Bopping to the beat of Slick Rick’s “Hey Young World” at Ya Momz House Studio in East Liberty, Basim Asaad and Simonida Subotic exchanged giddy high-fives when their spin on the classic hit was complete. Knowing they were only two of 25 voices from One Young World that would make the final track, Mr. Asaad, 29 of Saudi Arabia and Ms. Subotic, 27 of the United Arab Emirates, made sure their message represented their mission in the States.
“My name is Basim,” he said.
“And I’m Simonida,” she said.
“We live in the Middle East,” he said.
“The world of young leaders,” she said.
“Came to America to learn about hip hop,” he said.
“And now we’re in the studio,” she said
“We got hip hop on lock!” in unison.
One Young World teamed up with Ya Momz House’s Hip Hop on L.O.C.K. program and hip hop artist Jasiri X for a joint workshop on hip hop activism and methods of using music to engage youth. The organization also commissioned Hip Hop On L.O.C.K. group, SCR Scream Team, to write an introductory song that leaders may make the official theme song of the One Young World conference.
Hip Hop On L.O.C.K., started by Ya Momz House founder Emmai Alaquiva in 2001, teaches leadership and business skills to youth by turning them into artists and executives of their own hip-hop label. Jasiri X is a Pittsburgh artist who broke on to the national scene with songs “Jordan Miles” “Trayvon” and “What if the Tea Party Was Black”. Mr. Alaquiva and Jasiri X have traveled the country to teach workshops and participate in forums about the power of hip hop as a catalyst for change.
“There are 180 countries being represented here and when you think about it the fact that they’re using the umbrella of hip-hop to bring things together, it speaks volumes on where we are today with this music,” said Mr. Alaquiva.
The diversity of those interested in taking part in the workshop—which featured a discussion on hip hop activism lead by Jasiri X and a studio session where participants wrote and recorded “One Young World” over Slick Rick’s track—was one of the most energizing features for participants, said Hip Hop on L.O.C.K. volunteer Farooq “A-Jaxx” Al-Said. In addition to Mr. Asaad and Ms. Subotic, participants represented countries as far as American Samoa, Czech Republic and Ireland.
Mr. Al-Said, a native Canadian who speaks four languages, said he was excited to help participants craft rhymes in their native tongue but even more excited to see with his own eyes how far the genre has reached.
“Hip hop transcends in all forms, its more than music, its a culture,” he said.
While there’s no arguing the existence of violence and misogyny in mainstream hip hop, encouraging youth to use hip hop to spark positive change has potential to change not only the genre, but the world.
“Hip hop is the language of the youth globally. Hip hop has played a role in the recent upheavals young people lead in the Arab Spring and with Occupy Wall Street,” he said. “It’s not only the global voice of young people but its also a way to bring people together.”