A Lyrics and Scriptures Analysis of “Kill Jay-Z” – by Timothy Jones

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I’ve been listening and talking about Jay-Z’s latest album 4:44 for a few days now and with so many thoughts swirling in my head I was unsure where to begin in expressing my views on the album and its subject matter.  I am a lot of things but most important to me is who I am in the eyes of God and that is a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I then figured why not begin where Jay begins with the first track of the album, “Kill Jay-Z.”   “Lyrics and Scriptures” is an approach to developing and enhancing one’s “spiritual media literacy” through the analysis, evaluation and subsequent discussions where lyrics from songs are aligned with scriptures from the bible based on themes and or direct quotes.

You can find the lyrics and explanations for “Kill Jay-Z” here https://genius.com/12250494

The simple premise of the song is a reflection on the war that takes place within us as we go through and begin to have shift in perspectives and values.  Here are five scriptures that come to mind when listening to “Kill Jay-Z” along with the lyrics from the song that align with the scripture that can be meditated upon as you go through your own war of growing up and becoming more aware of what is important and lasting in your life.

  1. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Kill Jay Z, they’ll never love you. You’ll never be enough, let’s just keep it real, Jay Z

  • The result off asking Christ into your heart and to be your Lord and Savior is the death of the sinful you that existed in darkness because you hadn’t been introduced to the marvelous light of Jesus Christ. The new creation based on the song would be Sean Carter and the old things that need to pass away are the thoughts, actions and sins of Jay-Z.
  1. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Cry Jay-Z we know the pain is real. But you can’t heal what you never reveal

  • Jay-Z speaks about his past transgressions in this song just as we should confess our sins to God believing that He will not only forgive us of our sins but cleanse us so that we don’t return to our sinful ways. We cannot be righteous within our natural selves because the self-serving desires of our flesh are too strong.
  1. Luke 6:42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

But this f&^% everybody attitude ain’t natural. But you ain’t a saint this isn’t kumbaye

  • The flow of “Kill Jay-Z” Jay-Z addresses some of his issues before commenting on his brother Kanye West. For us to see our brother’s actions clearly to bring correction in love we must judge and seek correction for our own actions first.
  1. Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Let go your ego over your right shoulder. Your left is sayin’, “Finish your breakfast

  • Jay-Z speaks about having a sense of good and evil over his right and left shoulder. This is a portrayal of the battle that we must fight and the fight is not with people it is a spiritual battle that the scriptures explain throughout Ephesians 6 how we ought to fight.
  1. Proverbs 1:8 My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother;

But you gotta do better boy, you owe it to Blue

What up Jay-Z? You know you owe the truth to all the youth that fell in love with Jay-Z

  • One the main reasons for killing Jay-Z is the notion that Sean Carter is the better father for his daughter Blue. Jay-Z speaks about telling the truth to the youth that fell in love with Jay-Z.  Throughout the rest of the album there are references to his role as a father and husband.  This scripture is the beginning of instructions to us to shun evil counsel.  The lyrics expressed throughout the career of Jay-Z can be looked upon as being filled with evil counsel to the youth that he must now admit for their benefit.

 

Be on the lookout for more writings based on “4:44” and other works by Timothy Jones.  If you would like more information about “Lyrics and Scriptures” and or “HipHopEd” please contact Timothy Jones on Twitter @tdj6899 or via email at timothydaivdjones@gmail.com

 

 

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Looking at Hip-Hop through the glasses of Malcolm X

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By Timothy D. Jones, Chief Visionary Officer #HipHopEd  

If Malcolm X was alive and able to speak the practitioners, fans, educators, and those influenced by Hip-Hop I believe that it would be a very interesting conversation. In preparing to write this piece I took some time to look at the transitions within the life of Malcolm X and began to see the possibility and need for Hip-Hop to make similar transitions. I was asked to write a piece about Malcolm X from a Hip-Hop perspective. I didn’t want to write a traditional piece in the sense of mentioning the references to Malcolm X that have been embedded in Hip-Hop especially during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The correlations outlined in this piece will be relevant to where Hip-Hop is today and provide thoughts to consider when deciding where Hip-Hop will be tomorrow.

  1. Joining the Nation of Islam and getting a Major Record Deal: Malcolm X was at a low point in his life. He was serving time in prison and was introduced to the teachings of the Nation of Islam. The philosophy of the Nation substantiated many of Malcolm X’s views that he was taught as a child through his father’s work with the “Universal Negro Improvement Association.” While in prison, Malcolm X began to communicate with Elijah Muhammad and Elijah Muhammad advised him on how to come to peace with his past transgressions and how to move forward. While in prison Malcolm changed his sir name from “Little” to “X.” The “X” represented the unknown sir name from being separated from his true African heritage and to dismiss that sir name of the slave master. In prison, Malcolm X became a self educated man with an increased ability to articulate his views with a mastery of words. Upon Malcolm X’s release he was able to participate in the activities of the Nation of Islam. These activities provided the opportunities for Malcolm X to speak to and teach individuals from the inner cities of America to people across the world. The relationship between Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam was partially one of loyalty based on a debt of gratitude for saving his life.

If you take a walk through any inner city neighborhood in the country and throughout different regions in the world you will see youth engaging in Hip-Hop music and culture. For many of these youth, the acquisition of a record deal provides the opportunities that society instructs youth to acquire through education and career experience. The self esteem and self worth that comes with feeling like you are successful at what you do based on the acclaim that your name musters within your community and beyond is something that these youth are sometimes willing to do anything for. A successful record deal can take a young person from being a voice within the crowd to the voice that leads the crowd. A record deal on a popular label can provide financial stability and opens doors to various business opportunities that for most youth in the inner city would remain closed. The relationship at times between the recording artist and the record company is one of loyalty based on a debt of gratitude for saving the artist’s life. 

  1. Being silenced by the Nation of Islam and being silenced by a Record Company: Malcolm X was prohibited from public speaking for 90 days after he made comments about President Kennedy being assassinated in 1963. The comments that Malcolm X made represented his voice and his views. Prior to this point as a Minister in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X spoke the views and was the voice of Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm X’s quote “chickens coming home to roost” placed the assassination of President Kennedy as America reaping the violence that it had sown throughout its own land and throughout the world. Malcolm X would never speak on behalf of the Nation of Islam as one its own again. Malcolm X announced his departure from the Nation of Islam on March 8, 1964. Amidst Malcolm X beginning to have issues within the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad, his departure was triggered by the consequences levied on him for speaking his mind grounded on what he believed to be the truth.

A Record company is a business first and the presentation of a family with values between the company and the Artists are a fleeting facade that expires as soon as it is decided that the Artist’s value to the company is no longer worth the investment. Imagine as an Artist you have a successful run within a record company by putting out a particular style of music and presenting a particular image. Over time the real relationship is with the image and the message created through the art form rather than you as an Artistic individual. Art in its truest form represents the progression and creativity of the Artist and should never remain stagnant to fit into the confinement of popular culture. This means that many Hip-Hop artists must choose to fit into the prescribed paradigm dictated by the record company if they want to remain relevant and have their music presented to the public. If an Artist begins to operate outside of the prescribed paradigms the label will eventually drop the Artist from the label or lessen the amount of backing that they once placed behind the Artist’s projects. This is a form of silencing being enacted by the Record Company because the Artist’s message is no longer a representative of the direction of the company. Amidst an Artist beginning to have issues within a record company for a myriad of reasons, their departure can be triggered by changes in what is deemed “popular” and or you deciding that your musical truth is outside of the prescribed formula. 

  1. Going independent to gain control and save your soul: After leaving the Nation of Islam Malcolm X founded Muslim Mosque, Inc. a religious organization and the Organization of Afro-American Unity, a secular group that advocated Pan Africanism. Malcolm X maintained his Muslim faith and believed that a spiritual foundation was necessary. Malcolm X also had a desire to work with African Americans that weren’t Muslims so he founded the later organization to engage individuals of different religions and those who had no religious affiliation. These organizations allowed Malcolm X to begin to express his views for where he believed we should go as a people in America. Malcolm X also used his self-created platforms to recant several statements and philosophies that he expressed as a member of the Nation of Islam. The words and views expressed by Malcolm X during his season of independence are the words and views that resonated with the people yesterday, today, and will continue to resonate with people in the future.

At one time if an Artist was let go by their major label it was an artistic and career death sentence. Today the success of the Artist creating labels to put out their music has some opting for this business strategy instead of signing with a record deal with a larger established record company. The Artist that had a successful career on a major label may be in the position to branch off on their own and maintain a large percentage of their fan base developed in part through the promotions and marketing efforts of the major record company. There are various scenarios that lead to an Artist selecting to go the independent route to put out their music. Some of the scenarios of declaring independence from a major record company can still provide opportunities for collaboration with the label; others are situations where the separation creates animosity between the company and the artist. The music created by an Artist once they become independent hopefully is music that represents the true creativity and maturity of the Artists where they create music that can withstand the test of time.

  1. From Civil Rights to Human Rights from the Block to the World: In Malcolm X’s speech “The Ballot or The Bullet”, Malcolm X explains the limitations of a civil rights movement compared to a movement for human rights. The Civil Rights movement was designed to get rights and equalities for African Americans from the United States government. The Civil Rights struggle didn’t include the plight of people of African descent from across the globe. The Civil Rights struggle sought its victory from the same Government that created the laws that were being used to substantiate segregation and oppression that was being afflicted on African Americans. Malcolm described a departure in approach from Civil Rights to Human Rights would expand the reach of the movement because it would take the plight to the platform of the United Nations instead of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as it did in August 1963 for the March on Washington. The United States could be held accountable for its violations of Human Rights by the United Nations. The expansion of the perception of the movements would create a greater sense of connectivity amongst brothers and sisters from across the globe. This would make civil rights leaders, human rights leaders who will now speak on behalf of individuals on a world stage.

Contemporary Hip-Hop began in the South Bronx in 1973. Hip-Hop has continued to grow from spreading through the boroughs in New York City to various inner cities throughout the United States. The MC went from striving to be a star in their own neighborhood to becoming a nationwide artist through touring venues across the country. The social commentary that began to come out through Hip-Hop in the early 1980s represented the social ills that were plaguing minority youth in the inner city. Throughout the 1980s Artist from various parts of the country began to tell their stories as to what was going on and wrong in their neighborhoods. This expansion mirrored the Civil Rights movement in the fact that the struggle was defined within the borders of the United States and Hip-Hop was also challenging the Police and Government for their unfair practices that were keeping minorities in subpar living conditions.

Over the past 20 years through various advents in technology, Hip-Hop is now on the world’s stage. Youth from across the globe are tuned into the messages and images that are coming from Hip-Hop in America and these youth are making their own messages that portray their realities in their neighborhoods and societies. This provides the opportunity for Hip-Hop to advocate for Human Rights by the Artist creating messages that represent the plight of youth across the world instead of merely representing their block. There is also a greater responsibility that today’s Artists must assume because their voice is now being heard worldwide instead of just at the local park jam in the projects. Technology provides the opportunity for the Artist to become self-educated like Malcolm X did to free himself mentally and spiritually even while he was still physically confined in prison. The MC must free themselves from the prisons of industry and media companies that profit of presenting a narrow and shallow depiction of our existence as African Americans and Latino Americans. The freedom for the MC lies in becoming enlightened and then conveying this newly obtained knowledge and vision through their music. Hip-Hop has the power to influence the world for the betterment of Human Kind and it must take this opportunity and strive to fulfill it “By any Means Necessary!”

Hip-Hop Pedagogy as a tool to develop and measure common core college preparedness and readiness

get-attachment.aspxBy Timothy Jones @tdj6899, Chief Visionary Officer, #HipHopEd

#HipHopEd is hosting 2 chats (July 8th and July 15th 2014) that will focus on Hip-Hop pedagogy as a resource to develop and measure the seven “habits of mind” that are in the common core standards for college readiness and preparedness. The dates next to each description represent which Tuesday they will be discussed during the #HipHopEd chat. The end result will be a published report from the two chat transcripts that capture the ideas that generate the most response (via retweets and or comments) and or the ideas that we believe offer the most impact. Below is the information from the common core standards www.corestandards.org/

Students who are College and Career Ready in Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, and Language

The descriptions that follow are not standards themselves but instead offer a portrait of students who meet the standards set out in this document. As students advance through the grades and master the standards in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language, they are able to exhibit with increasing fullness and regularity these capacities of the literate individual

They demonstrate independence. Tues July 8, 2014
Students can, without significant scaffolding, comprehend and evaluate complex texts across a range of types and disciplines, and they can construct effective arguments and convey intricate or multifaceted information. Likewise, students are able independently to discern a speaker’s key points, request clarification, and ask relevant questions. They build on others’ ideas, articulate their own ideas, and confirm they have been understood. Without prompting, they demonstrate command of Standard English and acquire and use a wide-ranging vocabulary. More broadly, they become self-directed learners, effectively seeking out and using resources to assist them, including teachers, peers, and print and digital reference materials.

They build strong content knowledge. Tuesday July 8, 2014
Students establish a base of knowledge across a wide range of subject matter by engaging with works of quality and substance. They become proficient in new areas through research and study. They read purposefully and listen attentively to gain both general knowledge and discipline-specific expertise.
They refine and share their knowledge through writing and speaking.

They respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and discipline. Tuesday July 8, 2014
Students adapt their communication in relation to audience, task, purpose, and discipline. They set and adjust purpose for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use as warranted by the task. They appreciate nuances, such as how the composition of an audience should affect tone when speaking and how the connotations of words affect meaning. They also know that different disciplines call for different types of evidence (e.g., documentary evidence in history, experimental evidence in science).

They comprehend as well as critique. Tuesday July 15, 2014
Students are engaged and open-minded—but discerning—readers and listeners. They work diligently to understand precisely what an author or speaker is saying, but they also question an author’s or speaker’s assumptions and premises and assess the veracity of claims and the soundness of reasoning.

They value evidence. Tuesday July 15, 2014
Students cite specific evidence when offering an oral or written interpretation of a text. They use relevant evidence when supporting their own points in writing and speaking, making their reasoning clear to the reader or listener, and they constructively evaluate others’ use of evidence.

They use technology and digital media strategically and capably. Tuesday July 15, 2014
Students employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use. They tailor their searches online to acquire useful information efficiently, and they integrate what they learn using technology with what they learn offline. They are familiar with the strengths and limitations of various technological tools and mediums and can select and use those best suited to their communication goals.

They come to understand other perspectives and cultures. Tuesday July 15, 2014
Students appreciate that the twenty-first-century classroom and workplace are settings in which people from often widely divergent cultures and who represent diverse experiences and perspectives must learn and work together. Students actively seek to understand other perspectives and cultures through reading and listening, and they are able to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds. They evaluate other points of view critically and constructively. Through reading great classic and contemporary works of literature representative of a variety of periods, cultures, and worldviews, students can vicariously inhabit worlds and have experiences much different than their own.

We look forward to hearing your thoughts as we continue to grow the #HipHopEd chat from a virtual to a more tangible professional development tool for the education reform of a classroom, school, district, city, nation and world. See you every Tuesday from 9-10 pm EST for the greatest hour on twitter #HipHopEd

Hip-Hop Summertime Learning

get-attachment.aspxby Timothy Jones @tdj6899, Chief Visionary Officer #HipHopEd

The summer is a great time to engage in learning as a life style because you do not have to be concerned with a test at the end of the summer to quantify your knowledge gained unless you are attending summer school. #HipHopEd would like to propose some ideas that will provide opportunities to teach and learn throughout the summer for the educator, parent and student. The following are some projects and activities that have Hip-Hop music, culture and or pedagogy at its core but are simple to implement:
1. Summer Breeze: Create an Instagram account and challenge yourself to take a picture a day and select a song that the picture represents. You can write in the text of a lyric from a song that you feel the picture represents. You should also include the name of the song and the artist so that those who are participating with you in the project can look up the songs and possibly add their own lyrics as a comment to your post. If you are advanced you can create 15 second videos that include your still photo with the sample of the music playing. (Critical Thinking, Creativity and Communication)
2. Folders & Crates: This activity is targeted to parents and children but can also be done with teachers/educators who may be working with a small group of students during the summer.

emotionwheelThe emotion wheel above can be used as a leader in you and your child and or student identifying songs or can be used to evaluate the songs that each of you bring to the session. You can use this wheel to begin to have discussions around what are some of the characteristics that songs have that touch on these emotions. Are there songs that touch on multiple emotions and or songs that evoke one emotion to one listener and a different one to another? The concept of crates and folders is to strive for the older individual to bring in music from when they were around the age of the child and or students they are working with (crate) and the child or student would bring music that they currently have in the folders of their “i-pod” or other music device. (Critical Thinking and Collaboration)
3. You Must Learn: This is primarily for educators but a parent can do this as well on a small scale. Ask your students and or child to give the names of their top three artists. You can ask the student and or child to briefly explain why these individuals are their favorite artists and ask them to include either their favorite album or songs. You will create a playlist that you will listen to over the summer to gain some insights into how your students and or children view themselves and the world around them based on the music they consume. As you listen to the playlist you are not making judgments on the songs based on whether they fit you musical taste buds; you are listening to later present insightful revelations gained and or thought provoking questions to ask the students and or children about the song. If you are not able to get a list from students you can go to billboard and or i-tunes and create a playlist based on their top artist, or look up the playlist of your local urban radio station www.urbaninsite.com. (Critical Thinking and Communication)              4. Step into the Arena: This is an activity that students, parents and educators can do together or individually. Try your hand at one of the Hip-Hop arts over the summer. You can get a sketch pad and some sharpie markers and try to make some graffiti art. Think of a pseudonym that best describes you and develop it over the summer through various Hip-Hop arts. You can try to write and recite rhymes about your favorite activities that you plan on doing throughout the summer. If music is your thing, challenge yourself to become a DJ by looking into resources such as www.virtualdj.com. If you are game to try Hip-Hop dance, you may be able to find a local recreation center or workout facility that offers Hip-Hop dance. (Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking)
5. #POP Power Of Perspective: This is primarily for educators and students, parents can challenge themselves to do this and reflect on the impact that Hip-Hop may have had on their upbringing as well as seeing the possibilities. As an Educator or Parent can you see the ability of a MC to move the crowd and engage a young person as something that you would like the ability to do?   What aspects of the MCs presentation, preparation and delivery do you see feasible to incorporate into your presentation, preparation and delivery of lessons and information that you present to your students or children? This is the power of perspective where one person can see the teachable moments that exist within the expressions of Hip-Hop where others can’t see them or choose not to acknowledge them. Here are some videos that posses some incredible wordplay as well as powerful visuals and references of education, school culture and setting. Review these videos and see if you are willing to take on the “Hip-Hop Wordsmith Alliteration” challenge. Here are four videos to get you inspired:

Papoose Alphabetical Slaughter A-Z: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SApmSrHDhQo&list=PLP47NQEbZOS0ZsVsn2pnpFmqqGMc4T9uN&feature=share&index=5

Papoose Alphabetical Slaughter Part 2 (Z-A) pay attention to school setting within the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fM5k0CXfueQ&list=PLP47NQEbZOS0ZsVsn2pnpFmqqGMc4T9uN&feature=share&index=4

Masta Ace / Ed OG A’s & E’s:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVgBjb9V5Ak&feature=share&list=PLP47NQEbZOS0ZsVsn2pnpFmqqGMc4T9uN&index=3

Smoothe The Hustler “The Art of Rap” Count the MCs:
http://youtu.be/gDqt0wmc-sQ

Check me out on twitter @tdj6899 and on #HipHopEd, every Tuesday from 9-10 pm EST

Peace

The Use and Abuse of Words, Culture and History

Nicki-Minaj-Lookin-X-300x300by Timothy Jones

We exist in a cycle where it can be perceived that men go to extreme lengths to garner respect and admiration from other men but part of the often twisted measurement of manhood is based on the respect and admiration we receive from women.  Even though as men we may do so many things together, at the end of the day it is what women think of us that goes a long way in validating our sense of self esteem and self worth to ourselves when we look in the mirror.  As men we control so many of the images and messages that are sent to women about what constitutes being a real man.  As men it is one level of pressure to rise above the narrow and often dysfunctional portrayals of what makes a man a man that is presented by men, but when this narrow and dysfunctional portrayal is embraced and presented by women it makes this cycle even more dangerous because in the end we as men want the respect and admiration of women.

Nicki Minaj released a song on February 12th called “Lookin A$$ Nigga” (http://youtu.be/vEZ-e6tBigY). In this song Nicki is identifying the men who can only look from the sidelines during the game of life because they are lacking what is necessary to play in the game.  This includes what it would take to get with Nicki Minaj sexually which is the ultimate determining factor in measuring real niggas versus looking a$$ niggas in the minds of men.  Mobb Deep made the Hip-Hop classic “Shook Ones” http://youtu.be/yoYZf-lBF_U where the hook states “You shook ain’t no such thing as half way crooks, scared to death scared to look, you shook.”  “Shook Ones” can be looked at as a song that also presents paradigms of manhood that is accepted and respected in hood and those that aren’t.  One difference is that in ‘Shook Ones” the measurements of manhood doesn’t include the admiration and respect of women as a qualifier.

Another interesting aspect to “Lookin A$$ Nigga” is the shift in the tone of how Nicki Minaj is classifying and addressing men as Niggas from her song “N.I.G.G.A.S” http://youtu.be/DHtu7ghUCVY  In N.I.G.G.A.S Nicki Minaj is shouting out attributes of men that she admires and even included Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X by desiring to have the chance to thank them for what they started.  The songs are not only linked by the fact that the same artist made both of them, they have the N word in the title, but through Malcolm X.  In “N.I.G.G.A.S” Malcolm X is mentioned with a desire to thank him for what he started.  In “Lookin A$$ Nigga” there is an image of Malcolm holding a rifle looking out the window that was released as possible cover art.

There are several conversations that can and should be had based on an analysis of Nicki Minaj’s latest song:

1.       The impact of perceptions of the hierarchy of manhood amongst men and women

2.       The pattern of dysfunctional relationships that often result from women getting together with the types of men that are described in “Lookin A$$ Nigga” as being the real men or according to the song “niggas.”  You can begin this discussion with Destiny Child’s song “Soldier” http://youtu.be/qFJ3VKnwmJw

3.       Our responsibility to properly preserve and acknowledge our history and elders and how the way we treat our history impacts how others outside our race treat our history and icons.

4.       How the narrative of young adults and adults about manhood can validate and promote the narratives that are coming from our youth about manhood. 

5.       A gender based discussion questioning whether the perceived characteristics of beauty and power possessed by Nicki Minaj makes her narrative more accepted and embraced.

For more insightful discussions involving the intersections of Hip-Hop, Culture, Education and Youth check of #HipHopEd on Twitter every Tuesday from 9-10 pm.  Tweet and or search using the hash tag #HipHopEd to participate in the weekly chats.  Follow me on twitter at @tdj6899

Hip-Hop Project Based Learning: Illmatic

nas_illmatic_pv

By Timothy Jones @tdj6899 for #HipHopEd

Imagine in the fall semester of 1992 a group of students are taking a sociology class at a local college in New York City.  The students are having a series of discussions about the impact that project living and drugs can have on behavior and one’s outlook on life.  The Sociology course covered several theories and began with a comparison and contrasting of the sociological and social theories.  The Sociological theory is often based on testable propositions about society and relies on the scientific method in its aim for objectivity.  The Social theory is less concerned with objectivity and more likely to pass normative judgments.  The professor challenged the students to form groups and produce a project that embodies a sociological or social theory approach to answering the following driving question:

What are some of the impacts on children growing up in an inner city that is plagued by the environments of drugs, perceived lack of opportunity and violence that urban educators need to understand?  The students through their project would be providing urban educators various insights into some of the behaviors and perspectives that these young people in their classrooms may have.  The urban educators should be able to use the lessons within the finished project to better understand and engage the youth in their classrooms that are growing up in different urban neighborhoods in New York City and beyond.

A group of students named Nas, Q-Tip, Large Professor, DJ Premiere, L.E.S., Pete Rock and AZ decided to examine their upbringings in Queens and Brooklyn using a social theory approach and write and produce a series of songs that would later be packaged and released in 1994 as Nas’ debut album “Illmatic.”  Here is a closer examination of how “Illmatic” could have been the result of a project based learning assignment given in a sociology class back in the fall semester of 1992.  Buck Institute for Education www.bie.org is a premiere resource for project based learning and they have created an essential checklist for educators to understand the elements that must be present in project based learning.

Looking back, here is how “Illmatic” could have been evaluated based on having the essential elements of project based learning:

1.       Focus on significant content: “Illmatic” is the coming of age story of a young man growing up in New York City during the height of the crack epidemic which ravaged many inner cities across America

2.       Develop 21st Century Competencies: The creation of “Illmatic” featured the collaboration of Nas and a collection of the premiere Hip-Hop producers of the day.  The album communicated a story that spanned an array of emotions in a manner that was deemed acceptable (where often the only acceptable emotion to express is anger) by individuals growing up under the strictest of definition of manhood.  Nas and AZ exhibits creativity and critical thinking as MCs with crafted rhymes that tell stories, embodied figurative language and elevated rhyming standards for MCs that followed for more than a decade.

3.       Engage students in in-depth inquiry: The group held extensive conversations about life growing up in the ghetto and how they felt society at large viewed black and brown youth from the ghetto.  The group consisted of individuals that were experts in their craft who was given the task of cultivating the budding genius that was in the writings of Nasir Jones.

4.       Organize tasks around a driving question: The tasks were designated based on their talents and their ability to contribute their experiences to the following driving question:   What are some of the impacts on children growing up in an inner city that is plagued by the environments of drugs, perceived lack of opportunity and violence that urban educators need to understand?

5.       Establish a need to know: The media’s portrayal of black and brown youth from the inner city during this time frame was very stereotypically and selectively driven; it was critical that a group of young people begin to give firsthand accounts to better inform urban educators who were allowing the media’s portrayal of inner city youth to begin to influence how they engaged these youth in the classroom.

6.        Encourage voice and choice: The students were given the freedom to tell their story in a manner that resonated with themselves and their peers.  The students chose to speak through Hip-Hop and challenged the urban educators to learn on their terms as opposed to writing a standard report or story.

7.       Incorporate revision and reflection: MC Serch served as the Executive Producer of “Illmatic” and was in charge of reviewing the songs with the Artists and Producers to ensure that the best final product possible was put out to the masses.

8.       Include a public audience: The finished album was released on April 19, 1994 after singles were released and one song featured on a movie soundtrack.  The project received the coveted 5 microphone evaluation from The Source magazine, which at the time was the premiere source of Hip-Hop journalism.

For more insights as to how Hip-Hop can be used as a tool for effective Project Based Learning check out the following video http://bie.org/object/video/keep_it_real and join our weekly #HipHopEd chat every Tuesday from 9-10 pm EST.

“I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death. Beyond the walls of intelligence (schools) life is defined “- Nas, New York State of Mind

Civil Rights Education via A Beat & A Rhyme

TakeMe2YourLeaderDownload Mix Tape Here:   http://t.co/0PU4tGDJzo

By Timothy Jones, Chief Visionary Officer #HipHopEd @tdj6899

I’m sitting at my computer with my headphones on listening to “Take Me To Your Leader” created by DJ Hoodwink provided by @raptjr as my personal way to reflect on the day that the nation celebrates and commemorates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  This is not a standard mix tape review where I say this song is hot and this artist is featured.  This is a mix tape overview where I expound on the intent of the mix tape and the hope that the listener gets the responsibility that comes within the re-creation of the project. 

To drop “Take Me To Your Leader” on #MLKDAY14 would naturally make you believe that the leader that we are being taken to is Dr. King and what he represented for us as a people.  But if you really listen to the music and focus on the power of Hip-Hop as a medium that is now a worldwide phenomenon; the leader(s) are the voices of the artists on the project.  Leadership is something that can no longer be embodied in an individual that can be assassinated in an attempt to stop whatever movement the individual represented.  Leadership is a shared responsibility that we do not have the luxury of deciding whether to embrace without severe consequences for our failure to act.  There are roles within the notion of leadership that position some as leaders, but not in the traditional sense that led to the assassinations of Malcolm and Martin amongst others.

Leadership is the theory by which we embrace our connectivity to one another as people who are aligned by our experiences which include our victories, sacrifices and our sufferings.  Music and art has always been one of our most powerful weapons in evoking collective thought that incite a people to the point that they see themselves and the world around them through the paradigms created by the music.  Art is a continual remix of sounds, thoughts and method of expression; which inherently attaches a responsibility to all who dare call themselves artists.  This ideology is not prevalent in our commercialized Hip-Hop that dominates American airwaves, but is bubbling in what we call the “Underground.”  Is it a coincidence that the “Underground Railroad” is the name of the system that was developed to transport individuals from enslaved to free?  Can the music on “Take Me To Your Leader” be a stop on the “Underground Railroad” of Hip-Hop music that can transport the mentality of our youth and adults from enslaved to free?  A mindset that is free to question the way things are and presenting an alternative narrative that explains the way things can and should be?

5 Ways to use “Take Me To Your Leader” as way to introduce civil rights education to youth and adults

1. Listen to Mix Tape with a group of young people and conduct searches for the subject matters that are in the songs.  An example would be listening to “Dear Chicago Summer” and examine how violence increases in the summer and discuss ways that this pattern can be changed for summer 2014.

2. There are portions of tracks where you hear words from President Obama’s tribute to Nelson Mandela laid over Hip-Hop beats.  Take some of the words of Dr. King that speak to the realities that many people are still dealing with and have them remix the words by putting them to music.  Here is a Dr. King snippet that is seldom presented in schools, Dr. King said it: “I’m Black and I’m Proud”

3. Track 28 “Wake Up Everybody” on the Mix Tape is a remake of “Wake Up Everybody” by Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in 1975.  This creative expression is a great time travel bridge to begin to look at music from the past that called for us as a community to go higher and the Hip-Hop that is doing the same thing today.

4. Track 10 Jasiri X’s “21 Forever” provides the backdrop to look at the portrayal of young adulthood that is presented in commercial Hip-Hop and compare it to the role that young people played in the civil rights movement.  Teach our young people what the Freedom Riders were doing as 21 year olds.

5. Track 29 Dee-1 “Walking Revolution” provides a list of rules embodied by Dee-1 and the movement behind his music.  Look up some of the rules or creeds developed by organizations that were involved with civil rights.  Have the students develop their own set of rules that they must agree upon as a class for a movement to empower themselves.  Also check out Dee-1’s “American Dream” and discuss the feasibility of achieving an “American Dream” from an “Inner City Nightmare”

“A man without a mission is in mental prison, no bail”- Dee-1