Recorded in Nairobi, Kenya; Brooklyn, NY; Port-Au-Prince, Haiti; Toronto, Canada; Trenchtown, Jamaica and elsewhere, Hip-Hop Saves Lives has released a very international album, Peace Love & Unity. The album was released Sept. 11, and is available for download or streaming on HHSL’s Bandcamp page. You can pay whatever you like, but all proceeds from album sales go to the Mombasa Kenya community center food and school fees program.
HHSL is an organization from Brooklyn that educates youth on social issues through hip-hop. CEO and founder Chad Harper travels around the world, teaching workshops and working with local organizations to help through the medium of music, like his project in Uganda working with Sudanese refugees (That project's Gofundme is still up and running and could use your support!).
Harper likes to lead off his workshops with the true story of how hip-hop was born, under the banners of a gang truce in the Bronx in the early 1970s. While traveling, an idea for an album about the birth of hip-hop started to form, and finally came together during his final stop in Kenya’s biggest city, Nairobi, where Harper found what he called the most flourishing hip-hop scene culture in East Africa.
“Nairobi has a bit of a New York City vibe,” Harper said. The fast-paced energy gave him a slight feel of home.
Harper had connections to the Nairobi scene. A music producer named Johnathan YT introduced Harper to the local MCs Kunta Kinte and Johnny Span-One. Together they worked on a song called “Welcome to Nairobi,” the title track for Hip-Hop Saves Lives’s first international album.
They later introduced Harper to a male/female rap duo that goes by the name SoulMate Music. They not only rhyme together but also are engaged to marry. “It was very inspiring to see a couple have the same love and passion for hip-hop,” says Chad. “The way they rhymed together representing both energies seemed so natural.”
“I just had to return and work with these guys again to close out this new project”’ Harper says. “Their energy and vibe is true hip-hop culture. They do it for the love of the art and the love for their people…[Hip-hop’s] original purpose was to save lives, transform communities and the minds of youth from violent gang and street activities to creative and peaceful expressions.”
On Dec. 10, 2017 the artists met up at Angaza Msani music studio in Jerusalem Estate in the Eastlands neighborhood of Nairobi, along with two other artists, Chox and Patoh Njuguna.
Each wrote a part of the story that took place back in the South Bronx. The story ends with 42 gangs agreeing to a peace treaty on Dec. 8, 1971, initiated by a gang named the Ghetto Brothers. In order to maintain the treaty, the Ghetto Brothers asked all the gangs to come to the park and party together every Friday and Saturday night. As the parties took place, the streets became safer and the word spread throughout the community. The parties quickly gained popularity and gang activity reduced immensely. Former gang members now battled through dance and rhymes and the worldwide culture of hip-hop was born.
The newly released album features 18 songs in total, of which seven are about the peace treaty and 11 bonus songs, six of which came from the Nairobi sessions.