Arts, Culture & Media

Hip Hop for the environment

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(Image from the video "The Dream Reborn: My President Is Green" by Doo Dat.)

This story was originally covered by PRI's Living on Earth and Planet Harmony. For more, listen to the audio above.

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Markese Bryant, also known as Doo Dat, doesn't consider himself a green rapper. His lyrics, though, often have an environmentalist message. In the song "The Dream Reborn: My President Is Green," Doo Dat waxes: "Got a message for the hood: It's time to go green. We've gotta go green. The food ain't fresh and the air ain't clean."

Bryant raps about green jobs, health problems from industry, and conservation issues. Even his stage name, Doo Dat, seems to be an environmentalist call to action. Still, he told PRI's Living on Earth and Planet Harmony, "I consider myself to be a rapper that just happens to be an eco-conscious individual," not necessarily a green rapper.

Much of his inspiration for that comes from first-hand experience. He said:

I was staying in Vallejo, California, we stayed right next to a Chevron refinery. And, so, as far as the fumes, it actually contributes to the asthma rates in the community. And, I just felt that it was very important to speak on it, because a lot of us, especially in the hood, really don't even understand where our electricity is coming from.

Doo Dat is by no means the first environmentally conscious rapper, Ike Sriskandarajah points out for Living on Earth. Dr. Octagon once rapped about the loss of trees, and the group Dead Prez made music about staying healthy. Recently, Trunk Boiz gained considerable attention from a song about Scraper Bikes, the decorated bikes seen around the Bay Area.

Larger organizations are now taking notice of the growing environmental consciousness in hip hop. Sriskandarajah reports, "The Bay Area's Green for All and Grind for the Green and DC's Hip Hop Caucus have started using rap as a vehicle for their green message. And, one of the most popular performers of the year, Drake, even signed on to the Green the Block tour." Hip hop pioneer Biz Markie and the Black Eyed Peas have also signed on to tours with environmentalist messages.

The movement still has a long way to go, though, before green hip hop climbs out of the underground. Environmental writer Ayana Meade told Living on Earth that it's still hard to find environmentally conscious hip hop on mainstream radio stations. The mission, however, remains important. According to Meade:

Hip Hop really needs to embrace the green movement, and get kids interested and engaged. I mean, look at the election of Barack Obama, look at how many kids grasped on to that because they need a movement, they need something to feel alive, I think the green movement can be that for young people today.

Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit.