For more than a year now, the YMCA Youth Institute (YI) — a Greater Long Beach YMCA program focused on North Long Beach youth — has become a hub for young members to learn aspects of music through art and technology in a safe environment.
On July 31, Snoop Dogg, in partnership with Levi's Music Project, joined the YI for an almost six hour private event that not only included a monetary donation, but the rapper stuck around to listen to some of the music the young members created, give them industry advice and encourage them to follow their dreams.
But the entire event had to remain under wraps. Everyone involved had to sign non-disclosure agreements, and that meant keeping any new equipment, stories and photos quiet — that is until Saturday, Sept. 15, when Levi's announced the event with a video featuring the YI.
“He (Snoop Dogg) already donates so much to athletics, but there are so many kids who aren’t athletes," said Bob Cabeza, vice president of community development at the YMCA of Greater Long Beach. "With this event, he focused on the artists and musicians and it was something really inspiring for them."
Cabeza said that the rapper took time to create dialogue and encourage conversation about musical aspirations, but stressed that it wasn't all about becoming famous.
"He gave them a really good message about how important it is to be multi-talented and have backup plans," he said. "There’s a lot of business people and technical people behind each rapper and artist, and they're all equally important."
And although the appearance of Snoop Dogg has brought more awareness to the program, the YI has seen plenty of support from the beginning.
The initial setup was thanks to the North Long Beach Education Fund, a nearly $50,000 fund set up by then Vice Mayor Rex Richardson and LBUSD Board Member Megan Kerr, that kickstarted the program in Long Beach (there was already an existing YI in Garden Grove).
A $15,000 donation from Levi's Music Project and Long Beach native Vince Staples helped get things in order as well. Staples donated another $25,000 for the YI's food program that covered healthy meals for the year, according to Cabeza.
"Vince Staples just went above and beyond and we were and are grateful for his support," Cabeza said. "It's amazing how much effort Vince and Snoop Dogg make to give back to hometown."
And the rapper made it clear that he believes the program is an important addition to the community.
"We didn’t have a center like the Youth Institute when I was learning to make music," Snoop Dogg said. "I’ve always wanted to do something in Long Beach to help the kids that are cut from that same cloth as me. There’s a room full of greatness right there — Long Beach breeds greatness —that’s just what it is."
For more information, or to make a donation to the Long Beach Youth Institute, go to lbymcayi.org.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at email@example.com.