After several years, I recently reconnected with my brother from another mother, hip hop artist/activist/producer Brimstone127 – and let’s just say it’s been lovely. Back in 2008, I documented the first year of his PATH Hip Hop Summer Academy (a four-week program where teenagers learn creative, technical and entrepreneurial skills directly from Hip Hop industry professionals, practitioners and pioneers). The film went on to win the “Best Florida Film” award at the 2010 Sunscreen Film Festival (the award presented to us by none other than John Travolta himself) and elevated my fledgling video production career to a whole other level.
I wasn’t the only one who took their game to another level over that same span. With the support of his wife Natalie (who serves as Executive Director), Brimstone has kept the PATH program going strong into its 10th year. I returned there this past summer with camera in hand and documented several days of the program (check out the photos and video) and it was just like old times.
Brimstone and Natalie have also been busy at work growing the PATH program even further and have expanded upon their hip hop offerings through a substance abuse intervention program at Royal Life Centers, a drug and alcohol treatment facility with locations throughout Florida and Washington State. Royal Life Centers’ partnership with PATH and the creation of ‘Sober Studios’ has allowed drug and alcohol abusers to deal with past experiences through musical expression and experimentation.
I recently visited the facility (with camera in hand, of course) and with the full permission of the participants and the blessing of Royal Life Centers, shot this short music video that illustrates the power of hip hop and how it allows participating individuals to grow and heal through the power of music and creativity.
Each session starts with a beat (provided by Brimstone) and time for song-writing. Then one by one, individuals enter the studio to drop their lyrics over the beat. Brimstone then produces the final version which they get to hear and take home that very day.
It’s powerful stuff so let me just show you how it goes down in this short video I shot and edited. Oh, and for more information on PATH, visit their website www.pathtohiphop.org.