Watch: Rap legend Doug E. Fresh schools the next generation on the legacy of hip-hop

Written by on July 21, 2023

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For decades, rap music lovers have danced and reminisced to the music styles of human beat box Doug E. Fresh. But he says his work in hip-hop is not done.

Doug E. Fresh sat down with theGrio’s Marc Lamont Hill to talk about the impact his music has on the industry and the message he’s got for his community.

The following is a transcript of that interview.

Doug E. Fresh attends the BET Awards 2023 at Microsoft Theater on June 25 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo: Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)

Marc Lamont Hill: Oooh, that takes me back: The legendary Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick and the Get Fresh Crew doing their thing on “Soul Train” back in the day. Welcome back to TheGrio. As we celebrate hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, we want to tip our hat to the men and women who laid the foundation for the music that we love today. One of those people is the legendary Doug E. Fresh, the original human beatbox. The man, the myth, the legend, the rap god joins us right now. My brother, good to see you. Thanks so much for being here. 

Doug E. Fresh: Oh, brother. I appreciate it. I appreciate the introduction, too. You know,  thankful for hip hop. Thankful for you. Thank you. 

Hill: Man. I appreciate that. You talk to me about what it means for you to be standing here as hip-hop looks back on 50 years. When you think about, like, the impact of the culture that impacted art, what do you think about that? 

Doug E. Fresh: Let me tell you something. If somebody told me 50 years would have gone by this quick or we will be in this position right now, and here we are, 50 years from something that I was just doing from an artistic expression, and for stopping all of the drugs and the guns and the murder and the gang wars on the street, this was the alternative. I would not have thought that we would be here right now, and it would be a multi billion-dollar business. So, I feel everybody that contributed to hip-hop, you know, we’re all blessed to still be here. And for those who are not here anymore, their contribution is something that will be that will never be looked at as something so slight. You know, I mean, the pioneers, man, you know, this is it. This is hip-hop, 50 years. Unbelievable. 

Hill: You know, as we talk about, you know, the legends and the people who passed in hip-hop, some of those people are the giants and the elders who passed away. And then, there are people who died far too early, people like Tupac, people like Biggie. Earlier in the show, we reported that Tupac’s murder investigation is heating up. You were close to ‘Pac and Big. What was that like, and how did their deaths affect you? 

Doug E. Fresh: I mean, the deaths, both of their deaths affected me in a way that it really hurt me spiritually, in a way where I just felt like here’s two younger brothers with their future. Right there, you know, changing the world skills, gifts, and here it is that they are snatched away from us and most of all snatched away from their families. You know, me being a father, how I would feel if my son was snatched out of here too soon? That’s not a good feeling. The mothers. You know, I’m very close to Biggie’s mom. You know, I did a lot of different things with her. You know, and Tupac’s mom was, you know, I mean, she’s brilliant, you know what I mean? So, I just think we got to learn how to deal with each other, you know. And we got to handle life better and learn how to be more respectful to each other and resolve our differences in a much more what I will call, you know, respectful manner than going out and just killing each other. I’m doing my best to extract that out of hip-hop as much as possible because it’s been happening in every generation of hip-hop. 

Hill: Yeah, but a lot of what you’re talking about is getting us to make healthier choices, and there’s healthier choices on the street, but it’s also healthier choices in our lives, in our personal lives, in our families and our communities. And one of the things you’re doing right now with your organization that you co-founded, Hip Hop Public Health, is getting us to do just that. But tell me what the organization’s all about. 

Doug E. Fresh: Hip Hop Public Health  is all about teaching people to make better choices about food and about exercise and being able to take care of yourself so that you have more longevity. I think a lot of us are going too soon. We’re leaving too soon, and this is not with violence; this is us doing it to us because of lack of information, lack of, you know, habit-changing. And we keep doing the same things, and it catches up to us. And before you know it, here we are. We are in this position where we’re sick, and now, which we’re chasing it. So Hip Hop Public Health was created between me and Dr. Williams, who I call a hip-hop doc, because we wanted to teach the kids how to be healthier. And when we teach the kids, the kids will pass it on to the parents, and then we can change the conditions of our environment. I mean, so many people got high blood pressure, diabetes. There’s so many strokes that we’re having out here. Young brothers and sisters are having strokes.  Childhood obesity is at a highest level. So, I felt like we need to be healthier. And I think that we can live a better life. We’re healthier. 

Hill: No, that’s real. And you teamed up with Dr. Olajide Williams, the chief of neurology at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. People would say you all came from two different worlds. But to me, that’s just a testament to how far hip-hop has come, that you even able to access those kind of important people, when they can access your type of important person to help get us healthier. 

Doug E. Fresh: Yeah. And you know, I always say, my brother, I say health is wealth, and you get wealth from your health. You know, I know so many people that are very wealthy, but at the same time, they are not capable of enjoying their life to the fullest because they have so many sicknesses going on. So, if we can use hip-hop as a positive tool in the science of health and bring them together to educate our brothers and sisters down here in underserved communities and abroad, you know, and just give them these tools that they can use about your life, I feel like that’s one of the contributions that hip-hop’s supposed to do. 

Hill: Man, one of many contributions from hip-hop and from the legend himself. Doug E. Fresh. My brother, always good to see you, king.

If you want to learn more about Hip Hop Public Health, head over to the website:

Learn more about  Doug E. Fresh from the clip above, and tune into theGrio with Marc Lamont Hill every weeknight at 7 pm ET on theGrio cable channel.

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