While it was still three days before South By Southwest Music officially kicks off, at least one high-profile musician made an early stop to Austin Saturday to plug a new technology venture. Lupe Fiasco, the Chicago-raised rap star currently climbing the Hot 100 with latest single “Battle Scars,” dropped by to talk about Higi (rhymes with “Ziggy”), a new health and wellness app where he now serves as creative director and an investor. The app, launched with backing by Wrapports founder Michael Ferro, calculates a Klout-like score (ranging from 1 to 999) that combines body vitals like blood pressure and weight and gives extra weight to wellness metrics like social interaction and community involvement.
As Lupe explained to Billboard over a lunch of fried chicken and mac & cheese at Austin’s Hyatt Place, it’s the latter part of the Higi score that can make the biggest difference. “When I first checked in I was 160 [pounds] and my score was something like 760. I checked in today, and I was 155, but even though I lost 5 pounds I wasn’t active in my social activity enough and my blood pressure was a little high... It shows you how weight and wellness aren’t the same thing. You can be super fit and super depressed because you’re not interacting with your social network. You could work out and work out, but that doesn’t really translate to how happy you are in life. You could be at home super happy, super comfortable, just logging in to your computer all day, but your body is paying for it.”
Higi has launched both as an app for iOS and a physical pharmacy kiosk in retailers like Shop Rite, Kmart and others later this year as an updated alternative to popular blood-pressure machines. One particular feature of the app that interested Lupe was a photo tagging feature that allows users to upload images of their meals or their social activity, and the app will be able to identify the relative caloric content of the activity pictured and suggest traditional as well as more light-hearted ways to work it off. “You could take a picture of this fried chicken, and if it was 60 calories you could take a couple walks around the block, or do 20 minutes of jumping jacks,” he says.
Higi is also working to embed compatibility with other fitness tracking products like the Nike Fuelband and FitBit to provide a fully integrated wellness experience for its users. “The goal is to enhance the existing services, not compete with them,” says chief marketing officer Mustafa Patni. The company also has a goal of getting Higi kiosks in up to 10,000 retail pharmacy locations over the next year or so.
Lupe’s involvement with Higi is yet another example added to the increasingly long list of musicians who’ve gained creative director titles in recent months -- Alicia Keys and Blackberry, Taylor Swift and Diet Coke, Swizz Beatz and Monster, Joey Bada$$ and Marc Ecko, Justin Timberlake and Bud Light Platinum to name but a few. “The dope part about this, other than just being creative director, is adding value to this company, because it adds value to the world," he says.
Though he’s still touring in support of current album Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1, released last August, Lupe is already hard at work on his next record, Tetsuo & Youth, due later this year as well as gearing up for a residency in Vegas on behalf of DJ project Soundclash. But Higi will take priority over his creative projects. “This is like my normal job,” he says. “I’m still doing the rapper thing, but I got a legit 9 to 5 now.”