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Wednesday Morning at the Apollo

The morning of June 9th, I and about 500 NYC elementary school students gathered at the Apollo theater to dance, gawk at rap music icons, and…learn about healthy eating. Hip Hop HEALS (Healthy Eating and Living in Schools) is a program that seeks to teach young people the rules for healthy living, ways to prevent heart disease and strokes, and curb the incidences of childhood obesity.

The showcase featured rap stars Doug E. Fresh, Kool Moe Dee, Artie Green, Chuck D (via video), Grandmaster Caz, Easy A.D., DJ Webstar and New York State first lady Michelle Paterson, among a number of student performers.

“You’re giving energy and you’re getting it back,” said Doug E. Fresh. “We wanna use hip hop as a positive tool to influence and enlighten.”

To the beats of Snoop Dogg, for instance, students were encouraged

If it’s deep fried and greasy
Drop it like it’s hot, drop it like it’s hot, drop it like it’s hot
If it’s high in calories
Drop it like it’s hot, drop it like it’s hot, drop it like it’s hot
If it’s rotting out your teeth
Drop it like it’s hot, drop it like it’s hot, drop it like it’s hot

“We believe it’s the music and cartoons that really are the heart and soul of the program,” said Stroke Diaries author and Harlem Hospital’s “Hip Hop Doc” Olajide Williams, MD.

Dr. Williams is the founder and director of the Hip Hop Public Education Center, which has also partnered with the National Stroke Association to develop the Hip Hop Stroke program. In a video, Williams says, “When I first saw the program that they had developed, I was very excited, I thought, ‘This has terrific potential.’ There was only one thing missing: in the program they had developed, there was no hip hop.”

So the Hip Hop Doc teamed up with Doug E. Fresh to produce a series of cartoons to further the mission. Each video features a rap song. Stroke Ain’t No Joke, Keep Your Brain Healthy, and Watch Your Calories are the three produced thus far.

“This is some ground breaking stuff,” says Doug E. Fresh, in the Center’s video mission statement.  “This is not normal. The doctor talking in the middle of the record. You got kids interacting. You got cats rhyming on there, and the music and the beats are straight up hip hop joints.”

“It’s not normal,” Dr. Williams says with a laugh, “but it’s powerful.”

Editor’s note: I met Doug E. Fresh!
Well, no I didn’t. But I did stand very close to him and take photos with my phone.


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