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This summer, Arts Corps Arts partnered with the Experience Music Project and Grammy Award winning duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to launch a two-week intensive Hip Hop Teen Residency Program focused on hip-hop and creative writing. One of the aspiring young artists participating in this program was Lashaunycee O’Cain.
Lashaunycee began writing seriously when she was nine years old. Now, at age 14, her writing encompasses storytelling, poetry and songwriting. “My music and my poetry are something I have always carried with me,” says Lashaunycee. “It’s my outlet. When you are 14 years old, everything influences you so quickly. Sometimes, you don’t even know what you are doing. My writing gives me the opportunity to take note of what I am doing, self-reflect and self-direct. It has shaped my life in many ways. It gives me a reason to continue.”
In addition to Macklemore and Eminem, Lashaunycee cites local artist Gabriel Teodros as her inspiration for writing hip hop. Teodros’ focus on socially conscious themes hits a cord with her. “When I write my songs, I like to write about what is going on in my life and what’s going on in society today: issues like teenage pregnancy and cyber bullying.”
Lashaunycee heard about the Hip Hop Residency program from her community center. At first, she questioned whether she should even apply. “I thought it would be fun, but I also thought: why would they pick me of all people?” But her love for music motivated her to take a risk and apply. “I just had to put myself out there. It was so scary. But applying for the hip hop program was something my heart told me I just had to do.”
Once accepted into the Hip Hop Residency program, Lashaunycee was at a bit intimidated at first. “All the other participants could all rap and sing really well. And, when they looked at me, they could see I was the youngest in the class.” However, that shyness quickly faded once the young artists started to work together. “Because we all share this passion for hip hop, my age really didn’t matter. We felt really comfortable with each other instantly.” Gabriel Teodros, who ran the Hip Hop Residency program, provided her further support and encouragement. “Gabriel Tierdros, that’s my guy,” says Lashaunycee. He was by my side the entire time I was in the residency program, helping me get through it.”
Having successfully completing her Hip Hop Residency program, Lashaunycee has big plans for the future and some newfound confidence to help her achieve them. “The hip hop residency program taught me you don’t have to be a certain way or have a certain look to be successful in music and love what you do. It helped me a lot with my self-confidence. One day, I hope to get a bachelor’s degree, go to New York and become a writer. My dream is to be very successful, to soar. Now I am ready.”