"May 3rd is Rap Music Day. Hiphoppas are encouraged to dedicate their time and talent to self-development and for service to their communities." ~Hip Hop Declaration of Peace Ninth Principle
“Our future is our confidence and self-esteem.”
~Tupac Shakur, 2017 Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Inductee
Rap has been my favorite genre since I was old enough to have a preference, According to the 9th Principle of the Hip Hop Declaration of Peace, May 3rd is Rap Music Day. Since rap first hit the airwaves in 1979 with the release of The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” the genre has been the voice of the youth.
At age 12, rap music shifted the trajectory of my life becoming more than entertainment with the release of Tupac Shakur’s first solo single “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” a song telling the story of a 12-year-old girl having a child. At the time of its release, my 12-year-old classmate was pregnant, and while my mother was no fan of rap, the release of a song detailing the dynamics of this real life situation was timely. Tupac’s debut rap song became an icebreaker making conversations with my mother less awkward. This memory stuck with me.
While a doctoral student in clinical psychology, I decided to use this experience with rap to develop the H.Y.P.E.: Healing Young People thru Empowerment curriculum. A 12-session curriculum, H.Y.P.E. integrates rap lyrics from 50 songs and psychological theories to teach emotional wellness strategy, inspire goal development, and equip youth with necessary life skills.
Since 2008, youth in 10 states have participated in H.Y.P.E. workgroups. In 2012 the University of Puerto Rico Center for Evaluation and Sociomedical Research (CIES) of the Graduate School of Public Health conducted an evaluation of H.Y.P.E. Participants, who included youth from group homes, probation departments, and family services agencies, “agreed” that H.Y.P.E. gave them a chance to express themselves. Participants, also “strongly agreed” that the H.Y.P.E. curriculum helped them to: set goals (77%); process their feelings/behaviors (77%); deal with their struggles (61%); and feel more in control of their lives (61%).
Rap music has generated billions and its global influence is undeniable. In 2015, based on an analysis by Spotify, of over 20 billion songs, “hip-hop music” was the most popular genre globally. Yet, its greatest value goes beyond partying and fashion. Rap is empowerment and when integrated into programs like H.Y.P.E., becomes a vehicle of change. Poet Victor Hugo stated, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” Tupac’s vast catalog typifies this sentiment. So on this day, I celebrate rap music, and the ways it continues to elevate humanity.