After having looked into a good amount of articles about hip-hop and literacy, I have clung to the idea that rapping can help to engage students in a non-traditional form of literacy as well as bring awareness to social issues.
As hip-hop has become attached to the younger generations of today, there is an amazing amount of criticism that seems to try and diminish the culture and music into an oversimplified depiction of the stereotypical dangerous and violent black youth. Being a future English, I believe that is important to delve into students different forms of expression, engaging them at their level of personal interests. Although this is a goal that may not be accomplished in the minimal free time curriculum allows, the students can digest a deeper understanding of content when it is displayed in a manner that coincides with what brings them pleasure outside of class. A possible future assignment could be for students to write a rap that explains a concept in full, rather than making a student write an essay that they have previously shown disinterest in.
Another important aspect of hip-hop is the issues in the modern world that the genre’s artists dive into. In the song “03’ Adolescence”, the artist J. Cole talks about his times in high school and how he wishes he was more like his friend that makes money through selling weed. When J. Cole asks how he can be more like his friend,
He told me, “Nigga you know how you sound right now?
You won’t my mans, I would think that you a clown right now
Listen, you everything I wanna be that’s why I fucks with you
So how you looking up to me, when I look up to you
You bout to go get a degree, I’ma be stuck with two choices
Either graduate to weight or selling number two
For what? A hundred bucks or two a week?
In stark contrast to the popular idea that hip-hop is merely about drugs, sex, gangbanging, and money, J. Cole offers a refreshing change of pace. As he admires a friend, he is reprimanded as his friend tells him that the roles are actually reversed. Rather than look up to a drug dealer, his friend explains that J. Cole is going farther because he is gaining an education instead of either moving up to selling “weight” (large amounts of drugs) or to a “number 2” (undercover cop).
Though a lot of hip-hop glorifies things such as sex, drugs, and violence, I think it is important to realize that hip-hop is the result of an oppressed race and culture that has been saturated with these kinds of influences for generations. Rather than viewing this as a completely negative influence, we must begin to see that the art itself can be a constructive outlet and escape from the violent and oppressive life that is very much alive right outside their own homes.