media is a good platform for getting a message out there at a fast pace, great for spreading education and knowledge to people who may not have gotten it in other ways.
You’re also a performer, correct? What do you perform—covers or originals?
Yes, I perform spoken word and my original rhymes.
That’s a tough one. It’s like ice cream; you can never choose just one love: Nas, Jay Z, Big Pun, Kendrick Lamar, Immortal, Wu-Tang, Biggie Smalls, 2 Pac, Rakim, and there are a bunch more.
How do you empower the younger generation?
I empower them through action; how you live your life matters when it comes to young people. They are really interesting and interested in what you do; they will also bluntly tell you to your face if something is whack or if they don’t like you. It starts with reflecting within yourself and then your light will shine everywhere else.
For our next generation of young men out there what would be your message for surviving in this new world?
My message would be know who you are and what your purpose is. Young people are still developing, they are still an extension, they have a toddler mind and don’t know how to be mature yet, not all but some, but there is a level of vulnerability. Not in a traditional way, but I empower them because I can relate to them. At the end of the day, young people just want their voices heard and we EGO: edge God out. I never judge; I don’t care if they just smoked an L, are failing math, or whatever they are into. I empower and educate no matter what. One or 1,000, each one, teach one.
Being a strong Catholic and believer in God do you agree with DeVon Franklin and Meagan Good that more people should wait on intimacy?
No one ever had the birds and bees conversation with me. My dad found two condoms in a sneaker box and said to use them. Young people’s minds are still developing and if you are not educated on the subject it’s a tough call. I’m not ever going to tell someone not to have sex. Curiosity comes up and it happens. For me as a man now, in hindsight I wasn’t emotionally prepared for what came with sex, the aftermath of it. There is life after sex and this sometimes is forgotten during the act or leading up to it. I tell my youth to think about the repercussions. Honestly, what does the aftermath look like and is it worth it and do you know what is even going to happen after the act? Can you handle what’s next?
There seems to be a trend, especially among our younger celebrity couples like Ciara and Russell, for example, for practicing abstinence. What advice would you give to someone in the younger generation who is going through hardship or feeling pressured about this?
Sex has become commercialized on a larger scale nowadays. You have to know where you stand in the relationship with the person you are with and what the level of attraction and connection is. Be wise with your decision and make the smart choice.
What’s next for you and your ministry and how can the public get involved?
We are continuing to build the 73 to Infinity brand and expand the platform for the videos by being shown at festivals, in classrooms and universities. We are a combination of PBS meets Hot 97, creating edutainment, making it relevant, creative, and inter-generational.
We invite people to connect with us. We have a great team that is ready to give their time and effort and in the near future, provide jobs. We are continuing to transform.
Are you in this for the passion or the profit?
Short answer—both. I want to be at a point and in a position where I am able to provide for those around me and myself and encounter in all places around the world. In the end, we provide a service, but it doesn’t always have to be monetary; it can be a barter exchange.
“Walter is one of the brightest, most hardworking and inspiring young professionals I know. His passion for what he believes touches every person who has the privilege to spend a few moments with him. I wish Walter the best with his first book, Beyond the Four Walls, and without a doubt recommend him for all his future professional endeavors.” —Anllelic Lozada, M.S.
The VIRGO GIRL FIVE THINGS TO ASK:
What would you tell your 21-year-old self?
If I only knew what I know now.
I start my day with . . .
Thank God I’m alive, another chance, thank you.
If you could invite any woman to dinner, who would it be?
Best advice you have received?
Talk is cheap.
Life motto you live by?
“We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”