Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, it’s rapping time – at least for a few Isla Vista teenagers who are two months into a new program designed to teach them how to craft and construct a rap album.
The Academy of Healing Arts for Teens at the I.V. Teen Center recently established the Music Internship Program to teach teens how to construct a professional studio rap LP. The young rappers learn to write, produce, engineer and eventually market their finished compositions.
Leading the group of aspiring teen rappers are instructors and UCSB alumni Jesús Catalán and Nino Gentry – both of whom have worked in the music industry.
Catalán said the program promotes self-expression through music for the teenagers.
“We’re giving these teens a chance to express themselves through their creativity,” Catalán said. “The medium for this is music, in this case, hip hop. They’ve already been at it for the second month, some are having a difficult time putting themselves out there because were asking them to write lyrics and perform in front of an audience. Some jump at it and some take a little longer. They’re coming out every Tuesday evening and learning about the different aspects of the entire process.”
The program is supported by donations made by various campus groups such as the Optimist Club, a campus organization dedicated to youth outreach.
Although the program does not own fancy equipment, Catalán said the participants are able to produce music with the equipment they do have.
“We’ve been piecing it together with the few items that we have,” Catalán said. “A couple of computers, some programs that we use and that the teens are learning to master to create their beats and record their vocals. Nino and I have our own personal musical equipment that the kids use but eventually we would like for the teen center to have equipment that the teens could have permanently.”
Overall, Catalán said he feels the program allows young teens a medium and opportunity to express their feelings in a constructive manner.
“Because of this program we have a recording area where kids can go and release their feelings of angst, their emotions, in a positive way,” Catalán said. “You’re angry? You’re sad? Guess what? Now you have a place where you can go and release all these frustrations in a safe way. Combined, all these concepts encompass the spirit of AHA! in teaching emotional intelligence and emphasizing respect in one another as human beings and as individuals.”
Catalán has worked in the music industry for 19 years, playing drums for the bands Popshot, Aiga and EC Duz It while also working with local youth for 15 years. He is currently a lead facilitator and translator for AHA! and is studying for his master’s in clinical psychology from Antioch University in Santa Barbara. Catalán said he established this program through a desire to connect with youth and help them find a place where they belong.
In high school, Gentry formed a group named Ruthless Underground that opened for various ’90s rap acts like Above the Law, King Tee and Breeze. Upon his graduation from UCSB, Gentry reinvested himself in the music industry, working with WYND & Grind Entertainment record label, developing local music contacts, performing, and was even featured on the Wayans Brothers’ cartoon soundtrack, Thugaboo.
The Music Internship Program meets every Tuesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. According to the Academy’s mission statement, AHA! provides activities for local teenagers and focuses on promoting creativity, teamwork and diversity.