Rap and Rep course inspires youth to live within the law

It's often associated with crime and violence, but rap music is now being used to inspire some of the country's youngest criminals to live life within the law.

Dozens of teenagers are taking part in the Rap and Rep course at Korowai Manaaki, Oranga Tamariki's youth justice residence in south Auckland.

"There's so many things you can write about," one 17-year-old told Newshub. "You can write about alcohol, you can write about girls, write about life experiences, write about crime." 

Young people who have committed serious crimes can sign up to the programme, learning about writing, rapping and, most importantly, getting negative thoughts off their chests.

The kids devise their own tunes under the watchful eye of hip hop artist Rizvan Tu'itahi.

He's been involved in the course for a year and a half, helping boys and girls turn over a new leaf.

"They think it's cool but beneath it they're sharing some pretty deep and heavy subjects," he says. 

Oranga Tamariki team leader Ariana Toe Toe says Tu'itahi's lessons are so popular they have to turn kids away if they've already taken part.

"I think it not only opens up doors to new experiences but for them shows them something that they already possessed, but it helps them to draw it out," says Toe Toe. "Because they don't know how good they are until they give it a go."

Recording tracks and filming music videos is an activity most of these teens would never get the chance to do.

Tu'itahi says many of the kids he works with lack decent role models, a theme he says is common across the youth justice space.

"I try not to dictate the relationship and not mould them in any way. I just kind of almost like lightly guide from the side, "maybe you shouldn't do that, maybe you should do this instead."

 And the course is making a world of difference, according to those who take part.  

"Instead of being a tough fella you can just do something good and be there to like express feelings in a different way."