Inspire | 2020


Harnessing conscious music as a tool for social change through the platform of youth participation

Built in 2015, Rap2Rep is a first-of-its-kind platform to identify young talented artists, while providing them with mentoring and resources to enable them to use their voices for positive social change in Liberia. The campaign takes the form of a competition where first-time artists, who are passionate about social change, submit their song ideas and home videos on chosen themes. Rap2Rep relies on local musicians and artists to grow the campaign into a national movement of active citizens. Rap2Rep is a flagship campaign of a local civil-society organization, Accountability Lab Liberia, which acts as an incubator for technological ideas at the intersection of integrity, transparency, and open government with a focus on supporting a new generation of active citizens and responsible leaders. Beyond the lyrics and music production, Accountability Lab Liberia connects these young talents to other high-profiled musicians in the industry through the Hip-co Accountability Network (HAN) to receive further support including production and distribution strategies. Program participants learn how to use their songs to influence thinking, behaviours and local policy in a way that elevates bottom-up approaches.

Over the years, Rap2Rep campaigns have innovatively centered on women’s inclusion in election processes, issues of gender-based violence, and anti-corruption. These issues are communicated to the public using the “Hip-co” tone, a genre that uses Liberian Pidgin English with high-BPM dance rhythms and also touches of reggae, hip hop and RnB. Dating back to the Liberian Civil War, it has been long-standing genre that tackles socio-political issues in the country and is a means for young people to express themselves in a relatable, viral way. In 2020, Accountability Lab Liberia aligned the Rap2Rep campaign with the challenge of keeping people reliably informed about the coronavirus pandemic and debunking harmful myths about its source, symptoms, and potential long-term effects. 97% of the coronavirus Rap2Rep participants said they had a deeper understanding of how to use conscious music as an activism and advocacy tool.

Rap2Rep recognizes the inherent power and wisdom within communities as a starting point. This approach is unique because it engenders trust. Music or conscious music is being used as a tool for social change through the platform of youth participation. A distinguished aspect of the Rap2Rep program is that it offers a combination of skill-building (voice training, using studio equipment, managing stage performance), mentorship, networking, content development, and production, which are considered primary resources to the youth beneficiaries to kick-off a lifetime of music for social change careers, advocating for accountability and transparency. It also embodies active citizenship, and responsible leadership. Composing conscious Liberian songs allows youth beneficiaries to receive mentorship, build a relationship and collaborate with other older more experienced, and influential Liberian artists; including Takun J, JB Soul Fresh, Nassiman, Amaze, and Beatmaster Xclusive.

Rap2Rep has proven that music artists can be actors of change by supporting reforms, while positively influencing societal behavior.