Rappers, then, provide an accessible form of social capital and a blueprint for upward mobility. However, the logic suggests that students will take to heart the “stay in school message” provided by T.I or rapper Rick Ross. We have to wonder if the reliance on rap celebrities might not be reinforcing the message that inner-city youth have only three options in life: drugs, basketball, or rap. This is a narrow image of the opportunity structure to promote. It limits the 5 Two exceptions can be found in hip hop history. The first is the explicitly political, conscious rap of the 1980s and 1990s. Artists deemed themselves educators and potential leaders of the black community. The second can be seen in the politicization of rappers in the 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections. Youth people were supposed to emulate rappers at the voting polls.
Hip Hop Pedagogy 19 potential of youth by associating their identities with occupational activities that are unrealistic, linked to entertainment, and potentially fatal. Whatever positive, abstract message delivered during a 30 minute talk must be weighed against the other concrete messages youth are receiving from the music. The lyrical content of violence, sex, and drugs; the streets-to-rap game life story created by publicists; and the continual real life arrests faced by many artists also provide a powerful message. Assuming elementary and middle-school students are able to distinguish between the “real lives” of artists and their on -stage personas, rap celebrities might provide a great example in capitalism (“get money,” “money over bitches”), exploitation (“pimpin‟ ain‟t easy”), and rugged individ ualism (“do you,” “get yours”). Many commercial artists, like Jay -Z, have mastered the swagger of the old-boys club of monopoly capital. For more than two decades, hip hop has been funded by malt-liquor, champagne, and cognac companies. And this says nothing about the connection between hip hop and strip clubs, the porn industry, fashion sweat-shops, and illegal drug sales. Many parents and educators see these as “all American” norms that should be fought against. Constructing an emancipatory curriculum involving commercial rappers is likely to be a challenge. 7. Getting Real about Hip Hop and Schooling Am I being realistic about my goals and the limitations of hip hop? In this final section, we raise some questions about the impact of hip hop education. Our last guiding question asks for a serious and honest assessment about the purpose of HHBE. The programs we have encountered seek to boost test scores and improve other student outcomes. Some efforts aim to improve teacher-student relationships and to produce a more culturally-
Hip Hop Pedagogy 20 sensitive school climate. As such, a program and organization that produces these results should be applauded. But these are still incremental reform efforts. Is HHBE enough? Should the goal of HHBE be to help students function in what is arguably a dysfunctional system or to fundamentally challenge the structural inequities of schooling and society?
- Fall '08
- Hip hop music, Rapping, Hip Hop Education, Hip Hop Educator