Local teen wins second place in statewide ‘Shout Down Drugs’ songwriting competition


Jermaine Bethea performs his winning rap song, “Wasting Time,” for the members of the NJ Broadcasters Association Conference, Thursday, June 13.

ATLANTIC CITY – Jermaine Bethea, 17, a junior at Egg Harbor Township High School, performed his original song, “Wasting Time,” during the 71st annual NJ Broadcasters Association Conference held at Tropicana Atlantic City Thursday, June 13.

Bethea was the second-place winner of the 15th annual Shout Down Drugs music competition for New Jersey high school students. He was one of 12 finalists to compete in the contest, which is organized for the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and sponsored by the NJ Broadcasters Association.

NJSDD encourages high school students to use their favorite medium of music to create powerful, peer-to-peer substance abuse prevention messages.

County finalists were selected by peer judges to perform their original songs at the annual Statewide Prevention Concert, held May 10 at Rutgers University. First, second and third place winners received music contracts worth $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000, respectively, to perform their winning songs at various events throughout the state during the year.

“It was great that Jermaine could share his message at such a prestigious event,” said Angelo Valente, executive director of Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey. “Each participant from this year’s event displayed not only creativity and musical talent, but also determination to make a difference in the lives of their peers through their passionate messages of substance use prevention.”

Jermaine Bethea was awarded $3,000 music contract for his rap song with an anti-drug message.

Bethea said that he wrote the song on the fly but made sure to include a unique anti-drug message.

“It only took two days to put it together,” he said. “When you write a song like that and come in like a rapper, I had to rely on more than my voice.”

Bethea said he took a “tough love” approach instead of writing a sad story about the negative affects of drug abuse.

“The bottom line is if you do drugs, you’re just wasting your time. You could be doing so much more in life than just sitting around getting high,” he said. “I think that’s what set me apart.”

Bethea said he is involved in the media program at school and produced the song using high-tech equipment and recorded it in the school’s new sound booth.

Although he has performed in school theater productions, he wasn’t sure how the professional broadcasters would react to his lyrics.

“I was worried it would be too restrictive of an environment, but when I got there, I saw it was a very diverse group of professionals,” he said. “That made me feel more comfortable.”

Bethea said he would continue studying and writing music, but he likes to make music videos so he will major in filmmaking when he gets to college. He also plans to minor in acting.

He believes hip-hop music is a good way to reach young people with the anti-drug message, he said.

“Some students turn a blind eye during assemblies and hearing adults give the same speech about what happens when you do drugs. But, when the message comes from other youths, it will be heard,” he said.

The website features individual profiles of all the 2019 NJSDD finalists. Each of their original songs, including Jermaine’s winning song, are posted on the website for all to hear.