Many mainstream rappers deliver a message that emphasizes thuggish bravado, pimping and excessive wealth.
But Cal Poly student Brett Edwards — whose stage name is Mr. Eco — raps about environmentalism.
Edwards is promoted as an environmental rap superhero. He wears a green cape, yellow T-shirt, white headband, and an energy-saving lightbulb necklace.
Over the past couple of months, he has performed songs such as “Reusable Bag,” “Prince of Fresh Air,” and “When We Commute” at 17 schools throughout San Luis Obispo County and in the Fresno area where he grew up.
Some of his rap lines include “Do the earth a favor, get a reusable, any other (grocery) bag is inexcusable” and “I’m looking for some certified free-range eggs, no cramped coops, so they can stretch their legs.”
Edwards has made a name for himself at Cal Poly, where he has rapped at events including the Week of Welcome.
And he has produced YouTube videos featuring students and scenes on campus. In one video, Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong joins in the group’s signature dance move that imitates turning off a light.
Songs from Edwards’ “Get Green or Die Trying” album, a spin on rapper 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Trying,” include parodies of songs by famous artists such as Soulja Boy and T.I.
Now Edwards’ goal is to take his talents to schools statewide, because his target audience is kids. He hopes to someday collaborate with popular singers such as Rihanna and Justin Bieber.
Edwards has received sponsorships from PG&E and the Green Campus program to help fund his work.
“What he’s doing is so great,” said Shannon Bryan-Ruggiero, a teacher’s aide at Creston Elementary School. “His shows are about keeping it real and keeping it green. He’s fun, healthy, and enthusiastic.”
It’s the 20-year-old’s positive attitude and charm that make him engaging to kids, Bryan-Ruggiero said. Teachers also like his PowerPoint presentation, which teaches children about topics such as sustainability and composting.
Sustainability refers to the practice of using resources in a way that does not threaten future access to them.
During a recent performance at the YMCA’s afterschool program for Sinsheimer Elementary School children in San Luis Obispo, Edwards informed kids about a county ordinance set to take effect in October, when plastic grocery bags will be banned.
By the end of the performance, the children took home reusable cloth grocery bags and “ecohero” action cards, and got to see a demonstration of Edwards’ “ecomobile,” his electric bicycle.
“This is something I’m truly passionate about,” Edwards said. “I want to spark the minds of tomorrow about sustainability and make it cool.”