For the last eight years I have been discovering innovative uses of Hip Hop as a tool for healing, education, social change and empowerment. Originally, my interest in the area, stemmed from a desire to create a Rap Therapy program to engage youth of color in therapeutic services for whom traditional forms of therapy were not a “good fit”. As a social worker and lover of Hip Hop, the idea just made sense. So in 2004, with the help of my good friend Rob Jackson, the Beats Rhymes and Life (BRL) Rap Therapy program was born. Little did I expect to find myself on the forefront of an emerging field of study and practice, now referred to as Hip Hop Therapy (also, known as Rap Therapy). I am proud to say, through the hard work and dedication of a core group of people, the BRL Rap Therapy program has evolved into a non-profit organization (Beats Rhymes and Life, Inc.) with therapeutic programs in Oakland, San Francisco, Ashland, CA and South Bronx, New York.
Over the years, I’ve travel across the U.S. presenting on the work of Beats Rhymes and Life. Through my journeys I have had the privilege, and honor, to meet some extraordinary people using Hip Hop is amazing ways to make this world a better place. Sadly, you are not likely to find out about these people, or their projects through most mainstream media outlets. This is why I have launch a personal blog which I have named, Hip Hop *NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) to shed light on that which is in a special category all it’s own. My goal? Each week (for one year), I will share out on at least one project, organization, group or individual who is using Hip Hop as a catalyst for change and development. My hope is that this blog will serve as a resource for those interested in this work and illustrate the value of Hip Hop when we look past the stereotypes and sensationalism to its core foundation. Stay tuned and help me spread the word about Hip Hop *NOS. Peace.
-Tomás Alvarez III, MSW