Leave it up to the awe-inspiring creativity of Black people to come up with a groove to promote masking wearing to stop the spread of COVID-19. Building upon the momentum and public engagement generated by 20 Seconds or More and 20 Segundos o Más, the high-impact music video PSAs that have become global anthems and rallying cries around the importance of handwashing in the fight against COVID-19 since launching in April and July, respectively, Hip Hop Public Health (HHPH) today released Behind the Mask. Behind the Mask is an original new song and music video designed to increase the use of face masks as an effective means of stopping the spread of the coronavirus around the world. It is the third installment in a trilogy of COVID-related music video PSAs produced by Hip Hop Public Health, the New York-based, nonprofit organization founded in 2006 to build health equity through the transformative power of music, art and science. With the number of coronavirus cases continuing to rise around the country while disproportionately affecting communities of color, the goal of Behind the Mask is to proactively address the issue by driving the conversation and debate around COVID-19 safety protocols into action with culturally relevant and compassionate messaging.
Behind the Mask was written by multi-platinum composer Quennel Worthy, and features Grammy®-nominated vocalist Raheem DeVaughn, backed by Grammy®-winning rapper Darryl DMC McDaniels from Run-DMC and the iconic rapper and HHPH Co-Founder, Doug E. Fresh. With medical oversight by Dr. Olajide Williams, Co-Founder of Hip Hop Public Health and Chief of Staff, Department of Neurology, New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Behind the Mask utilizes HHPH’s evidence-based behavior change Multisensory Multilevel Health Education Model . The video focuses on proper mask-wearing techniques while incorporating culturally tailored, personalized themes that drive a strong emotional connection to the message, which in turn has been shown to facilitate behavior change.
“There is unequivocal supporting evidence that masks reduce the spread of COVID-19, and this is related to the scientific consensus that the infection can occur from inhaling droplets containing the virus,” says Dr. Olajide Williams. “Masks act as a barrier to these infected droplets of saliva that are expelled when we sneeze, cough, or even breathe heavily. They protect those around us from being infected by us, and this is especially important because of the people in our communities walking among us who do not exhibit symptoms (asymptomatic people). The more people that wear masks, the more we are able to reduce the spread of COVID-19 – and to demonstrate this point, one study from the University of Washington showed that if 95% of the public wear masks, we would avoid approximately 34,000 more deaths by October 1, 2020.”
Hip Hop Public Health created Behind the Mask as the cornerstone of a major public health education initiative that began in April at the height of the pandemic in New York with 20 Seconds or More, followed by the Latino community-facing 20 Segundos o Más campaign in early July. Together, these campaigns have reached over three million people around the world through the viewing and sharing of the videos, significant social media traction and international media coverage.
A running theme encapsulated in the Behind the Mask song is love: how our actions or inactions can dangerously impact those we love, and how, from behind the mask, we are promoting community and neighborhood health, while protecting and saving the lives of our loved ones and those with whom we come into contact daily. The music video PSA features guest appearances by well-known and everyday New Yorkers – artists, public health experts, religious and civic leaders, athletes, media personalities, entertainers and families, all wearing masks or demonstrating proper donning, doffing, and storing for re-use techniques. Among the participants are: rappers Niko Brim and Rob Base; New York Jets linebacker, James Burgess; Broadway legend Irene Gandy; Chief Jeffrey B. Maddrey, NYPD Chief of Community Affairs; Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, NYPD First Deputy Commissioner; DJ Dee Wiz, touring DJ and Producer; author and poet Jacqueline Woodson; music executive Sal Abbatiello; award-winning broadcaster Cheryl Wills; Rick Patel, Deputy Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York; radio personality Sasha the Diva; and, virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen (full list of participants).
“Behind the Mask is a love letter and an ode from the people of New York to everyone around the world,” says Lori Rose Benson, Executive Director and CEO of Hip Hop Public Health. “The song’s lyrics literally bring people together with a message of love, unity and hope. Our work is far from over, and we see Behind the Mask as a natural way for Hip Hop Public Health and our supporters to advance our mission of propelling the dialogue and action around COVID-19 forward with kindness and humanity at the heart of our message and towards our goal of stopping the spread.”
Says Doug E. Fresh, “Behind the Mask is a classic R&B-inspired track infused with the forthrightness of hip hop to deliver a vital, lifesaving message. Continuing on this journey with my friend Darryl DMC McDaniels as we join forces with ‘The Love King’ himself, Raheem DeVaughn, will hopefully move people and inspire them to wear a mask to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
Raheem DeVaughn adds, “It was an honor to collaborate with Hip Hop Public Health, Doug E. Fresh and Darryl DMC McDaniels on this project. Everyone has, in some way, been impacted by COVID-19 and we all need to listen and adhere to the message of Behind the Mask as a symbol of love, a symbol of trust and a way forward to a better future.”
As a long-time supporter and Advisory Board member of Hip Hop Public Health, Darryl DMC McDaniels comments, “I know first-hand how music, and naturally, hip hop can impact people in a positive manner. Behind the Mask is a powerful example of this and I am convinced that it will make a difference.”
The Behind the Mask video was produced by IDEKO, a New York-based experiential production agency. To learn more, please visit www.hhph.org and follow HHPH on social at @hhphorg #BehindTheMask.