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Hip-Hop, as with many popular


cultures, is unique in the sense
that to accurately document
the culture, requires its inter-
preters to participate in its
Favorite Female Emcee expressions. - KRS-ONE
Andrew J. Ryan, raised in the Bronx, New York, is the Executive Director of Hip-Hop Matters, a non-profit organization whose mission
is to energize, motivate, empower and support America’s youth through responsible use of Hip-Hop culture. He is also the Editor-in-
Chief of The Journal of Hip-Hop, an educational publication that embodies the elements of the Hip-Hop culture.
Ryan’s urban upbringing sparked his passion to integrate Hip-Hop and education. He has taught at the university level since 1999.
Currently he teaches at the University of the District of Columbia and George Mason University. In the Spring of 2005, Mr. Ryan
began teaching at the high school level and will spend the 2005-06 school year teaching math at a DC charter school.
Mr. Ryan holds a BS in Computer Science and MS in Systems Engineering and expects to complete his PhD in Public Policy in 2008. His
prior professional experience includes organizations such as Chase Bank, Boeing, IBM, Lockheed Martin, NASA, and the FAA.
dru.ryan@hiphopmatters.org | www.journalofhiphop.org | 202 841 4090
Hip-Hop and education
Workshop
workshop --
-- July
July 19,
19, 2005
2005
Facillitated by: Andrew J. ryan
dru.ryan@hiphopmatters.org -- 202 841 4090
In its spiritual essence, Hiphop cannot be (and should not be) interpreted or described in words. It is a feel-
ing. An awareness. A state of mind. . . . Intellectually, it is an alternative behavior that enables one to trans-
form subjects and objects in an attempt to describe and/or change the character and desires of ones’ inner
being. – KRS One
WORKSHOP GOALS
1. Define Hip-Hop as Culture
2. Discuss the Connection Between Hip-Hop LYRICAL ANALYSIS
Culture and Urban Youth
3. Discuss Strategies for Integrating Hip-Hop 1. I’m America’s worse nightmare
into Classroom Activites 2. I’m young, Black, and holdin my nuts like YEAH!
----------------------------------------------------------- 3. Wish I was in the pub, having a light beer
4. I was in the club, having a fight there
5. Y’all can go home, husband and wife there
6. My momma at work trying to buy me the right gear
7. 9 years old, uncle lost his life here
8. I grew up thinking life ain’t fair
9. How can I get a real job? China white right there?
10. Right in front of my sight like here (yeah)
11. Here’s your ticket to the ghetto take flight right here
12. Sell me you go bye, bye here, damn
13. There’s a different set of rules we abide by here
14. You need a gun, niggas might drive by here
15. Y’all having fun, racing all your hot rods there
16. Downloading all our music on your IPODs there
OUTLINE 17. I’m Chuck D, standing in the cross hairs here
9.00 - 9.15 Introduction 18. Y’all straight, chicks got horse hair here
9.15 - 9.30 Film Clip -- What is Hip-Hop?
9.30 - 9.50 Rap as Equipment for Living Jay-Z, “Young, Black & Gifted” (freestyle)
9.55 - 10.15 Using Hip-Hop in the Classroom
10.15 -10.30 All Hip-Hop is Local -- Knowing -------------------------------------------------------------------------
and Reaching Your Audience
10.30 - 10.45 Q&A
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. What are the pro’s and con’s of using Hip-Hop in the


classroom?
2. How to avoid criticism when using Hip-Hop in the class-
room?
3. Which subjects lend themselves to integrartion with Hip-
Hop?
4. Improving literacy through Hip-Hop . . . why/why not?
5. True or false? You should know Hip-Hop before teaching
it?
“Rap Music as Equipment for Living”
by Andrew J. Ryan
Journal of Hip-Hop, Vol 1

Rhetorician Kenneth Burke initially penned an essay


entitled “Literature as Equipment for Living”, he asserts
literature equips readers with strategies for dealing with
recurring situations. The spoken word, is no different
from the written word. Rap music, through its first person
narrative and word play (as Rakim said Rhythm And
Poetry) provide multiple perspectives for those who can
relate . . . oftentimes the inability to relate casts rap in a
negative light.

Hip-Hop, through its various elements, is constantly


adapting to new situations. Words are transformed to
depict familiar scenarios and circumstances native to the
culture. Burke remarks: “[Slang] was not developed out
of some exceptional gift. It was developed out of the fact
that new typical situations had arisen and people needed
names for them.” For instance, Eskimos have over 15 As the dominant youth culture, the yearn to learn
words for snow, each with varying measures to accurate- more about Hip-Hop starts early. Last year, I received
ly describe it. So it is no wonder rap music consistently an e-mail from second grade New York City Public
evolves, seeking creative and clever ways to describe School teacher Elly Cole asking if I could assist
the present and shape the future. Rap music is filled with with a class project. Asaad Plummer, now 8, chose
‘evolutionary linguistics,’ words and terms to describe the topic: “What is Hip-Hop” for his school report.
the culture. We exchanged a few e-mails and a few
weeks later, Ms. Cole mailed me a copy of his A+
In the past 30 years, Hip-Hop culture has morphed from report!
a South Bronx (or urban) experience into a global move-
ment and corporate cash crop. Comprehension of ‘literature’, whether Nathan Mc-
Call or Nas/Lisa Jones or Sistah Souljah must be
You would rather have a Lexus? or justice? a dream? or included on Hip-Hop’s agenda. Programs like the
some substance? A Beamer? a necklace? or freedom? National Urban League’s Hip-Hop Reader [www.
- Stic.man (of dead prez), “Hip-Hop” hiphopreader.com], which award students for reading
various Hip-Hop and cultural books are a start. Their
“The great allurement in our present popular, inspiration- progressive model should be widely adopted.
al literature, is the strategy for an easy consolation.”
- Kenneth Burke To many urban youth, Hip-Hop offers the only
reputable counsel for coping in their environment --
Though I doubt Burke ever listened to rap music, and Oprah, Dr. Phil and ‘Dear Abbey’ typically don’t ad-
likely never imagined his work would stretch into Hip- dress their concerns.
Hop. The prophecy is ironic. ‘90210’ rap, where a rich
lifestyle is assumed without any detail of the means is While 30 and 40-somethings critique today’s
hurting Hip-Hop. While being poor is not intrinsic to popular rap, and long for the 2005 incarnation of Pete
Hip-Hop culture, pretending you’re rich has no role Rock and CL Smooth or the next DOC, the focus
either. Without the ability to discern between the business must be shifted toward education; on HOW to value
acumen of Cam’ron, E-40, or Lil’Jon and the industry Hip-Hop and not WHAT one should listen to. Asaad
controlled handpuppet, the unsuspecting Hip-Hop con- has a head start on most of us . . . let’s make sure he’s
sumer can easily be misled. not alone.
Ideas to Incorporate
Hip-Hop in the Classroom
1. Analyze lyrics for content and use of literary and po-
etic device
2. Develop critical thinking skills by analyzing lyrics
from historical tracks (PE, Pac, Latifah, Luke [lawsuit])
3. Develop media literacy through the study of music
videos
4. Create math sheets using Hip-Hop context [budgeting
a music video or album production. Investigating the
breakdown of a rap contract.]
5. Art appreciation through the study of graffiti and pro-
1. I met this girl, when I was ten years old
test art
2. And what I loved most she had so much soul
6. Create survey and have class tabulate results.
3. She was old school, when I was just a shorty
7. Write poetry on subject of your favorite matter [haiku/
4. Never knew throughout my life she would be there
tonko/personification]
for me
8. Use rap lyrics to parallel events in class reading [excel-
5. On the regular, not a church girl she was secular
lent for history]
6. Not about the money, no studs was mic checkin
9. Have students create Hip-Hop based blog
her
10. In class debates on fence issues in Hip-Hop (based on
7. But I respected her, she hit me in the heart
pre-reading, not opinions)
8. A few New York niggaz, had did her in the park
11. Reflection writing on ‘song of the day’
9. But she was there for me, and I was there for her
12. Study policy/advocacy issue impacting them. Use
10. Pull out a chair for her, turn on the air for her
Hip-Hop lens to provide solutions
11. and just cool out, cool out and listen to her
13. Use spoken word poetry to engage studnets in critical
12. Sittin on a bone, wishin that I could do her
thinking
13. Eventually if it was meant to be, then it would be
14. Teaching geography via the home of various rap stars.
14. Because we related, physically and mentally
15. Have students create their own graffiti tags
15. And she was fun then, I’d be geeked when she’d
16. Hip-Hop Leadership Survival Game
come around
17. Create advocacy project [i.e. environment/pollution]
16. Slim was fresh yo, when she was underground
18. Explore urban politics/protest through Hip-Hop
17. Original, pure untampered and down sister
Boy I tell ya, I miss her 1. Streets too loud to ever hear freedom sing
2. Say evacuate your sleep, it’s dangerous to dream
Common, Resurrection 3. But you chain cats get they CHA-POW, who dead now
4. Killin fields need blood to graze the cash cow
5. It’s a number game, but shit don’t add up somehow
6. Like I got, sixteen to thirty-two bars to rock it
7. But only 15% of profits, ever see my pockets
8. Like sixty-nine billion in the last twenty years
9. Spent on national defense but folks still live in fear
10. Like nearly half of America’s largest cities is one-
quarter Black
11. That’s why they gave Ricky Ross all the crack
12. Sixteen ounces to a pound, twenty more to a ki
13. A five minute sentence hearing and you no longer
free
“Mathematics”, Black on Both Sides, Mos Def

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