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Composing music, creating a career

Dual interests help ENG grad find balance

Rume Kragha (ENG'04) works as a validation consultant, but he's also pursuing a career in hip-hop.

What really happens in the first year after college? Three members of the Class of 2004 share their stories — and tell new grads what they wish they’d known at Commencement.

The soundtrack of Rume Kragha’s years at Boston University included the classical music and soul that his parents listened to, the gospel songs he learned in his church choir, and the traditional drum music he had heard as a child in Lagos, Nigeria. Hip-hop, rhythm and blues, and funk rounded out his mental mix. “I was always that guy walking around with headphones on,” he says.

Kragha (ENG’04) has always known that music would be an important part of his future, but the 21-year-old also wanted a stable career. Making music wouldn’t be rewarding, he decided, if he was driven by the need to make money and get a recording contract. Now, a year after graduation, Kragha has two thriving careers: one with a validation and regulatory consulting company in New Jersey and one as an emerging Nigerian-influenced hip-hop artist in Boston. Committing to a job, he’s found, doesn’t mean giving up your creative outlets — in some ways, he says, it can even enhance them.

“We go to school to make income,” he says. “I make music for me.”

Kragha credits his siblings, all of whom studied sciences but also pursued personal avocations, for his decision to put music aside for most of college. He majored in electrical engineering, thinking it would help him develop useful workplace skills such as multitasking and time management. The rigors of the major left him with little time for music, but his efforts were rewarded last summer when after a three-month job search he was hired at CSSC, Inc., a medical device validation consulting firm in Jersey City. His instincts about engineering proved correct: “Everyone wants to hire an engineer,” he says. “We’re trained to solve problems, multitask, and be ready for anything.”

The same problem-solving skills that helped him get through college now help him balance his dual lives. As a validation consultant, Kragha works with manufacturers to test medical devices and ensure that their claims about each one are accurate and meet with regulatory standards. It’s a good fit for an engineer, he says, because it involves using sophisticated equipment and working quickly to get precise results. “We advise our clients on the right moves to make,” he explains, “and make sure their equipment is working the way it should be working.”

Before and after work — sometimes even during his commute home — Kragha drums and writes songs in preparation for his regular trips to Boston, where he works with producer Christian Meyer (CAS’05), manager Gregory Milard (CAS’05), and DJ Eric Larrieux (ENG’04). The four alumni started collaborating during Kragha’s senior year, recording a few tracks and performing at local clubs such as Kapow and the Western Front — now they schedule studio sessions whenever they are able to meet up in Boston. Kragha says his need to write gets “urgent” when he is planning a trip to the city, because he wants to make sure he’ll have enough material to make the session worthwhile.

His commitment to writing and recording songs stems partly from a simple love of music, but partly from what he sees as a lack of sincerity and positivism in the hip-hop world. Popular hip-hop artists, he says, look for commercial success by rapping about sex and violence. In contrast, “good music is about black culture, love, the family,” he says. “I went to college, but it doesn’t make me less of a man.”

Working full-time, Kragha says, allows him to maintain that level of integrity in his work — he does not need to attract the attention of a manager or a record company at this point because he can pay his own way and write the music he wants to write. “I’m not trying to make the club song or the girl song,” he says. “If I’m doing it for fun, it has a kind of innocence.”

His plans for the future target continued success in both fields. He hopes to release an album soon and find more opportunities to perform live; in addition, he is applying to the graduate program in technology and policy at MIT. An advanced degree, he says, will set him apart in the worlds of both academia and hip-hop.

Finding time for two very different careers can be challenging, he admits. But giving up either one has never been a possibility. “We all have to do things to keep our sanity,” he says. “Music is therapy for me.”