“The history of Hip Hop and rap. It didn’t start with the beef – it started with a scratch!”
Watch the video about using Hip Hop in the classroom or read the transcript below.
Thank you to those who are long-time subscribers or followers, and to those of you who are new, thank you for joining us. My name is Ken, and on this channel, we look at using Hip-Hop music, Hip-Hop culture, and rap music to educate students in an engaging way while providing rich literacy opportunities revolving around reading and language arts.
What is rap opera?
I’ve gotten this question so many times, and for whatever reason, I’ve only thought now to address it. What is rap opera? Well, I’m going to assume we all know what rap is, right? Okay, I think we’re good to go on that. Okay, cool, great. What about the opera? Opera, specifically, is a classical style of music that is usually driven by history, criticism of the culture, and is also used for parody, satire, and is a well-respected form of literature.
So, rap opera combines rap, which started as the voice of the youth in the Bronx, New York City, back in the late ’60s, and it combines opera – the storytelling aspects, the use of history, criticism, social commentary, satire, and parody – and it puts it together into a package that can be used in the classroom to educate students. You can call it a Hip-Hop pedagogy, if you will.
On this channel, you’ll find lots of songs, mainly focusing on reading, language arts, and using history for commentary and for teaching a variety of skills: context clues, compare and contrast, making inferences, figurative language. Students can listen to the song while following along with the lyrics, and listening to the song actually reinforces their reading and comprehension.
I remember the first time I used this with a third-fourth grade class, and I was playing the music. You know, the kids did the activity, and I had the song on loop for like, I don’t know, two or three times, and I thought, “Yeah, no one’s listening to this.” So, I just turned it off.
But then, one girl put her hand up and said, “Uh, hey sir, can you turn the music back on? Because the music’s actually helping me read; it’s helping me understand.”
Use Rap Song Lyrics as a Reading Passage
That was one thing that was so powerful for me: that music, specifically in the form of the spoken word, the rap, it reinforces what students are reading, and it helps them comprehend it because they’re listening to the rhythm. It activates different aspects of the brain. Music is just such a powerful tool for communicating information.
This was something I wanted to keep going, and I just wanted to make it more available to more students and more educators. So here we are. I think this is five years later. I started this off in 2018 and finally decided to sit down and do a video about this in 2023.
For those of you who are math enthusiasts, we do have some math stuff. We do multiplication, mean, median, mode, and what we really focus on is language arts using history, parody, criticism of culture, and using that to teach specific skills like context clues, compare and contrast, main idea – all that fun stuff.
Hip Hop History
Our most popular series is our series on Hip-Hop history. We have the first song, which is just a general overview of Hip-Hop history, a second one that talks about going back to the late ’60s all the way up until 2018 and discussing how Hip Hop has developed. There’s also the eras of Hip Hop, which is our third song, talking about the four distinct eras of Hip Hop.
We also did a song on breaking, or what’s more commonly known as breakdancing. As someone who B-boys, I prefer the term breaking or B-girling if you’re a lady.
Next up, we’re doing a history on pre-Hip-Hop history. What actually happened before Hip Hop? How did this whole thing get started? Where did this culture come from? Where did the music come from? What inspired it? You can look for that in the coming month.
You can click for Hip-Hop history themed reading activities and begin using Hip Hop in the classroom. You can also check out many other activities – decoding multisyllabic words, proofreading and editing – all that fun stuff.
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Thanks for reading! More great content coming soon.