HipHop Heals: DJs, emcees, video artists and health organizations attack COVID-19 in creative ways

British rapper and producer Lady Leshurr

By J.A. Jones, Staff Writer

As COVID-19 forces people to remain at home, shuts down business, and ravages through black and brown communities, hip-hop artists have stepped up to add flavor to the health messaging to assure the warnings are getting across.

Hip Hop Public Health is a national nonprofit launched in 2005 to help communicate health and safety messages through “the power of hip hop music.”

The organization was founded by Chief of Staff Dr. Olajide Williams, Department of Neurology, New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and hip- hop icon and community health advocate, Doug E. Fresh.

The two were introduced and by a mutual friend who was Dr. Williams’ patient, and after a friendship developed, they went on to create the hip-hop tune “Stroke Ain’t No Joke” – teaching  children to recognize the early warning signs of a stroke.

With a stated mission “to foster positive health behavior change through the power of hip-hop music,” Hip Hop Public Health has created  variety of health resources for classroom youth, including  videos that explore counting calories,  “dance break” videos to help combat obesity and get kids moving, and its most recent offering, “20 Seconds or More” – a message designed to reinforce healthy behavior during the COVID-19 health crisis.

The video features music artists, actors, and rappers including DMC, Big Daddy Kane, Bill Bellamy, Monie Love, Chuck D, Ashanti, Pete Rock, Jordin Sparks, Jamie Foxx, Cedric The Entertainer, Kelly Price, LisaRaye McCoy, as well as sports figures and community leaders.

Rapper Dee-1, born David Augustine, Jr., hails from New Orleans, and the creator of the popular “Corona Clap,” was on Sway Calloway’s “Sway in the Morning” show and shared his reasons for penning the song.

Speaking of his belief that the rapid and dangerous spread of COVID-19 in Louisiana was likely spurred by how many crowds had come into town for Mardi Gras, he shared, “We have been growing at the fasted rate per capita on the planet here in Louisiana, in terms of new cases. Faster than Italy, faster than China, faster than New York. And that’s a scary reality.”

Dee-1 noted that he was supposed to start a tour, but after 23 shows were cancelled — equaling to more than six-figures in loss of income — he immediately “felt the realities of this not being a game. My reality changed.”

He said this contributed to “a lot of teachable moments started to pop into my head.” The first was the reality of loss of income; because rappers, music artists, and creatives as a whole engage in work that “doesn’t come with a salary…or a package that comes with benefits.”

He maintained that it’s vital for artists to learn to be financial literate and prepare for circumstances or catastrophes like this one. “If your whole income stream is contingent on being able to perform live, that’s lovely and that’s fun, but we have to be able to diversify those income streams.”

Dee said his tune, “Corona Clap,” came about after Mayor LaToya Cantrell directly asked him to create a PSA to encourage his fans and followers to stop going outside and stop partying. Feeling that a rap song would be more true to his style and not sound so preachy, he wrote the song in 30 minutes, and had the video shot in two hours – and it had over a million views in 24 hours.

Said I’m tryna stay safe woadie, please believe, But that corona make it hard for a player to breath, Don’t wash your hands, you might catch it, woadie, then you are stuck, Right now them tickets to Jamaica only 15 bucks, I’m tryna quarantine myself, I’m staying inside, The NBA cancelled on me, man I’m feeling deprived, I’m out of toilet paper but they ain’t got none in the store, Man that corona wild, you can’t wipe your butt no more, And ain’t no more school for students, it’s just classes online

British rapper and producer Lady Leshurr, born Melesha Katrina, who became popular with her playful, rhythmic “Queen’s Speech” tracks has hit tube with “Quarantine Speech.” Addressing the current stay at home guidelines – which have become a global phenomenon during the world-wide pandemic – she tells the quarantine tale through her snappy flow:

There’s a war going on outside we ain’t safe from…And I hope it don’t stay long…Came from a bat and a snake don…Corona virus is a paigon…Gotta stay safe, ’cause I ain’t dumb…Got the Lysol with me I get my spray on…Can’t leave your house for your day job…And some people now are getting laid off…Most food stores for sure ain’t got alot now…Can’t go abroad and schools are on lockdown…So please don’t cough around me, keep your salivas…Pasta and rice has gone, no hand sanitizers

To view these and other COVID-19 hip-hop videos, check our new video section on our home page.

To reach J.A. Jones, email jjones@theweeklychallenger.com.

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