Samir Ibrahim, MyVerse and Kristen Warren: How hip-hop can make climate action cool

Recorded atJune 14, 2022
EventTED Countdown New York Session 2022
Duration (min:sec)09:42
Video TypeTED Stage Talk
Words per minute180.84 medium
Readability (FK)50.23 difficult
SpeakerSamir Ibrahim, MyVerse and Kristen Warren

Official TED page for this talk


Music can amplify social issues and inspire people to care about new (and sometimes unexpected) topics. But can it take something as dire as climate change and make it mainstream? With artists MyVerse and Kristen Warren as an inspiring opening act, social entrepreneur Samir Ibrahim suggests hip-hop and its stars can help us move from talking about the problem to rapping about (and acting on) solutions.

Text Highlight (experimental)
100:04 Samir Ibrahim: Who’s ready for a story?
200:06 Audience: Yes.
300:07 SA: Alright.
400:08 Once upon a time, in a land very very close to us, there was a planet.
500:15 And that planet was on fire.
600:18 But it didn’t start that way.
700:20 Global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations in parts per million for the past 800,000 years didn’t exceed 300 parts per million.
800:27 And that peak happened about 300,000 years ago.
900:30 The annual rate of increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide as measured in parts per...
1000:35 oh... looks like you’ve fallen asleep.
1100:38 (Laughter)
1200:39 Climate change is the most urgent issue facing humanity today.
1300:44 But telling you a boring story like I just did is not going to create the change we need to secure a livable future.
1400:50 We need climate activism to be mainstream.
1500:54 We need the fight against climate change to be cool.
1600:58 Let’s try something different.
1700:59 Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome MyVerse and Kristen Warren.
1801:03 (Applause)
1901:10 [Music]
2001:22 MyVerse: Dear children.
2101:23 Hope you listen This is Mother Earth From beyond your birth I been here when the Sun emerged I fed you from me for no love returned To see you grow up and be undeserved In other words Let me nurture Don't let them deceive You self-sufficient cause you get it from me That light bill from the sun paid definitely Don't let them hustle you your power cause the energy free I gave mountains to guide you And rivers to ride through Trees to help you breathe but don't seem to be mindful that other creatures need ya cause they live here beside you A Mother's Nature make sure that you fit for survival Like finish your greens Eat less than your eyes do Take the trash out be disciplined and recycle Seasons getting heated scolding y'all will be frightful
2202:04 You gon’ learn to clean ya room when you live under my roof Kristen Warren: Blessed creatures fall and die Wildfires in their eyes Stop waiting for a sign Please ease your Mother's mind In Eden we could be Take care of you and me While waters swell and rise Please ease your Mother's mind MV: Dear Mother Earth, Where do we begin?
2302:32 To change all this mess left for us to fix We made aesthetics be the reason that this threat exists They want our votes to address it til' elections end Cause politicians and these businesses are best of friends Some cut cost to up profits but at what expense?
2402:46 Accountability is knowing this affects our kids
2502:49 It made me realize that my part in this is just as big Too much convenience kept polluting up my human nature Minor changes can be mega for future's favor Reduce waste, reuse plates I mean actually try With better habits they can't gas us if we travel on bike To my family goin' green tryin' to lead the effort Of less carbon footprints Be the cleanest steppers Ain't no favorites climate change it could reach whoever Cause it don’t matter what class, we still breathe together KW: Blessed creatures fall and die Wildfires in their eyes Stop waiting for a sign Please ease your Mother's mind.
2603:27 In Eden we could be Take care of you and me While waters swell and rise Please ease your Mother's mind MV: Same mother, same truth Please read this letter Same sky, same water We drink together Same soil, same root We eat together
2703:45 It don't matter what class We still breathe together KW: Please ease your Mother’s mind (Cheers and applause)
2804:00 Samir Ibrahim: How do you create a movement?
2904:03 How do you raise the masses?
3004:06 How do you get people behind an idea to inspire action?
3104:10 You make it mainstream.
3204:12 In 1993, Snoop Dogg released his song "Gin and Juice," produced by Dr. Dre.
3304:19 Some people know it here.
3404:20 It peaked at number eight on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in the United States, and it was nominated for a 1994 Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance.
3504:30 The lyrics famously go “Sippin’ on gin and juice, laid back, with my mind on my money and my money on my mind."
3604:38 In the song, Snoop references a brand of gin called Seagram's, and the success of the song "Gin and Juice" led to a roughly 20 percent increase in Seagram's gin sales.
3704:48 Now you may be thinking, "Alright, Samir, I see the point you're trying to make, but using hip hop to sell alcohol is easy.
3804:55 Climate change is a little bit more complex."
3904:58 Fair enough.
4004:59 But there are examples of how hip hop artists have leveraged their cultural capital to influence society's views on and engagement with incredibly serious topics.
4105:09 Take mental health, for example.
4205:11 In the 1970s, one of the early hip-hop groups called Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five rapped about the day-to-day inequities and injustices faced by Black communities in the United States and how this impacted their mental health.
4305:25 One of their songs called "The Message" was the seventh rap song to ever be on any Billboard Hot 100 chart, and New York Times named it as the most popular pop single of 1982.
4405:36 Sorry, the most powerful pop single of 1982.
4505:40 And then in the '80s and '90s, mental health issues started to become more mainstream in hip hop lyrics.
4605:46 In 1991, in their classic song "Mind Playing Tricks on Me," hip hop group Geto Boys captured the realities of post-traumatic stress within urban communities.
4705:58 One of the three members of the group named Scarface wrote most of the song.
4806:02 You see, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at a young age, and the lyrics of the song describe the mental anguish and exhaustion for life of minorities in America dealing with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, loneliness, suicidal ideation and paranoia.
4906:18 And then in 2017, hip hop artist Logic released his song "1-800-273-8255" That's the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
5006:31 The week before the song was released, Logic tweeted, "I made this song for all of you who are in a dark place and can't seem to find the light."
5106:40 The director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline said that on the day the song was released, they had the second-highest call volume in the history of their service.
5206:49 And after Logic performed the song on MTV's Video Music Awards later that year, they reported a 50 percent increase in call volume.
5306:57 You can see that while talking about the problem to raise awareness is important, it's not until Logic started rapping about a solution that things really started changing.
5407:07 And that, that's the power of hip hop.
5507:10 Hip hop has always taken complex topics and made them mainstream and cool.
5607:15 Hip hop has always influenced the behavior of its listeners.
5707:19 Hip hop has always given voice to the underrepresented.
5807:23 What if hip hop took a complex topic like climate change and made it mainstream and cool?
5907:29 Or if hip hop influenced behavior that protected our planet?
6007:33 Or if hip hop gave voice to the environment or future generations who can't speak for themselves.
6107:39 Now using popular music to raise awareness about climate change has already started happening.
6207:44 Two years ago, the New York Times reported that there have been at least 192 references to climate change in any song that has been made by any artist who has been featured on any of Billboard's domestic charts over the past two decades.
6307:58 So not a lot.
6407:59 And I only knew a handful of the songs.
6508:01 We need a lot more of that.
6608:03 But more importantly, we need lyrics of songs to transition from talking about the problem into the solution space.
6708:09 I mean, if you're a rapper, a songwriter, a producer, a musician, we need you.
6808:14 We listen to you.
6908:16 I bet most, if not all of you here have made a decision because of music.
7008:19 I certainly have.
7108:20 I mean, when I was younger, the first Air Force 1s I bought, these are not Air Force 1s, but the first Air Force 1s I bought were because of Nelly's song.
7208:28 Now, imagine if instead of rapping or singing about Maybachs or Cadillacs, the most influential hip hop artists in the world made electric vehicles aspirational.
7308:36 Or instead of rapping about the bling around their necks or in their mouths, they rapped about the solar panel bling on their roofs.
7408:44 Don't get me wrong, the songs that I'm referencing helped define my childhood.
7508:48 But what if my childhood was defined by environmentalism?
7608:51 What if next year the Grammy Award for Best Album or Best Song or Best Rap Album went to an artist who used their platform to make one of the most important topics of our generation mainstream?
7709:02 To bring climate to the culture.
7809:05 What if that got climate solutions to be part of our vernacular?
7909:09 Would that create a movement or raise the masses or get people behind an idea to inspire action?
8009:18 I think so.
8109:20 Imagine the influence we can have.
8209:23 See, we have this incredible opportunity to participate in the biggest revolution we have ever seen.
8309:32 The revolution to secure a livable future.
8409:35 And I believe that hip hop and culture are part of the solution.
8509:39 Thank you.
8609:40 (Cheers and applause)