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We are just getting started!

MONDAY 19th’s session How Hip Hop and Science Turned Kids Into Sugar Experts, from IPG Health, saw the audience receive a history lesson in the challenges faced by educators and medical experts as they try to spread the bad news about the harmful effects of sugar — as well as a blistering performance from hip-hop icon Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels.

DMC contributed to the 2022 Health Grand Prix for Good-winning campaign ‘Lil Sugar’, which used rap, storytelling and gaming to open people’s eyes to the omnipresence of sugar in its many disguises in everyday food and drinks — there are numerous names for ingredients that are effectively sugar. The medical problems arising from this are especially prevalent in marginalised and underserved communities.

Lori Rose Benson, executive director and CEO of Hip Hop Public Health, told the story of how her organisation has pioneered an approach that identifies the medium, the message and the messenger that can best disseminate health information — which is where hip hop comes in. They have worked with Doug E Fresh, Chuck D, Ashanti and Cheryl ‘Salt’ James, among others.

She explained how they are focused on empowering young people as advocates within their families and communities, giving them the facts in a fun way. The ‘Lil Sugar’ campaign is aimed at all ages, and includes an app that gamifies identifying the sugars on food and drink labels — particularly enjoyed by 10- to 15-year-olds — and a picture book for the very young that can spark a sharing moment with parents; Hip Hop Public Health’s aim is to empower youngsters to “develop their agency”.

DMC knows a lot about the power of music and words — that together they can share and inspire without the receiver even being aware that they are learning. “The ABCs [song] is the greatest hip hop song ever,” he said, as he got the audience to chant the alphabet along with him. “It’s all about rhythm and rhyme.”

Asked why ‘Lil Sugar’ was so successful, he said: “Music is energy, vibration, frequency … hear it one time and you learn it,”; and hip hop is “information, creation and transformation.”

This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip hop, over which time the genre has helped spread the word about many challenges for disadvantaged people as well as making us dance, and DMC re-dedicated his name for this session as Determination Motivation and Concentration, as he asked the audience to pledge commitment to progress: “Spread the word, we are just getting started!”


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