Joe Latterner, a.k.a. KON Sci (Konscience) from the hip-hop band MindsOne, uses music to bring people closer to a personal reality and responsibility of oneself in the world. A recent 4.0 grad from the masters’ program in social work at UNCW, Latterner is now doing strength-based work or solution-focused therapy with young people in a classroom setting. If these youth show an interest in music, especially hip-hop, Latterner is in his element, and helps the students explore different lyrics which reflect their feelings and life experiences.
His three-semester internship with Boys and Girls Home helped prepare him for his present career. There he worked with youth 14 to 18 years of age and allowed them to express themselves through creating their own lyrics to hip-hop music.
“Joe is the true embodiment of a therapist who can take healing to the client’s level of understanding,” former supervisor Sheila Sloan says. “He did not try to overwhelm them with a therapy that would not fit their needs. At the end of the three-semester period, he took his core group of kids into a studio and helped them cut their own recording. They really responded to him and improved in their behaviors.”
Latterner began his own journey with hip-hop music in uptown D.C. His mother, a music teacher, encouraged him and he joined a band.
“I have respect for the innate therapeutic qualities of music,” Latterner says. “It is our universal language. The lyrics are a manifestation of our preferred images of ourselves. Hip-hop therapy is effective in a group, blending narrative healing with traditional music therapy. It pulls qualities from within a person, enhances those qualities and helps them to flourish.”
The founder of Hip Hop Therapy, Dr. Edgar H. Tyson has a mutual respect for Latterner’s work and invited him to present his research at the 2013 Annual Hip Hop Psychology/Therapy Conference at Forham University in New York. Tyson, an assistant professor at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, also asked Latterner to contribute to his forthcoming book to be published the winter of 2013. One of Tyson’s earlier publications, “Therapeutic Uses of Rap and Hip Hop,” lists 100 songs that speak to the issues of social criticism, negative behavior, empowerment and human values.
Latterner, like Tyson, helps youth deconstruct the anti-social messages of hip-hop and find positive ways to express themselves. Tyson says, “I may ask, ‘What does violence tap into inside of you—what emotion are you trying to express? Are there other ways to positively express it?’ To me the beauty of hip-hop therapy is that kids respond to it. They are willing to think about it and that is the goal.”
As KON Sci of MindsOne, Latterner continues to think about and evaluate his own life goals, personal, social and professional. In the band’s recording of “Self-Reliance,” ideas range from satirical insights on financial woes to calls for greater social awareness (“‘Cause if you’re not going to, who will?”). In 2008, “Transitions,” with its cutting-edge lyricism, led to a successful East Coast tour from North Carolina to New York. This year “And Beyond” takes the listener “through KON Sci’s upbringing, inspirations, and present-day existence in order to ultimately resolve in a place of hope, forward thinking and infinity (www.soulspazm.com).”