Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A Hip Hop Album For First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Campaign

"Songs For A Healthier America" includes tunes from Doug E. Fresh, Jordin Sparks, Ashanti, Artie Green, DMC: Hip Hop is a "core part" of American culture, says Sam Kass, and project will have a big impact on kids...
Washington, DC -- In First Lady Michelle Obama's latest effort to make her Let's Move! campaign relatable to America's culturally savvy youth, a Hip Hop album starring Grammy-award winning artists singing and rapping about healthy eating and physical activity will be released on September 30.  Titled Songs For A Healthier America, the compilation will have nineteen tracks with on-message titles such as U R What You Eat; Veggie Luv, Get Up Sit Up, and Hip Hop LEAN

The album was co-produced by Partnership for a Healthier America, the foundation created to support Let's Move!, and Hip Hop Public Health, an activist organization of musicians, academics, and medical professionals that since 2005 has dedicated itself to battling obesity in urban youth.  Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass worked closely with the group last year to make the project a reality.  (The cover, above)

Mrs. Obama has made headlines showing off her dance moves everywhere from the South Lawn to late night TV, which included grooving to the The Dougie.  The artist who inspired the dance craze, Doug E. Fresh, repays the First Lady's homage by starring in two songs, including the first to be released with a video, Everybody.  Mrs. Obama makes a cameo in the form of edited-in footage from an old Let's Move! PSA, where she discusses the impact of her campaign.

The song also stars American Idol winner Jordin Sparks on vocals and Dr. Mehmet Oz rapping (yes, really).  Artie Green, Ryan Beatty and the Hip Hop MD also join a pack of cute kids from Harlem's Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School, dancing up a storm.  Oz has hosted Mrs. Obama on his self-monikered talk show multiple times, and Sparks has performed at Let's Move! events.   

Other featured artists on the album include Ashanti, Monifah, J Rome, Ashthon Jones, DMC, Shayna Steele, Blink-182′s Travis Barker, working under the moniker "Salad Bar," the New York Knicks’ Iman Schumpert and Nils Lofgren of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and Babi Floyd.

Kass--who has shown off his own dance moves on the South Lawn--said he is excited about the album's potential impact on kids' eating and activity, because Hip Hop is a "core part" of American culture.

"Cultural leaders and visionaries in our country can give these messages to kids in a way that’s not preachy.  Kids are going to be dancing and listening to the music," Kass told US News & World Report this week.

"So many kids love hip-hop. It’s such a core part of our culture…and particularly in the African-American community and the Latino community which is being disproportionately affected by those health issues," Kass said.

Nationally, about 17% (or 12.5 million) children and adolescents, ages 2-19 were obese in 2010, according to federal statistics.  But the rate for black children ages 6-17 was 25.7%, while among Hispanics, the rate was 25.1%.  The goal of Mrs. Obama's generational campaign is to reduce the national rate of child obesity to just 5% by 2030.

Pop diva Beyoncé was the first musical artist to offer her services to Mrs. Obama's campaign, in 2011 recording a rewrite of one of her own songs, retitled "Move Your Body."  It rapidly went viral on YouTube, garnering millions of hits within weeks of being released.  The White House is hoping to replicate that action, and with Beyoncé now the chief spokesperson for PepsiCo, the Hip Hop album is a fresh start for the Let's Move! campaign, currently in its fourth year.

Ten of the nineteen songs from the album will be made into videos, and these will be distributed to schools across the nation, beginning with forty schools in New York City before expanding to school systems including San Antonio, Philadelphia and Washington D.C..  The goal is to get teachers to use the videos as classroom tools.

The video for Everybody made its debut on The Dr. Oz Show in June.

The track list and artists:

1.  “U R What You Eat” (Salad Bar: Matisyahu, Ariana Grande, Travis Barker)

2.  “Everybody” (Jordin Sparks, Doug E. Fresh, Dr Oz, Ryan Beatty, Hip Hop MD)

3.  “Let’s Move” (Doug E. Fresh, Artie Green, Chauncey Hawkins)

4.  “Just Believe” (Ashanti, Gerry Gunn, Artie Green, Robbie Nova)

5.  “Veggie Luv” (Monifah and J Rome)

6.  “Hip Hop FEET” (DMC and Artie Green)

7.  “Stronger” (Shayna Steele, Jeremy Jordan, Our Time Theater kids, and E-Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren)

8.  “Give Myself A Try” (Ryan Beatty)

9.  "Jump Up” (Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could)

10.  “Hip Hop LEAN” (Artie Green)

11.  “Pass the Rock” (Iman Schumpert and Artie Green)

12.  “Good Living” (Ashton Jones)

13.  “Beautiful” (Daisy Grant and Artie Green)

14.  “Change The Game” (The Happiness Club, featuring Naledge)

15.  “Wanna Jump (Let’s Move)” (Paul Burch)

16.  “Mother May I” (Amelia Robinson)

17.  “We Like Vegetables” (Los Barkers!)

18.  “Get Up Sit Up” (Babi Floyd)

19.  “One Step Forward” (Samite)

Behind the scenes video: The making of Everybody:

*Top photo by Chuck Kennedy/White House; videos and album art courtesy of Partnership for a Healthier America and Hip Hop Public Health