Hip Hop and Ya Don’t Stop Part I


I said a hip hop
the hippie the hippie
to the hip hip hop, a you dont stop
the rock it to the bang bang boogie
say up jumped the boogie
to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat
– Sugarhill Gang, Rapper’s Delight

Some scholars would say that we need to infuse the arts in schools. So my argument is… Why not teach hip hop as art and as an academic discipline?

Hip hop is everywhere. It’s on TV, radio, Facebook, Twitter, news reports, and even blogs (such as this one!). What other art form encompasses music, dance, poetry, art, fashion, video, media, computer animation/graphics, marketing, and commerce. Hip hop is an international phenomenon that spans all genres, ages, color, creed, cultures, religions, nationalities, genders, incomes, and traditions. What other cultural marker has done this?… Hip hop has!

It is an organic art form that came from the youth for the youth. It became a way for youth to voice their opinions about the impoverished and discriminative conditions in which they lived. By implementing hip hop, we can make sure that a voice for youth is heard in the realm of academic scholarship. Many hip hop enthusiasts and rappers feel that the art form has always been used to educate outsiders of the community about the issues affecting their everyday lives. The youth consider themselves educators and see at least a portion of hip hop as raising the consciousness of their communities. The huge influence of rap as a voice of resistance for African American youth is nurtured by hip hop artists who accurately yet critically depict the circumstances of the hip-hop generation (Morrell, 2002). Because of this critical consciousness of the conditions of African American youth and the social critique of U.S. policies, hip hop is a suitable multicultural curriculum that is academically, socially, and culturally relevant.

For Example, we could look at the lyrics Nicki Minaj’s song, Fly, to get a better understanding of how to use hip hop in the classroom.

I came to win, to fight, to conquer, to thrive
I came to win, to survive, to prosper, to rise
To fly
To fly

Everybody wanna try to box me in
Suffocating everytime it locks me in
Paint they own pictures than they crop me in
But I will remain where the top begins

Cause I am not a word, I am not a line
I am not a girl that can every be defined
I am not fly, I am levitation
I represent an entire generation

I hear the criticism loud and clear
That is how I know that the time is near
So we become alive in a time of fear
And I aint got no muthaf-cking time to spare

Cry my eyes out for days upon days
Such a heavy burden placed upon me
But when you go hard your nay’s become yay’s
Yankee Stadium with Jay’s and Kanye’s

Some of you know Nicki Minaj’s background and understand why she wrote these lyrics. Yet, this song’s lyrics resemble other works by African American women writers such as Maya Angelou’s I Rise poem. The pieces are written in different styles, use different subjects, and time periods; yet, they both talk about overcoming cultural and personal barriers to aspire and succeed in life. So, it can be very easy and empowering to compare and contrast traditional literature genres with hip hop for learning opportunities in the classroom.

It’s not about teaching how to rap or learning African American history facts; it’s about using hip hop as a tool for teaching critical pedagogy. We can start by teaching how to conduct critical thinking from comparing and contrasting the influences of the culture of power, African American culture, and hip hop. For instance, rapping is a form of music that dates back to musical forms such as jazz where the singer would scat for vocal effects or tricks; while, instrumental breaks in 70s funk music were great for dancing. In addition, the materialism/commercialism of hip hop youth culture is a by-product of the mainstream American consumer culture. By looking at these and other examples, we can compose multicultural education where African American youth can use their critical thinking to make the connections between hip hop, African American culture, and the dominant culture of power.

Ards, A. (1999). Rhyme and Resist: Organizing the Hip-Hop Generation. The Nation. pgs. 11-21

Carter, P. (2005). Keepin it Real: School Success Beyond Black and White. Oxford University Press. New York: New York.

Cross, W.E. 1995. The Psychology of Nigrescence: Revising the Cross Model. Handbook of Multicultural Counseling. Ed. Ponterotto, J.; Casas, J.; Suzuki, L.; Alexander, C. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Delpit, L. (1995). Other people’s children : cultural conflict in the classroom. W.W. Norton. New York : New Press.

Gasman, M. & Anderson-Thompkins, S. (2003). A renaissance on the eastside: Motivating inner-city youth through art. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 8 (4), pp. 429-450.

George, Nelson. (1998). Hip Hop America. New York : Viking.

Morrell, E. (2002). Toward a critical pedagogy of popular culture: Literacy development among urban youth. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46, 72-78

Ogbu, J. (1994). Racial stratification and education in the United States: Why inequality persists.
Teachers College Record, 96, 264-298

Selman, R. (2003). The promotion of social awareness : powerful lessons from the partnership of developmental theory and classroom. New York : Russell Sage Foundation, 2003.

Waters, M. (1996). The Intersection of Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in Identity Development of Caribbean American Teens. Urban girls : resisting stereotypes, creating identities / edited by Bonnie J. Ross Leadbeater and Niobe Way. New York : New York University Press, c1996.


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