HIP-HOP’s FUTURE #HIPHOPMUSICED

  

#hiphopmusiced today is dedicated to learning more about the future of hip-hop. In the featured picture, you will see the tremendous variety of great emcees (musicians/lyricist) in whose hands lay the future of the culture. As a music educator, I am always looking to be able to recognize the contemporary in art. I endeavor to know the most I can about the current trends and artist of the culture. These are but a few of the great new update hip-hop artist shaping the direction of, and voicing the issues of the American experience. #kendricklamar #dejloaf #bigkrit #joeybadass #actionbronson #frankocean #jcole #hiphopfuture #hiphop 
   
    
    
   

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How Do Music Teachers Use Hip-Hop Music in Their Classrooms?

I have been reviewing the literature on hip-hop pedagogy and its uses in the music classroom, and many of them see the use of hip-hop music and culture primarily as a means to foster intertextual and subjectivities within the domain of literacy, the written word. However, there are a few scholars that have written about the potential for the music’s use within music education. These music education scholars are Greg Dimitriadis and Adam Kruse. There a plethora of scholars (Akom, Morrell, Duncan-Andrade, Emdin, Soderman, Folkestead, etc) from a variety of educational areas that have written about hip-hop’s pedagogical uses in the classroom, but the focus of these articles are main centered on the cultural relevance and understandings that are created when teachers and students interact with hip-hop. I am interested in finding what is happening in the music classrooms all-around America in regard to the uses of hip-hop music and culture. Why is there a huge gap in the literature in regard to the uses of hip-hop in the music classroom, and what does this mean for its future uses?

I started to dig further and found that my initial response was one of disdain toward to the academy for not valuing the music that I so loved. I later started to wonder why there really wasn’t any data reflecting a serious study of the music’s effects on music education. Where was the empirical data? Where were the studies demonizing or reaffirming the power of the music within the walls of k-12 or post secondary school? I search and I searched and found that the researchers writings mainly reflect the experiences and interests that they have. I know anecdotally that there are teachers all across American that use hip-hop music culture in their classrooms, but no one has really taken the time to report it. Most practitioners are busy doing, and most researchers are busy experiencing and chronicling the outcomes. There are areas that are not communicated by either group. Hip-hop is one of those areas. Sam Seidel wrote a powerful book called “Hip-Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education” which recounts the story of a successful arts program in Minnesota that uses the study of the culture as a means to educate youth. So, I know that if there is one model for the infusion of hip-hop into music education there must be at least one more. As the demographic of the teaching forces changes over the next 20 years, we must be prepared to change the types of ensemble formats that pre-service teachers have access to while in college. The average 18-25 year old student is part of the post-hip-hop generation, and even if there are not huge fans of the music or culture, they have never none a time when the music did not exist. I often relate to those who know me well, that I didn’t know any Beatles music until I was in the early thirties, because the experiences and music I had at school and home were heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder, Andre Crouch and many jazz legends. So, what would my conception of relatable music and musical experiences have been if there was band or ensemble at school that was part of my enculturation as a educator? I can also recount my visit to Dillard School of the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, FL. They have recording arts program headed by one Israel Charles has developed a great program around the use of music technology to do project based learning. There have been several successful hip-hop artist that have come out of the program, as well as musicians and lovers of music that have graduated from that program, myself included.

So, how do music educators use hip-hop in their classrooms? According to Kruse (2014) and Dimitriadis (2009) there are currently three forms of Hip-hop pedagogies that have been identified by scholars 1) hip-hop as a bridge 2) hip-hop as a lens and 3) hip-hop as a practice. Each of these can be used in the musicking classroom (Chris Small). I recently shared a google survey with music educators of all levels, via social media. Link provided here —–> https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Ku6DGBwBl3VLKg6LSENP3iiuE_OVbjCVbkJcTmv17yk/viewform?usp=send_form  Please feel free to fill this out, if you are a teacher, past or present, and have or are interested in using hip-hop music/culture and its pedagogies in your classrooms. When I am finished collecting data in the upcoming days, I will share the results of what teachers are or are not doing with hip-hop.

 

P.S. I have been using the term “cultural appropriation” as of late and will start using another term to express my wishes for the use of hip-hop music in education. I have recently seen the term “musical exchange” and think this is

Teacher Orientation to Popular Music #HipHopMusicEd

#HipHopMusicEd

Music educators your lack of experience w/ and/or interest in popular American music limits not only your experience, but that of your students in the musicking classroom.

As I get older I am starting to understand that the only limits that exist in my classroom are those that I and my students create. I am currently researching the preferences and dispositions of preservice teachers and the education programs they are involved in. It’s important that we all understand that teacher orientation is typically dictated by teacher pedagogy and methods courses they are engaged during study. This is sets the foundation for what many teachers (professionals) will use as their teaching premise for the rest of their careers. The more limited, or shallow, these types of musical experiences that student-teachers have, the more likely they are to replicate them in their future teaching. This is evident in the limited selection of performance formats found throughout American music classrooms.

Teaching programs should in theory, be a place where student-teachers muddle through diverse experiences that are suppose (purposed) to help bring the unknown into the space of the known (Dewey). We have to stop replicating what we think is unequivocal permanent fact, and start trying to meet our students where they are and engage in relevant learning activities. Critical Hip-Hop Pedagogies are a wonderful set of approaches to bringing in relevance into the music classroom. Let’s help children find relevance in our classrooms by we ourselves, as teachers, tackling difficult topics with hip-hop pedagogies (practice, lens, bridge). Most teachers only replicate the experiences they have had in their learning experiences and rarely move outside of this paradigm. So, how do we repair this rigid range (limited) of experiences?

Let’s take the clarion call of such educators, ethnomusicologists and scholars like Adam Kruse, Barbara Lindquist, Randall Allsup, Lucy Green, and many others that ask us to question the familiar, and engage in a search of the practices of popular music and musicians. There is so much rich, diverse and important topics that can be uncovered in working with popular music. The first step is that teachers con not simply stay in the lane of practitioners, but have to also move into the lane of researcher. Practicing these popular forms of music can have deep benefits, and can help us gain so much through critical reflection. Students are worried about you being cool because you are authentic, they are in your class to learn and grow. They relate to you because of the level of honesty and how you share the ways in which you came to understand the topic. Reading a chapter and simply sharing this isn’t enough. Popular music forms have to be taught in various formats in undergraduate programs in order for change to happen. Let’s start now, to honor the great music of America. Let’s celebrate the J-Dilla’s, Stevie Wonder’s, Stephen Foster’s, Irving Berlin’s, Kanye West’s, Eminem’s, Katie Perry’s, James Brown’s, Johnny Cash’s, Wille Nelson’s, Louis Jordan’s, Miles Davis’, Wynton Marsalis’, Pete Seegers, and Kendrick Lamar’s of the music world. If we start with our teachers we can open up spaces of inquiry in our music classrooms that have never really existed before. Let’s tackle these forms, genres and topics.

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“The Application of Matisse’s Cut-Outs to Music Education” #HipHopMusicEd

#HipHopMusicEd

“The Application of Matisse’s Cut-Outs to Music Education”

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”  -Theodore Roosevelt

Music teachers often cringe at the idea of applying hip-hop music, or pedagogy to their classroom instruction and/or curriculum. I have been thinking long and hard about how do we approach “relevance” and “critical reflection” within the domain of the music classroom. Its a battle of tackling the topic, and really investigating the music, culture and group from which it all sprang from. Authenticity is a dangerous word that people use to give perfection power. If its not authentic then why do it, is often spewed from unaware mouths. The concept of “Authenticity” gives power and privilege to those that are in a position to judge the validity of the performance or product. I always suggest that educators focus more on digesting the actual music and investigating the places in which it inhabits. What are the concepts that are within the music, rather than what we can reduce it to and say embodies it. Lets continue to take the ethnomusicological approach to teaching music that Barbara Lundquist (ethnomusicologist) suggests. A lot of knowledge can come from challenging yourself, as an educator, as well as the students we work with. Teachers learn twice.

Speaking of teachers, I recently took a visit to the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) where I saw the Henri Matisse’s “Cut-Outs”, “Cut & Swipe” and Elaine Sturtevant’s “Double Trouble”. I really felt like I was in the midst of a showing of the hip-hop aesthetic at the MoMA, but I soon realized that what I was witnessing was the aesthetic of “DIY” and “Appropriation”. I started at the top (6th floor) and walked down stopping at the various artistic wonders housed in the MoMA. This aesthetic, that Henri Matisse shared in his work, was about simplicity and simply “doing it.”

We as artist, and educators often complicate what art is, and how it should be done. We often make art about mastery, when it is actually about communicating, expressing (emoting), sharing (community) and most importantly honesty. Matisse, was in decline (physical health) when he started to explore with cutting paper, using glue and color paper to fashion the delicious ideas inhabiting his mind’s eye, and spewing forth from his imagination. Why do we think that music and art needs to be mastered before we can allow students to birth wonderful works of art? Did Matisse, who was in the end of his physical prowess need to balance a brush in his feeble hands to create great works of art, and if he could not do that anymore was he no longer a artist, or master? Does it matter?

What I found wonderful about Matisse and the other wonderful pieces of art in the various exhibits in the MoMA is that each reach out to you in a variety of ways and speak their own truths. Hip-Hop does the very same thing. Hip-hop tells its truth(S) simply with its paper, glue and scissors. Cut and paste are the tools of the music, and critically reorganizing  pre-made material are the primary function of the hip-hop culture. Like Matisse, disenfranchised urban youth have been remixing the elements of their existence into new diversity ways since the beginning of society. The unprivileged are typically more interested in reformatting and re-organizing their lives to reflect a better tomorrow in anyway possible.  They too, like Matisse, take the same shapes and move them around until they feel right.

Elaine Sturtevant’s posthumous exhibit “Double Trouble” calls for examination of the process and the reasons why these artist produced the art they did, when they did. Hip-hop music is an amazing medium that music teachers, educators and teaching artist need to challenge themselves with digesting. Hip-hop has captured the public’s imagination for the last three decades. I am apart of the hip-hop generation and the children I work with regularly, are members of the post-hip-hop. They have been surrounded and bathed by the beats and flows of hip-hop all their lives. I liken it to seeing the pop art of Andy Warhol and Keith Haring all of my life, but never studying it formally in school. However, I do remember studying the art and history of Europe more than I ever dissected the American experience in class.  Hip-hop, like many American folk arts, begs for the examination of the society in which is resides.  It asks the participants to critically think about the messages found in the prose, and the motifs found within the ostinatos. Music educators should take a critical look at their own practices and reasons from implementing them in their classrooms. Why do you use the music you are using to teach students? Why are you uncomfortable with hip-hop music? These an many more questions should be coursing their your mind, hopefully, as you read this and other blogs about hip-hop in education (music).

As I moved from one section of the MoMA to the next I saw a Jean-Michel Basquiat piece, a Van Gogh, a Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and a variety of other artist from modernity that figured out the template concept. “Cut and Swipe” is a great example of appropriation and the profundity that can be found within it. Often, people are dismissive of the “Copy & Paste” aesthetic that is found in hip-hop music and culture. The simplicity is often where the complexity is disguised to seem easy, and that is actually the genius. Take a moment and use a MPC, Apex, turntable or other digital device to capture, edit, and perform music…without formal training. Its really hard, and takes an intuitive understanding of musical form and content. I implore all music teachers to treat hip-hop music like all other forms and hold it critically to the light and be objective about the impact it can have in your classroom. I want to clarify what critical means. I don’t mean be a critic without having knowledge in or about the topic, but I mean you should investigate and analyze the form before dismissing it. It has a utility and the ability to be a bridge, a lens or a practice from which teacher and student can connect. It is a space of inquiry that is contemporary in nature, that’s a good thing!

So, suggestion… take the idea of Template, Cut & Paste and apply them to your research in music, as well as research artist like J-Dilla, Matisse, Van Gogh, Warhol, Kanye West, and Romare Bearden with your students.

I recently read a student’s blog that discussed the Matisse Cut-Outs at the MoMA, and she used the idea of using appropriation to explore new territories, new mediums. This is exactly what I’m suggesting music educators to use popular arts forms in their classrooms for. Start where the student is, and the world they live in to help foster their exploration of the many lives worlds and shared realities hat exist. Hip-hop music is only one of many paths to enlightenment, that both teacher and student can sojourn together on.

#HipHopMusicEd

As a teacher you’re always learning twice. As a music teacher pick music that allows for you to learn as well as your students. Take the Barbara Lindquist approach to ethnomusicological teaching of music. We teach the post hip-hop generation, why not think forward to tomorrow by using the music of today instead of the music of yesterday i.e. European Classical. Granted, study of that music has its merit and positive outcomes, BUT why that music, in this country, at this time? It’s 2015 and we still haven’t got the collective nerve to sit and analyze our, American, own music.. (Insert sad face). That’s why teachers learn twice, when they have to tackle the universal design of their lessons to help their entire class population, and the second time when they are overcoming their own bias in respect to the music. music teachers, take a stand and devote a couple of lessons to analyzing hip-hop music in your classroom, regardless of what type of class. Be brave and open up the canon. Do not worry about how authentic it is, do the research in respect to the beat producers and deejays. Don’t try to synthesize black culture (stereotypes) in your approach, even though it’s an important part. Just observe, pay respect to the ethos and the people that created it (urban minorities in the 1970’s). Replicate and analyze the music while making comments on topics/themes, musical elements, and truly studying what you and your students are working together on. Ask questions like; what do you see, what you hear, what does it mean to you. There is so much potential in the use and study of this music. The goal shouldn’t be to just make it an end, but rather to allow it to be a means as well.

#HipHopMusicEd #musiced #hiphopmusic #teacherasadvocate #socialjustice #hiphop

The Utility of Hip-Hop Music in Music Education #HipHopMusicEd


 

HipHopMusicEd

HipHopMusicEd

The Utility of Hip-Hop Music in Music Education #HipHopMusicEd


 

I really love hip-hop music, …no I REALLY love hip-hop music! I have loved it, the good and the bad, ever since I was about 11 years old and my mother bought me some Addidas high-tops like Run DMC, and took me to see “Tougher Than Leather”, a movie produce by Russell Simmons and that featured Run DMC (coincidentally, it was a great album as well.) So, I’ve been in love with hip-hop music for almost three decades. As a member of the hip-hop generation I am both a critic and advocate for the power of the music, and by proxy the culture. I’ve seen hip-hop grow into a multi-billion dollar industry that started off as a mechanism for expression and agency, out of the urban experience. I fell in love with music even earlier than I feel in love with hip-hop. I can remember going to the record store, yes the Record store, to pick up new music. See, my mother was and still is a lover of good music. So, I grew up listening to Stevie Wonders “Innervision”, all of Natalie Cole, the Ohio Player’s “Honey”and “Fire”, as well as all of EWF (Earth, Wind & Fire). I watched Casey Kasem “America’s Top 10” every Saturday when I would visit my grandmother’s sister Luella. I was and still am the Hip-Hop generation. My favorite hip-hop song of all time is “Stakes is High” by De La Soul, track produced by the dynamic genius of J-Dilla. I used to play in a hip-hop band in Chicago called H2O Soul, and we often opened up for the legendary hip-hop band,  the Roots, Mos Def, and Common in Chicago, IL and Milwaukee, WI. I still make my own mixtapes (CD)of the hottest rappers out so that I can hear them in my car on either my iphone or my cd player. I am Hip-hop.

I have also been part of the conservatory method that was a huge part of the model used to design the American system of music education. I am a professional trumpet player (jazz) and I have two degrees in music performance, one a M.M. in jazz studies from Northern Illinois University (Go Huskies). But, the majority of my musical development and understanding, over the last twenty years, of what I feel real music, honest music, should be like comes from my time investigating hip-hop music on my own. Its these critical experiences in hip-hop, I believe, along with critical reflection that can and will help save American Music Education. I know that’s a bold statement, but there has to be something said about a musical genre that is global in nature. There are hip-hop cultures all over the world. Hip-hop exploded on the scene like a nuclear bomb, leaving radiation everywhere…affecting everything around the blast zone, whether it be lasting or temporary. The debates that have sprung from the addition of the music into the popular domain of culture is immense. The critical writing on the subject, in the “con” side, is a large number. However, there are a few examples of researchers calling for more investigation into hip-hop pedagogy. This groups use the music and culture as a device rather than a music making opportunity. These experiences in music that we are talking about would be called “Musicking” by the late ethnomusicologist, Chris Small. Daily we all are bathed is sound, and music in its essence, is sound. Why must we be masters in order to craft something? That’s a horrible thought, to believe that in order to take part in something you can only do so if you are the master of it. You can never contribute, or feel value until you have truly mastered it, correct? I disagree with this sentiment and believe hip-hop music’s development has helped music endure in the America of the 21st century. It helped the music industry sustain over the last two decades. It has revitalized the way we share music and how often we can do it. Hip-hop was child along with the internet, synthesizers and cable, and the little brother to Funk, Punk and Disco. Hip-hop was raised on a diet of Reganomics, budgetary cuts in Arts Education, the Crack Explosion, and the AIDS epidemic of the  early 1980’s. What a dynamic time in the world, and more specifically the United States of America.

So, I believe this dynamism that Hip-hop, the music of  the Urban America experience, encountered during that time makes it a suitable and relevant bridge, lens and practice – framework, in which to work in. Music education is behind the eight ball and needs to look deeply in itself to find the big why(s)? Why do we teach? Why do we need to teach that? Why isn’t Hip-Hop music part of the canon? Why are we afraid to use hip-hop as more than a tool? Why aren’t we treating it as a subject – space of inquiry? These questions can be very difficult to answer, for some. Hip-Hop is relevant for the millions of people that are part of the post-hip hop generation. Hip-hop, for them, has always been a part of their lives and they can’t remember a time when there wasn’t hip-hop music or culture seen all around them. They can’t think of a time before rap, or when there wasn’t graffiti somewhere, or when deejays didn’t mix records without the use of a crossfader? Hip-hop is S.T.E.A.M.. If you really want to be real about it. Its the place where technology, society (culture), and music collide (imbricate) creating a beautiful consequence. If you want to relate to this generation of people, as a music educator, you will have to overcome your fear of messing it up (experience) or not doing it authentically (realness), and truly investigate the music (black urban culture). Music education programs will have to accept change and include new things into their pedagogies on pedagogy(instruction). I advocate for change, not massive and devastating change, but dynamic change nonetheless.

The use of hip-hop music in American music education is useful, practical and relevant. The utility of hip-hop music in music education is tremendous. Its both an “end” and a “mean” and that spells out a win win for all educators. Hip-hop has an aesthetic deeply grounded in ethnographic dislocating, de-centering and disrupting what we value and what our values are. The music can be analyze by theoretician, historian and educational teachers in three different perspectives; “Hip-hop as Bridge”, “Hip-hop as Lens” and “Hip-hop as Practice” (Kruse, 2014). These delicate yet flexible frameworks, through which we can use and engage with the space of inquiry that hip-hop creates, are important to recognize prior to delineating our curriculum. In order to create lasting change we must first get teachers, students, administrators and the public at large to understand that music is sound, and hip-hop in its purest form is sound appropriation. Its similar to the renown work of appropriation artist Elaine Sturtevant (Check out the MoMA – Double Trouble) did in the late nineteen-seventies from works centered on Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollack. Hip-hop helps people combat and face their biggest prejudices by allowing an open debate between lyricist, deejays, graffiti artist, breakdancers and the audience to be had, about topics including but not limited to; freedom, identity, democracy, police brutality, violence in urban areas, racism, sexism, peace, victory and a wide array of other themes. Its a great introduction for music students interested in composition to learn about building motifs and motives. Its a perfect way to teach patience and what a groove is (Ostinato). It allows the teacher to deal with timbre and sonority, two of the most difficult topics in music education. Teachers can use the music to explore ethnomusicological approach to getting their students to learn more about the culture of America, history of our country and the various factors that contribute to our place in the world. Hip-hop helps people (that participate with it) to write their own worlds (story) in a more accessible ways than most other musical genres. Its accessible, and teachers need to know that the only thing between hip-hop music and them, is really only them and their preconceived notions about the culture and music(BAM). I prefer that the academy take a look at the programs all around the country that would benefit from culturally relevant music education, and simply attempt to expand the canon. Include a couple of famous hip-hop tunes as evidence of a willingness to engage with others about our path. Sometimes we as teachers (educators) forget that we are not in a fight with society or culture(people), but rather we are in a war with the thoughts and ideas that pollute our minds and those of the masses.

As I spoke earlier about “de-centering” “dislocating” and “disrupting” our thinking or ideological sediment, hip-hop music is great at doing that. Democracy demands controversy (Hess 2009). So, what other music has caused as much controversy as hip-hop? Lets use this space of inquiry as an opportunity to get teacher and student using discussion as a way of learning. To share is at the heart of the arts, and the vehicle of the aesthetic. Democracy is but a frame about which we demand to contribute our voices, but their must still be a system put in place to make sure everyone is heard. I am not suggesting that we simply change all of the literature and repertoire lists that exist in American Music Education, but that we simply expand it in order to make needed room for all American music genres. They all deserve to be valued as product, artifact, space of inquiry, movement, culture, etc. As American changes, demographically, so should the things that we value. We should start seeing more elements of the minority view present in the privileged position, because the Eurocentric values of our forefathers are antiquated and have never really represented the entirety of the American populous.

 

So, what I will be doing over the next couple of years, is build a case for a space for hip-hop music in music education. I hope you will join me, because will be writing about curriculum, instruction and uses of hip-hop pedagogy in the domain of the music classroom. I hope you will engage with me in this journey and feel free to comment and ask questions. I will post the link to my blog on #twitter #instagram and #facebook using the hashtag #hiphopmusiced

 

Sincerely,

Jarritt A Sheel

#hiphopmusiced #hiphopmusiceducation #hiphoped #hiphoppedagogy #hiphop #Music #MusicEducation

 

 


 

#HipHopMusicEd

Happy New Year!

2015 will be one for the history books. As we transversed the line of demarcation between 2014 and 2015, we are in for many historical changes in America. Whether it is health care, free college, the testing craze, racial violence, gay marriage rights or the legalization of marijuana 2015 will be a time of great change. This will happen regardless of our readiness or will to accept these changes. I am excited to learn, participate, and observe the radical evolution of the average American. I thought long and hard about my positionality within this historical moment and will continue to document, participate and help craft the change in my immediate community. I want to contribute to the difficult conversations we need to have. That is why I have decided to proctor conversations via social media every Wednesday about Hip-Hop Music’s inclusion into the canon, curriculum and instruction (pedagogy) of the American music classroom. I will provide a space of inquiry on social media through the use of the hashtag #hiphopmusiced.

This, I hope, will be a starting point for many to hear my ideas, thoughts and approaches for incorporating hip-hop culture into their classrooms as well as to share their own experiences. Hip-Hop, and many other American musical genres, has been part of giving voice and facilitating agency within the various urban and disenfranchised communities of America, and worldwide over the last three decades. I, as a member of the Hip-Hop generation see the value in this music. I saw it flourish and evolve, and now I see how it is seamlessly engrained into the lives of the post-hip-hop generation I currently teach. So, that is the starting point and I would like to implore all music educators to explore and incorporate more elements of the hip-hop culture into your teaching. Hip-hop is more than music, culture or a pedagogical approach(es).

Hip-hop is not just an end, its also a means. I look forward to the many conversation we will have in the coming months about aesthetic experiences through hip-hop music within the arts classroom. Come join me on social media (twitter, facebook & instagram) as well as here on my blog every Wednesday. We will use the hashtag #hiphopmusiced to allow others to follow along and share their trepidation and triumphs in tackling difficult subjects with their students, within familiar spaces of inquiry (hip-hop). I’m inspired, and I hope you are too!

My handles on Social Media

Facebook: @ Jarritt Sheel or https://www.facebook.com/JSheelMusic

Twitter: @jsheelmusic

Instagram: @jsheel

What is Hip Hop Pedagogy? 

 

As a current graduate student in the Music & Music Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University I have decided to write frequently and persuasively about Hip Hop Pedagogy in the domain of music education. My name is Jarritt A Sheel and I am currently a Ed.D. student in the Music & Music Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. I am an avid fan of hip-hop music and hip-hop culture, a professional musician (trumpet), I lead a jazz big band, and I have been a music educator for the past 15 years. I am throughly enamored by all art forms, but specifically the medium sound we call Music.

As a child I was pretty lucky to grow up during the period leading up and encompassing what many consider the “Golden Age of Hip -Hop”, the period of the late 1980’s until the mid-1990’s. My mother was born in the 1950’s, which meant she was a member of the baby-boomer generation, post WWII. She grew up listening to all sorts of Rock, Blues, Funk, Soul, etc. You name it, it was on the radio and she probably had a copy of that record in her collection. She introduced me to the world of music and more importantly fostered my curiosity about the then expanding field of hip-hop music. She bought me a RUN DMC record and took me to see, although we both didn’t know what it was about, “Tougher Than Leather”. After bout 30 minutes of this early hip-hop movie featuring RUN DMC, The Beastie Boyz and many other Def Jam label artist, we exited stage left… because I was merely 12 years old. However, she sparked within me the love for controversial art and more importantly that of Hip-Hop.

Hip Hop is an original art culture that rose out of the metropolis of New York City, specifically the Bronx, in the 1970’s. It is an American folk music that has traditions, like all American Folk, in telling the story of the people. A matter of fact I would go as far as saying that Hip Hop is the greatest of all American Folk musics. It is wonderful, sublime, hideous, grotesque, lustful, beautiful, ugly, mournful, celebratory, liberating, and oppressive all at the same time. The time period out of which hip-hop grew, the 1970’s, was a particularly frustrating time in America for the middle and lower socio-economic groups in the area of finance and social mobility. Introduce the 1973 oil crisis, Urban Decay, and the financial meltdown of one of the biggest cities in the nation (looming financial default of New York City late 1970’s) and you have a potent cocktail for failure amongst those living near, on or below the poverty line. 

The 1970’s was all ready an interesting time of contraction and expansion. The nation was expanding its identity while those involved in social-economic engineering, outside of academia, were looking at the contraction of the wealthy through the monopolization of the free market. A great example of that would be the movie “Trading Places” starring young Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackryod. Which loosely discusses, through comedic foils, the intentional and systematic engineering of the socio-economic structure in America. The Bronx was burning and the music, like art always does, told the story. These are the lyrics of the early hip-hop group Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five hit “The Message”

 

[Intro x2]

It’s like a jungle sometimes

It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under

 

[Verse 1]

Broken glass everywhere

People pissin’ on the stairs, you know they just don’t care

I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise

Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice

Rats in the front room, roaches in the back

Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat

I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far

Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

 

[Hook]

Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge

I’m trying not to lose my head

It’s like a jungle sometimes

It makes me wonder how I keep from going under

 

[Verse 2]

Standin’ on the front stoop hangin’ out the window

Watchin’ all the cars go by, roarin’ as the breezes blow

Crazy lady, livin’ in a bag

Eatin’ outta garbage pails, used to be a fag hag

Said she’ll dance the tango, skip the light fandango

A Zircon princess seemed to lost her senses

Down at the peep show watchin’ all the creeps

So she can tell her stories to the girls back home

She went to the city and got so so seditty

She had to get a pimp, she couldn’t make it on her own

 

[Hook]

 

[Verse 3]

My brother’s doin’ bad, stole my mother’s TV

Says she watches too much, it’s just not healthy

All My Children in the daytime, Dallas at night

Can’t even see the game or the Sugar Ray fight

The bill collectors, they ring my phone

And scare my wife when I’m not home

Got a bum education, double-digit inflation

Can’t take the train to the job, there’s a strike at the station

Neon King Kong standin’ on my back

Can’t stop to turn around, broke my sacroiliac

A mid-range migraine, cancered membrane

Sometimes I think I’m goin’ insane

I swear I might hijack a plane!

 

[Hook]

 

[Verse 4]

My son said, Daddy, I don’t wanna go to school

Cause the teacher’s a jerk, he must think I’m a fool

And all the kids smoke reefer, I think it’d be cheaper

If I just got a job, learned to be a street sweeper

Or dance to the beat, shuffle my feet

Wear a shirt and tie and run with the creeps

Cause it’s all about money, ain’t a damn thing funny

You got to have a con in this land of milk and honey

They pushed that girl in front of the train

Took her to the doctor, sewed her arm on again

Stabbed that man right in his heart

Gave him a transplant for a brand new start

I can’t walk through the park cause it’s crazy after dark

Keep my hand on my gun cause they got me on the run

I feel like a outlaw, broke my last glass jaw

Hear them say “You want some more?”

Livin’ on a see-saw

 

[Hook]

 

[Verse 5]

A child is born with no state of mind

Blind to the ways of mankind

God is smilin’ on you but he’s frownin’ too

Because only God knows what you’ll go through

You’ll grow in the ghetto livin’ second-rate

And your eyes will sing a song called deep hate

The places you play and where you stay

Looks like one great big alleyway

You’ll admire all the number-book takers

Thugs, pimps and pushers and the big money-makers

Drivin’ big cars, spendin’ twenties and tens

And you’ll wanna grow up to be just like them, huh

Smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers

Pickpocket peddlers, even panhandlers

You say “I’m cool, huh, I’m no fool”

But then you wind up droppin’ outta high school

Now you’re unemployed, all null and void

Walkin’ round like you’re Pretty Boy Floyd

Turned stick-up kid, but look what you done did

Got sent up for a eight-year bid

Now your manhood is took and you’re a Maytag

Spend the next two years as a undercover fag

Bein’ used and abused to serve like hell

Til one day, you was found hung dead in the cell

It was plain to see that your life was lost

You was cold and your body swung back and forth

But now your eyes sing the sad, sad song

Of how you lived so fast and died so young so

[Hook]

 

This great work of Hip Hop Culture was a signal of the disparity that existed amongst the haves and have-nots here in NYC. It is still apparent where the disparity existed over 40 years ago. Those lines of stratification (scars) can still be seen on the geography – travel ways of NYC (bus, train, road, subway). It can be seen in the topography of the Bronx. It can be most distinctly heard on the music of the era and the area. I was forever changed by hip-hop music and the culture coming out of NYC in the 1980’s through the 1990’s as a young person. It continued in my adult life through the far-reaching effects of the dissemination of hip-hop culture in my community through people like Uncle Luke, 2 Live Crew, jam Pony Express, Dj Uncle Al, and the list goes on. But one thing remain, the fact that it was a folk music, and illegal to be played on most radio stations. It was the voice of the youth and the changing culture here in America. It was, like the above transcribed lyrics of that famous piece “The Message” a polaroid of the climatic time period in which it was created. This Polaroid is a reflection of the critical thinking that was happening during that time period. It is my assertion that Hip Hop Culture is not only an artistic expression of the counterculture in NYC during the 1970- 1990’s but more importantly it is a critical reflection of American culture. In critical theory terms, it helped a whole generation estrange themselves from the ideological sediment of the time.

 

SO, WHAT IS HIP HOP PEDAGOGY?

Pedagogy: the method and practice of teaching, esp. as an academic subject or theoretical concept.

To be involved in a Hip Hop Pedagogy is to welcome an invitation into the shared reality of those that are participants in it. It is to enable all of its inhabitants with the tools and choice to intervene in the transformation of their world. It is a solicitation to become more involved in democratic debate about the state of our society, culture, country and community on multiple layers and perspectives.  The discourse of power and freedom inherent in the subject of Hip-Hop culture is something that should be readily used in the instruction of the student. Typically, it’s the student’s want and need to develop a deeper understanding of the world and their place in it. The culture begs for the participant to share their voice in the debate. The history of Hip-Hop is one of controversy and crisis wrapped up in a palatable feast of beats & lyrics served on top of a plate of graffiti. The accompanying libation is a dark burgundy one named “Chateau de Breaking; popping and locking”, which is served in a wineglass constructed of community activism and multicultural advocacy (critical race theory).

So, what does Hip-Hop pedagogy look like? It is a contemporary form of democratic education, which invites heavy student involvement in the construction of the classroom and the lesson (Brooks & Brooks). It advocates for the whole development of the student as total human being, rather than simply as a citizen or participant. It evokes the development of the self and more specifically the individual’s voice. Hip-Hop is not merely the music of a specific ethnic or socio-economic group. It is a culture that developed, like many in American history out of the crisis, conflict and controversy of the time. More importantly it is a discourse that is centered on the concepts of power and freedom, and is inclusive of the educative process we call life.

Classes & courses that are developed in the domain of Hip-Hop pedagogy should make the participants question their surroundings, situatedness, and circumstances.  Hip-Hop pedagogy should also be a multilayered approach. It is one that engages students where they are and uses a variety of the elements found in the culture to proctor aesthetic experiences for and in the participants (disruptions). Hip-Hop pedagogy is a circuit that connects teacher & student, citizen & community and society & culture to one another. This circuit allows for the exchange of ideas and understandings, with the goal of joint meaning making to happen. It is elastic and flexible with a structure that is informed by the past (traditions), but bound only by the imagination.

Hip Hop Pedagogy should help immerse the participants in awareness in all of the various tenses that they exist (Past, present & Future). Past tense shall be defined as the critical reflection, Present tense is the acute awareness of “Now” and the Future tense is that of the ever evolving imagination of “What If.” These three tenses are all important in the development of the totality of the humanism that we all have. It’s not simply a means to end, or an end unto itself, but is more radically involved in the process of ever becoming more than before. Hip -Hop Pedagogy is a critical take on multiple openings and entry points contained in a relevant wrapper.

Hip-Hop is in its essential and rawest form, uses the power of the imagination. It takes place in the virtual space of the mind for those that implore it to express the lived world experiences that they’ve engaged in. Hip-Hop is dance, clothing, speech, literature, visual art, code & symbol, music, and everyday life. It is a way of living like those of jazz, country, rock, folk, punk, funk, soul and a whole myriad of other musical cultures that sprung up from the well-spring of America culture. Each of which have its own unique style of life.

Hip-Hop pedagogy should be centered on the concepts of agency, activism, and democracy, open spaces, open encounters, inclusion, lived worlds and shared realities. The lyrics of some of the finest hip-hop songs speak eloquently about the lived experiences (worlds) of those involved. They (songs) talk about socio-economic disparity in society and the discourse(s) of power and freedom. Hip-hop pedagogy is about creating an exchange in various forms on multiplicity of levels. The art of Banksy and Lee Quinone’s, the beats of J- Dilla and MF Doom, the lyrics of Rakim and Drake all speak for and about those in a similar group of society, or is it that they speak for every man? Everything that is folk (counterculture) ultimately becomes part of the popular. That point speaks to the cyclical nature of the various discourses involved in hip-hop culture and more specifically hip-hop pedagogy. It’s about the turning over of the traditional to make way for the innovation (R. Barthes). It’s about allowing the student the opportunity to be involved in crafting their understanding of the world around them while giving them voice.

How can we use Hip Hop Pedagogy, which I will help flush out the literature in future post – scholarship, in the domain of Music Education? Well, there lies the rub. American Music Education, that dubious character, first has to acknowledge Hip-Hop as a musical form worthy of study. Then and only then can we actively … as a whole use hip-hop pedagogy as a integrated part of music education in our classrooms. Let me clarify right now, there are band directors and art educators that have been and are currently using hip hop pedagogy in their classrooms and studio environments, all over American and furthermore .. the world. However, it is not currently accepted as a valid form or music or culture by academia and the aesthetic police. The aesthetic police are those that assert themselves to the grand title of judge of which aesthetic experiences as well as how they “should be” used in the context of learning. They are rarely correct, and even when they are …typically use this opportunity to pontificate about their rightness. We see this every week on the various news outlets, and can only surmise that this type of policing has been going on for sometime in culture..period.

 

So, if we are to have a through discussion on the use of Hip Hop Pedagogy in the Music Classroom… we must first start with the unpacking of the music’s validity. We must say that Hip Hop is real music and it is worthy of study in major universities and music programs. We also have to give room and space for all other forms of American folk, but that discussion can be tabled until another time soon coming.

I hope you enjoyed this first rant on the Hip Hop Pedagogy and Music Education. I will try my best to write as often and eloquently as I possibly can to showcase the need to talk about the power, effectiveness as well as the need for such programing.

 

-Best

 

Jarritt A Sheel