Shawn Carter/Jay-Z & the 4Cs

By: Timothy Jones for #HipHopEd

jay pics

In the 21st Century there has been a concerted effort to promote the message that it takes more than just a mastery of academic subjects to help a young person succeed in college and the workplace. is a partnership organization that has created an equation of the skills that young people must acquire to be successful in the 21st Century.  The first variable in the equation is (3R) and this variable is based on how the following words have been historically pronounced, reading, writing, and arithmetic (rythmetic).  The second variable is (4C) and this variable is creativity (innovation), critical thinking (problem solving), collaboration (team work), and communication.

We need a “classroom mindset” where we will begin to look for “teachable moments” throughout everything that we encounter and or experience in life.  If learning shouldn’t be confined to the hours spent at school, then why should what we use to teach be confined to the materials that currently exist within the school?  The classroom mindset promotes the duality of being a student and a teacher.  The learning process is truly achieved when we show the ability to apply and or teach the lessons that we have learned throughout our lives.  A teachable moment is when an opportunity presents itself to reveal a lesson that lies within an analysis of media, behavior, thoughts, or culture as a whole.

As a developer of after school programs I focus on infusing elements within the 4Cs into my workshops and activities because most students do want to go to after school programs that mimic the content and approach of the school day.  The goal is to help students apply the 3Rs into project based learning opportunities that foster the 4Cs.  This provides a road map of transferable skills that helps students understand how they can bring the 4Cs into the conventional classroom and excel in the 3Rs.  This creates students that are confident, competent, conscious, and consistent throughout their experiences in life’s classroom.  So in essence, the (3R+4C) = youth who R 4C (Confidence, Competence, Consciousness, and Consistency)

Imagine a workshop that develops student’s 4Cs by studying the work inside and outside of the vocal booth of Jay-Z.  Jay-Z is many things and his impact is debated from but not limited to, the corners of Marcy Projects in Brooklyn New York, to Georgetown University and the White House in Washington DC.  The following is a proposed outline of how Jay-Z embodies each of the 4Cs and from the outline it wouldn’t be difficult to develop activities to engage students in the development and or enhancement of the 4Cs:

Creativity: is defined as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.  An example of Jay-Z’s creativity is in the song  “Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise)” and a portion of the introduction states “I’m leading the league in at least six statistical categories right now best flow, most consistent, realest stories, most charisma, I set the most trends, and my interviews are hotter Holla.”   In this portion of the song Jay-Z lays out a framework where MCs can be judged using a set of statistics that paint a picture of the total impact of an artist.  This development of a set of statistics is similar to the way a basketball player may be judged by points per game, rebounds per game, field goal percentage, three point field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and assists per game.  These six statistical categories give a full picture of the overall impact a play has on a game from the offensive stand point.  Jay-Z’s six statistics provides a similar landscape for the artistic assessment of an Artist’s impact on the rap game beyond merely sales or popularity for the moment.   Imagine the activities that can developed for students using this example of Jay-Z’s creativity to foster their own.

Critical Thinking:  is defined as disciplined thinking that is clear, rationale, open-minded, and informed by evidence.  An example of Jay-Z’s critical thinking is the first verse of “Moment of Clarity” which states:

Pop died, didn’t cry, didn’t know him that well

Between him doin heroin and me doin crack sales

With that in the eggshell, standin at the tabernacle

Rather the church, pretendin to be hurt, wouldn’t work

So a smirk was all on my face

Like d@#n, that man’s face is just like my face

So pop, I forgive you for all the s%^# that I lived through

It wasn’t all your fault, homey you got caught

Into the same game I fought, that Uncle Ray lost

My big brothers and so many others I saw

I’m just glad we got to see each other

Talk and re-meet each other

Save a place in heaven ’til the next time we meet forever!”

In this verse Jay-Z is very honest with the change in his feelings about his father not being there for him while he was growing up.  The initial emotion of not caring due to not knowing the man that was his father to identifying with the physical dimensions of the face to connecting to the life’s journey that they both travelled on allowed Jay-Z to see his father as a victim and not just a perpetrator.  Imagine the activities that can be developed with students (many who are disconnected from their fathers) using this example of Jay-Z’s critical thinking to foster their own.

Collaboration: Is when something is created by working jointly with another or others.  There are countless examples throughout Jay-Z’s career within music and outside of music where collaboration has taken place.  The example I want to use is the Best of Both Worlds album that Jay-Z recorded with R-Kelly in 2002.  This was a huge under taking because both artists were at the top of Hip-Hop and R&B respectively.  Fast forward to today where R&B and Hip-Hop artists collaborating on songs is common place; you have to take a moment and reflect back on the first full album collaboration to create a sound that would expand the reach of both genres.   Imagine the activities that can developed for students using this example of Jay-Z’s collaboration to foster their own.

Communication: is when something is imparted, interchanged, or transmitted.  If you think about Jay-Z and everything that he has been able to accomplish and what seems to motivate him it can be summed up in the statement “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business man!”  This play on words makes for a catchy lyric but this also serves as an affirmation of one’s self worth and a personal thesis statement.   This ability to communicate has created opportunities for Jay-Z that seems to be limitless based on what he has been able to accomplish and he is showing no signs of slowing down.    Imagine the activities that can developed for students using this example of Jay-Z’s communication to foster their own.

 Timothy Jones is content developer for #HipHopEd a weekly twitter chat that takes place every Tuesday from 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm.  If you are interested in developing programs that develop the 4Cs please contact me at and follow me on twitter at @tdj6899