April 29, 2009
Hip-hop culture used to promote a healthier lifestyle to today's youth
Since the early ‘80s, hip-hop music has served as a powerful voice and form of expression for youth. It has evolved into a culture with its own language, style of dress and mindset. It is so rich in history and deep-rooted in cultural upbringing that it has become a necessity when engaging youth, especially those from urban neighborhoods and in communities of color.
But hip-hop today is quite different than it once was. Hip-hop has reached such prominence that like all music, record companies control what is being played on the airwaves and the artistry has been tilted in favor of profitability. The three most commonly used themes in a song, “Babes, Bling, and Booze“ are blasted everywhere. There are also some artists endorsing fast food, sodas and candy bars – all products that have led to the epidemic proportion of obesity and diabetes among youth in this country today.
See a Sample of the PHAT Hip Hop Video used in Training!
Despite this cultural shift, hip-hop’s ability to speak to the needs and values of the youth remain strong.
According to hip-hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc, “The hip-hop generation can take a stand collectively and make a statement. There are a lot of people who are doing something positive, who are doing hip-hop the way it was meant to be done. They are reaching young people, showing them what the world could be - people living together and having fun.”
At CANFIT, we worked with youth and communities to develop P.H.A.T. (Promoting Healthy Activities Together) which embraces music, dance, emceeing and other elements of hip-hop culture to improve the nutrition and physical activity knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors of today’s youth. Youth providers can use the P.H.A.T. kit and resource guide to learn more about hip-hop culture and how it can be used to promote nutrition and physical activity to youth in school, after school or in their community. It can also provide some tools and information to initiate a conversation with youth: to remind them that hip-hop is more than songs about sex, drugs, money, violence, what you wear, or how much “bling” you have on.
P.H.A.T. speaks of the true positive nature of hip-hop through the promotion of a healthier and more active lifestyle for youth. P.H.A.T. gets kids moving and the P.H.A.T. DVD includes steps to a hip-hop dance routine that makes exercise fun and enjoyable. Similar to the way break dancing & double-dutch became popular in the 80’s, P.H.A.T. encourages this generation of young people to express their own ways of movement and activity that will help them become less sedentary. P.H.A.T. also provides a creative mechanism to increase awareness and knowledge of important nutrition and physical activity issues that can improve attitudes and behaviors amongst youth, youth providers, parents and community members.
Besides using P.H.A.T., how else can you use hip-hop to promote a healthier lifestyle to youth? Here are 3 easy steps:
STEP 1 – LEARN THE ORIGINS OF HIP-HOP
Although it can be quite difficult to keep up with the latest hip-hop songs, styles and trends, learning about its roots can give good insight about a culture that is accepted by most young people and is constantly evolving. In fact, it may lead you to a greater appreciation for the culture and help counter any negative stereotypes that may have been present earlier. Here are just a few examples of some original hip-hop facts that can begin a discussion with youth:
Origin of the Name Hip-Hop
Afrika Bambaattaa first used the name “hip-hop” in the early 1980’s as the name of a culture. Before that, the word hip-hop was a phrase that MC’s said on the microphone. Bambaattaa is credited as being one of the first ever hip-hop artists. His song, “Planet Rock” is still very well recognized, and one of the first original hip-hop songs ever made.
Dance and Movement
During the Duke Ellington era of the 1920’s, Earl Tucker (aka “Snake Hips”) was a regular performer at the famous New York City nightclub, the Cotton Club. His style of dance was so similar to many young hip-hop dancers today that he was credited as being one of the first dance originators. His “waving” floats and backslides were cornerstones for the earliest forms of breakdancing, b-boying, and other hip-hop dances. Various Hip-Hop movements happened alot at block parties (mostly in the Bronx, NY) where competitions would break out in double-dutch (mostly among girls), emcee’ing, DJ’ing and breakdancing.
In 1973, Clive “DJ Kool Herc” Campbell moved to the Bronx from Jamaica and started what is now known as DJ’ing. He also introduced “toasting” (DJ’s chanting over the music they are playing using simple phrases to get the crowd moving). DJ Kool Herc pioneered the break-beat movement by mixing short percussion breaks with 2 turntables. This allowed “b-boys” to rhyme while keeping the same beat going, similar to how rap competitions are organized today.
First Recorded Hip-Hop Group
The Sugar Hill Gang put out one of the first known recordings of a hip-hop group and was the first to go gold on the record charts. Their song “Rapper’s Delight” is still played today, making it and “Planet Rock” two of the most recognized original hip-hop songs of all time.
After learning about some of the origins of hip-hop and its vast influence among youth, it is critical to learn how it’s being used to target kids by the food and beverage industry. With the epidemic rise of childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes, youth providers must be aware of the role of marketing and how influential it is on the eating habits of today’s youth.
Hip-Hop Artists Endorsing Food and Beverage Companies
Today youth, especially those in urban neighborhoods are surrounded and bombarded by advertising and marketing of unhealthy food and beverage products. Youth are targeted from an early age, in a variety of settings and media, including the Internet. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the food industry spends more than $11 billion annually to market products to kids. (That comes out to more than $1 million spent every hour of every day). Food and beverage
marketers use the “cradle-to-grave” approach to target young kids (who influence their parents) and turn them into lifelong consumers.
As hip-hop music has garnered worldwide attention and popularity, its artists have been used to endorse all kinds of products, many unhealthy to our youth. The hip-hop group, Black Eyed Peas starred in a series of online episodes for Snickers candy bar called Instant Def, appearing as a group of hip-hop superheroes. They also endorse Dr. Pepper. The hip-hop artist, Jay-Z endorses several products including Cherry Coke. He even helped design the “new” cherry coke can. There are now a growing number of hip-hop artists endorsing unhealthy foods and beverages in all media outlets. In fact, it is being heavily promoted and targeted directly to the low-income, urban communities of which many of the artist’s grew up. Since these marketing campaigns or endorsement deals can net a hip-hop artist or group a flat fee of $10 million or more, the trend is likely to continue.
It is worthy to note that many of the original hip-hop artists such as Dead Prez, refrain from endorsing such products and have continued to promote positive messages in their lyrics. Also, Nas is one of a few more recent artists who have taken a stand against endorsing products that have a negative effect on urban communities. Hopefully more hip-hop artists can take a stand and realize how important their messages can be in promoting the health of today’s kids.
Should hip-hop artists be conscious of what they are selling or promoting especially if those products may have a negative impact on a child’s health?
The Influence of Fast Food (McDonald’s)
In order to better understand how fast food companies use hip-hop to market to youth, let’s use the largest food chain entity in the world as an example – McDonald’s. McDonald’s is the largest employer of youth in the world with roughly 30,000 high school and college-age students, many of whom are from urban communities. It is no secret that children and youth are their biggest target market, as they use bright colors in their advertising, have a fun mascot Ronald McDonald to promote their food, and even provide playgrounds at their restaurants. Studies have shown that kids respond to the onslaught of junk food ads by eating it more frequently, and in larger quantities. About 17% of kids and teens in the US are now seriously overweight, which can lead to other complications such as diabetes and heart disease.
Although McDonald’s and other fast food chains are trying to improve their menus by offering salads and fruit, the food hasn’t changed and is still packed with calories, high in fat and sugar. A McDonald’s Big Mac, with large fries and a coke is 1,440 calories with 60 grams of fat almost equivalent to an adult’s required daily intake in one meal!
Below is a short timeline of how McDonald’s has used hip-hop to attract youth:
*In September 2003, McDonald’s launched the successful ad campaign, “I’m lovin’ it,” using hip-hop music and images of urban youngsters. McDonald’s hired hip-hop mogul Steve Stoute and his entertainment marketing firm to broker deals with Justin Timberlake and Destiny’s Child to write the jingle and endorse the campaign.
*In March 2005, McDonald’s hired another entertainment marketing firm to help encourage hip-hop artists to integrate the Big Mac sandwich into their upcoming songs. McDonald’s agreed to pay the rappers between $1 and $5 each time their song was played on the radio.
*In July 2005, Stoute was hired to remake McDonald’s uniforms in attempt to create a more youthful, hip image for their employees. The food franchise wanted a uniform that employees would wear outside their work environment. Stoute was eyeing hip-hop fashion brands, Sean John, Phat Farm, Fubu, Rocawear, and Tommy Hilfiger, although he plans to integrate a variety of designers to keep it current and fresh. Stoute stated, “McDonald’s has evolved and become a lifestyle brand. Since it now is relevant to our lifestyle, let’s go one step further and make its employees relevant to our lifestyle as well.”
McDonald’s is not the only fast food chain that uses hip-hop to aggressively target youth. All fast food chains from Burger King to Taco Bell employ similar methods to draw youth into their chains. They use music, jingles and sound effects in commercials and have a whole bag of tricks to lure youth into buying their products. Using hip-hop is just another way to associate their products with a more appealing lifestyle or image.STEP 3 – UNDERSTAND HIP-HOP TODAY
Understanding today’s youth and attempting to drive home important messages about being healthy involves knowing the culture and the environment they currently live in. Hip-hop has grown so widespread that many geographical areas in the U.S. (and in certain countries) have developed their own recognized music, culture and attitudes. It has become so mainstream now that the suburbs of middle-class America overwhelmingly outweighs (in sales) that in the urban communities from which it originated. It’s this “urban mindset” (lyrics about sex, drugs, violence, city-life, etc.) that represents 100 million consumers worldwide (larger than the baby boomer generation). This mindset, (introduced by hip-hop artists and shaped by the mainstream media) makes impressionable youth believe that being a pimp, player, gangster or baller is the “thing to do.”
Today, it is quite common to see kids emulating this image that many hip-hop artists portray in their music videos and lyrics. These kids also tend to purchase the products that hip-hop artists endorse such as shoes, clothes, jewelry, watches and even unhealthy food and beverages. Although there are many stereotypes connected to this mindset, adults must be respectful of the unique culture, language, and style of dress of today’s hip-hop youth. They should discover ways to use this culture (like P.H.A.T.) that will help kids better understand important messages like eating better and being more active.
Hip-hop culture is so infused into our society that it must be considered in addressing today’s youth. It is their unique voice, expression, movement and for many, their way of life. Why not use hip-hop to motivate youth to stay healthy, eat better, exercise and live a longer life? DJ Kool Herc said, “Hip-Hop ain’t about keeping it real, it’s about keeping it right.” Eating right and being active hopefully included.
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