Skip to content

Hip Hop & Education

On Monday, I came across a really fun and interactive article in the free Metro Newspaper. It was basically a fun challenge where readers had to guess if specific quotes were from rap songs or Shakespeare:

Tupac or not Tupac? Rap is the question - MetroUK article (2015).
Tupac or not Tupac? Rap is the question – MetroUK article (06/07/2015).

Needless to say, I know my William Shakespeare from my Will.I.Am (yup, i tried to throw in a little forced humor lol).

William Shakespeare - Picture By Getty Images as purchaded by the BBC
William Shakespeare – Picture By Getty Images as purchaded by the BBC

Anyhoo… Rant Alert! Reading this article just reminded me of how much I actually hated English in School. I always needed to find alternative ways to make it interesting in order for me to get decent grades. I liked literature but when it came to learning English from my teacher, I couldn’t care less (sorry Miss ******). It’s crazy because looking back at my work ethic in school in comparison to some of my peers – I worked really hard, but if I wasn’t as strong willed and probably if I didn’t have the stereotypical “Nigerian” household (to threaten, I mean train me lol), then I wouldn’t have been driven enough to get myself engaged in other forms of literature that reflected and represented me.

Teachers have the power to make or break a child’s experience in education. Whilst I know teaching is a hard job, you really need to be passionate and be able to convey your subject knowledge on different academic levels to get kids truly intrigued, interested and engaged.

So, a while back I came across a little YouTube video about Kendrick Lamar visiting  High Tech High School in North Bergen, New Jersey. Their teacher, Mr Mooney was able to link literature that the students were working on to the deeper meanings of real life issues and real life music that the student were listening to. Specifically Brian Mooney decided to use To Pimp a Butterfly with his freshman English students as they studied Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye.

Firstly, I was SOOOO JEALOUS of these students lol. But secondly, I was really impressed at how Mr Mooney was able to do this.

Making academics relevant to a young person’s immediate surroundings is something I know very few teachers can be bothered do or even get the chance to do depending on what time of  “institution” they work in.

But, here it is when it’s done well with LIVE support from the person you’ve been talking about in your lessons.

I know the story above might seems a little americentric and in between all Kendrick’s tour dates, studio session etc. I doubt I’d be able to get hold of him to come to my youth organisation or shows? BUT! There’s a wide array of people and organisations supporting schools, youth organisations, when it comes to understanding hip hip, it’s roots and of course it’s relevance to academics.

If you can’t support your own local needs and invest in yourself and surroundings – how on earth can you expect someone to come in from another place to do that for you? Start small with what you have and watch that grow beyond your wildest dreams.

That’s if you continue working at it, that is.

UK rapper Akala founded a music-theatre production company called  The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company. This organisation seems to fuse music, live performance and education together to engage young people – so if you are a UK-Based Educator and you want support to engage your young people in a creative way – contact them 🙂


Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *