Five young adults transitioning out of foster care have formed a hip-hop group, created a CD of original songs, and will be performing this weekend at the August Wilson Center.
The singers are graduates of a program called Hip-Hop on L.O.C.K., which stands for leadership skills, organizational skills, cooperative economics and knowledge of the music business. Hip-Hop on L.O.C.K., founded in 2001, uses the start-to-finish process of creating and promoting an album to instill a sense of responsibility and accomplishment in young people.
The program is a collaborative effort of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service and other nonprofit partners.
The newly formed hip-hop group, True City, is comprised of four boys and one girl, between the ages of 18 and 24, who have been participating in the Age Up Not Out (AUNO) program run by JF&CS in a partnership with YouthWorks, another nonprofit that helps young people, whose potential might otherwise be overlooked, pursue employment and career development opportunities.
AUNO is supported by the United Way, the Bank of New York Mellon and the Department of Human Services.
Hip-Hop on L.O.C.K. seemed to be a natural partner for the AUNO program, according to Jeanne Williams, career and employment counselor for JF&CS, and Keith Johnson, YouthWorks’ AUNO program director.
“This is the first time the AUNO program has collaborated with Hip Hop on L.O.C.K.,” said Johnson. “We noticed a lot of our youth are artistic. And the leadership development and organizational skills taught by Hip- Hop on L.O.C.K. coincided with the skills we teach.”
“Hip-Hop on L.O.C.K. works with you to help you create your own record label, and to come up with a logo,” Johnson said. “They give you free studio time. The kids created a rap song and recruitment video for the AUNO program. And they became a real solid group.”
True City performed at the Shadow Lounge in East Liberty as part of the members’ graduation from the program July 22. In the audience were members of the staffs of JF&CS and YouthWorks, as well as friends, Williams said.
“They sounded great,” Johnson said. “These five youths had the talent. The collaboration with Hip-Hop on L.O.C.K. was a plan that Jeanne and I thought would work out. Now they (True City) have other shows to do, thanks to a collaboration between the two agencies (JF&CS and YouthWorks).”
“We will definitely work with Hip- Hop on L.O.C.K. again,” Williams added. “It was a very positive atmosphere, and the young people learned so much. I can see it as an ongoing thing.”
AUNO has trained more than 80 youths since its formation, helping them learn the skills to find employment. While it continues to provide services to the 80 it has already trained, it will engage a new group next year.
“We’ll be starting with a whole new group,” Johnson said, adding that the youth chosen to participate in Hip-Hop on L.O.C.K. will not be limited to the genre of hip-hop.
“We will be identifying five or six youth, and they could form an R&B group, or it could be jazz,” he said. “They can get real creative with it. Next year, we might even create a band. That’s the beauty of it.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)