This is an exclusive interview with platinum-selling producer Artie Green, the Musical Director of Hip Hop Public Health. Artie Green is the major creative force behind the beats and lyrics of Hip Hop Public Health and is also a community health educator delivering HHPH programming in schools throughout New York City.
Mo Flow: Tell me about your life as well as some of your work and accomplishments before you joined Hip Hop Public Health.
Artie: I guess I’m the average person, just a regular person. I’m just happy and I’m thankful for getting up every morning. I’m a mama’s boy, I love people, I love music, and I love sports. I think my life is pretty interesting to some degree, knowing where I came from and where I am today. There were a lot of obstacles I had to overcome in my life. Growing up I sang in the Harlem Boys Choir for three years with Walter Turnbull. I was in the Performing Arts Junior High School – then I was accepted to the Music & Art and Performing Arts High School – but I decided to go to Prenton, then I ended up in Brandeis.
As far as my accomplishments are concerned, I’ve always wanted be in the entertainment business. Basketball was my first love, but I didn’t actually pursue that. In music, I was able to get a deal in 2002 with Murda Inc. I’ve done music for Ashanti, Ja Rule, Lloyd, Keri Hilson, Juelz Santana, Ron Browz, different people like that. I worked with Irv Gotti, and I thank him and his brother for giving me the opportunity to learn more about the music industry and to pursue my career.
Mo Flow: What are some of your hobbies, and what work do you do outside of HHPH?
Artie: I love to bowl and I love to play tennis. Outside of that I just like to sit and relax in my backyard, kick my feet up, and just be easy. I also like to do my own music outside of working with other artists. I like to make inspirational music, which I call feel good music because it makes me feel good so hopefully it makes other people feel good when they are listening to it and they can relate to a lot of the things I’m talking about.
Now that I’m working with HHPH I’ve gotten the opportunity to not only learn about health, but I’ve gotten the opportunity to touch other people’s lives. I love working with kids – I’ve worked in a junior high school before and I worked in a high school before, so working with kids is something that I’m used to. But now I’m able to touch their lives through music as well as mentoring to them in an educational setting. It’s been pretty interesting and very fun, and it’s also actually helping to propel me into another area where I can actually let my music speak for itself. outside of HHPH. When people hear this music I think people are intrigued and also want to know about me. Like if I’m doing this type of music, then “What other music do you do?” So it’s a way that I can introduce them to who Artie Green is outside of HHPH.
Mo Flow: How did you get involved with Hip Hop Public Health?
Artie: I was working with Doug E. Fresh. I went to meet him one day and Dr. Williams was sitting there. We were both sitting there waiting for him, not really talking to each other but just waiting for him to come down. We just started talking because it was too quiet in the room, and he asked me if I had heard this new artist that Doug was working with. I was like “Yo word? Who’s the artist?” He said “He made a song called ‘You’re Beautiful’ – that’s a good song!” I was like “‘You’re Beautiful?’ That’s my song!” So he was like, “Oh yeah you did that? Do you have any other music?” So I burned him a CD right there because I keep my music with me, and he ended up listening to the CD and I guess really enjoyed it, and he actually got in contact with me through Doug.
I did a song about my mother – she had a stroke. He heard it and he wanted to know if I could actually make a song that was more universal and not so personal, but still about stroke. I was like “Ok cool I’ll try it, I’ll do it…I just need to get some information on it.” So I went online and looked at a couple of things but also I was thinking about what my mother went through. I did the song, gave him to him, and he liked it. That led to doing another song, and that led to getting a job!
Mo Flow: Why do you feel this work is important?
Artie: I feel that this work is important because of the state of our society, the state of our community, and the state of the world basically. I’m not just going to say the world totally because in some places people do try to take care of themselves. But here in our community there is a McDonald’s on every other corner, there’s a Chinese spot on every block, there’s a liquor store on every block. You don’t see a lot of healthy stores, but you see a lot of stores that will eventually hurt you if you keep consuming the type of foods that they sell. Our kids are really the ones that are being affected by it. A lot of the things that they are mass producing these days as far as food is concerned…I don’t know if they are putting chemicals in it or what they are doing to it, but a lot of food is not as healthy as it used to be and that’s why people nowadays would like to get fresh food. Farmers are making more money now than they did before because a lot of people want fresh food. I think it’s very important that the message that the Hip Hop HEALS program is trying to get out there is heard and people retain this information because it will keep you living longer.
Mo Flow: What do you do to keep yourself and your family & friends healthy?
Artie: I’m not saying I’m the best, because it takes time. I’m accustomed to eating certain things but I’ve stopped eating a lot of stuff that I used to eat. I try to work out – I play a lot of basketball so I do get my cardio in. I try to instill in my family members and my friends that they need to eat healthily. You can have a stroke at any age; it doesn’t have age, it doesn’t have color, it can attack anybody. If you look at a lot of people, not only myself but everybody out here – people that you’ve grown up with, guys that are 40 years old having heart attacks, kids passing away… if you look at the community that you live in you’ll say “I need to start doing something, I need to get a checkup, I need to eat healthier.” It prolongs your life.
Mo Flow: What is your favorite part about working with HHPH?
Artie: It’s the kids. That is my favorite part. It’s not just them – I also enjoy working with the people that I work with. It first starts there. There is no “I” in TEAM – TEAM means Together Everybody Accomplishes More. So if we don’t have unity amongst our team then we’re not going to get the job done. But then for us to take what we come up with and put together inside our office and take it out there and present it to the public, present it to the kids, see the kids’ excitement, see the kids’ joy, have them see you a year or two year from now and say “Hey Mr. so and so” or “Hey Ms. so and so”, we know that we made a great impression on their lives, so that is the best thing for me.
Mo Flow: What is the most challenging part about working with HHPH?
Artie: The most challenging part is getting across to the parents. We’re able to get across to the kids, but sometimes we do programs and parents are in the audience, and let’s say A.D. will call on a parent. The parent won’t know anything – they won’t be aware of anything we said, and their kid would be aware. So it’s like – are these adults really paying attention? Or do they really care? Like I said, association breeds assimilation. Your kid will get everything from you. So if your kid sees you smoking all day, then they might grow up smoking one day. You are a product of your environment. So for us to get across to these kids is one thing, but to try to get their parents to buy into what we are trying to teach them so when they do go home they can cook the right things or make the right food choices when they go out to eat – I think that is the biggest challenge.
Mo Flow: What is your favorite HHPH song and/or video?
Artie: Wow – that’s hard! I think one of my favorite songs is the Hip Hop HEALS anthem because I did it with Dr. Williams and A.D., so we all had an opportunity to get on that song. We had fun doing it, and it’s one of the songs that feels really good to me. I really like that. Another one of the songs that I like is actually not a song. When you hear it, it’s only a hook. The instrumental part will play for 16 bars. And during that 16 bars, if you listen to the words in the hook before it actually plays, you will actually reflect, and it gives you an opportunity to reflect on what you heard or maybe even things that have taken place in your life or somebody that you know. I really like that – it’s interesting because I want to put words there but some things don’t even need words.
Mo Flow: And what is the hook that you’re talking about?
F, F is when your face droops down
If you notice this don’t mess around, I’m talkin bout
A, A is when your arm gets weak
Numbness, you can overcome this, TEACH
S, S is when your speech gets slurred
If you hardly understand your words, I’m talkin bout
T, Time to call 911
Time to call 911
Mo Flow: Are there other artists you think might be good partners for HHPH?
Artie: I’ve got this one guy – his name is Young Deon – he helped me with the Hip Hop HEALS R&B song. Another person I think would be quite interesting to work with is Fat Joe. I say that because he actually lost over 100 pounds. His best friend Big Pun died of a heart attack; he was very obese. So he has actually encountered someone he lost that was dear to him because of these situations. But he is also bilingual, so he could give us diversity when it comes to speaking and crossing the language barrier to relate to children of different ethnicities. That is very important – we can go into a lot of communities, but if they speak another language then we are stuck. It’s all about relating. If we have someone they can relate to, that’s big. We’d be in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, everywhere!
Mo Flow: What you do hope to accomplish with HHPH in the future?
Artie: I can’t accomplish anything by myself – as a team, I hope that we can not only touch the people here in New York City where we are actually located. I’m hoping we can touch people all over the world. I’m hoping that we can make a mark and an impression on other people’s lives. Because as long as we know we are touching somebody, that’s the biggest thing for me. But if we can take our show on the road and really affect people’s lives not just in our community but in every community, then we’re doing our job.
Stay tuned for more exclusive interviews with members of the Hip Hop Public Health team!