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$$ Nigga” ( In this song Nicki is identifying the men who can only look from the sidelines during the game of life because they are lacking what is necessary to play in the game.  This includes what it would take to get with Nicki Minaj sexually which is the ultimate determining factor in measuring real niggas versus looking a$$ niggas in the minds of men.  Mobb Deep made the Hip-Hop classic “Shook Ones” 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$$ Nigga” is the shift in the tone of how Nicki Minaj is classifying and addressing men as Niggas from her song “N.I.G.G.A.S”  In N.I.G.G.A.S Nicki Minaj is shouting out attributes of men that she admires and even included Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X by desiring to have the chance to thank them for what they started.  The songs are not only linked by the fact that the same artist made both of them, they have the N word in the title, but through Malcolm X.  In “N.I.G.G.A.S” Malcolm X is mentioned with a desire to thank him for what he started.  In “Lookin A$$ 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”

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


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 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 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:

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

The Creation of the #HipHopEd Top 40 Songs based on Educational Value #T40S

By Timothy Jones, Chief Visionary Officer #HipHopEd @tdj6899
In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the party in the recreation room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, New York on August 11, 1973 hosted by DJ Kool Herc, we decided to curate a top 40 list. Many people view this as the beginning of contemporary Hip-Hop although the phrase (Hip-Hop) wasn’t used to capture the elements of the budding culture until Afrika Bambaataa in 1974. We didn’t want to curate a typical top 40 list based on sales or the pontificating that has become customary when individuals create lists of the top MCs in the game at a moment or in history. We decided that we would create an objective approach to curate a subjective list of the top 40 songs in the history of Hip-Hop based on educational value. There was a clear distinction between educational value and educational content. The determination of educational value was determined more by the ability of the educator as well as the content of the song. To determine educational content would have required a set of educational standards to serve as the benchmark of the content and this probably would have garnered a very short list.

The plan was to have the chat on Tuesday July 30, 2013 serve as the opportunity for the #HipHopEd community to present songs that they believed should be on the list. The time period where we would count suggestions was from 9:00 pm EST on Tuesday July 30, 2013 until 9:00 am EST on Wednesday July 31, 2013. The weekly #HipHopEd chats only last an hour but we have a growing group of Hip-Hop Educators in the United Kingdom who are fours ahead of our time zone, and we wanted to give them a chance to participate without having to stay up in the middle of the night. The tweets that we counted included the hash tags #HipHopEd and #T40S (Top 40 Songs). We would capture the full 12 hours of tweets and count each song that was mentioned. Once a song was tweeted we also counted the amount of times the tweet was retweeted (RT) and or made a favorite (FAV). If there were two songs that had the same number of total votes the order they would be placed on the list was at the discretion of the leadership team of #HipHopEd. The chat scheduled for Tuesday August 6, 2013 would be where the top songs would be revealed in groups of 10 and in 15 minute intervals. The 15 minute intervals will provide a window for each list of 10 songs to be discussed and or debated.

The chat that took place on July 30th was amazing because the participation level was so high that we trended on Twitter well beyond the regular length of our chat which is an hour. The participants were of various ages from teenagers to individuals in their 40s and beyond. The participants were educators, students, artists and fans. The subjective determination of “educational value” was presented in ways that to some were easily accepted and in other instances, not so much based on the lack of RTs and FAVs. The chat was captured on Chirpstory Chipstory is a website that allows you to search tweets using a particular hash tag and then gather them so they flow like a story. Once the Chirpstory is complete the link can be shared and viewed by anyone in our #HipHopEd community and beyond. The Chirpstory also serves as a great reference tool which allows us to go back and review past chats and assess the impact of the chat based on the times the story has been viewed.

During week between July 30th and August 6th we sifted through all the data that we collected and we put together the top 40 song list. We had to make an executive decision on song number 40 because there were 3 songs remaining with the same number of votes for the final slot. Outside of this executive decision the list shaped out to clearly represent the songs that were tweeted with accompanying RTs and or FAVs during the voting period. The songs on the list represented a wide spectrum of Hip-Hop based on the years that the songs were released. Ten percent (4 songs) that made the top 40 came from artists that were independent and Fifteen percent (6 songs) came from the ladies and another song featured a lady on the chorus. The educational value of the songs ranged from the song’s significance in the history of Hip-Hop, the subject matter addressed in the song and the structure of the song.

The true educational value of the #T40S will be measured on what educators and individuals do with the list. This chart is being used around the country as a tool to ask critical questions of youth and adults using the lens that Hip-Hop provides to discuss the issues of life that often times we find difficult to discuss. This chart is full of introspect, anger, warnings and challenges for us as a community. Here are the links to the four lists that were released during the #HipHopEd chat on Tuesday August 6, 2013.
1. Songs 40-31:
2. Songs 30-21:
3. Songs 20-11:
4. Songs 10-1:

To review past #HipHopEd chats please go to http://www.chirpstory/id/

Love, Lessons, Learning and Leadership

I look back fondly on my upbringing in the housing projects of East New York, Brooklyn. My environment then, along with hip-hop, included me in its blended family. The family values that I learned early on from hip-hop taught me unconditional love and helped me to be a father in my own blended family today.

I grew up in a family of five boys and I am the youngest. My father was in the house until I was about ten or eleven. During adolescence I was blessed to be fathered by men who guided me with wisdom and purpose throughout my life. Men such as Jeremiah Jones (who headed the youth center in my projects) and the brothers who, despite their life choices, knew right from wrong and steered me away from the mistakes that they made.

I also came to know the blessings of family life through the positive influence of hip-hop. The music and the culture served as a bond that formed many relationships. This new phenomenon called hip-hop served as the rationale to put differences and personal agendas to the side in an effort to be a part of something that was bigger than the individual. Hip-hop encouraged individuals to form the positive family bonds that previously were presented to inner city youth in the form of gangs. In fact, the most renowned MCs where parts of groups or crews: LL Cool J was partnered with DJs Bob Cat and Cut Creator; Rakim with Eric B; KRS-One with Scott LaRock and Boogie Down Productions; Queen Latifah with the Flavor Unit; Chuck D with Public Enemy; Scarface with the Geto Boys; Ice Cube with NWA; and Big Daddy Kane with Mr. Cee and the Juice Crew, just to name a few. Whether they intended to or not, all of these groups promoted the value of (and need for) strong family ties.

I carried this perspective throughout my college years and it helped me form a family bond with a group of friends who I consider brothers to this day. We created our own standards of manhood and look out for each other constantly: we attend each other’s weddings, celebrate the birth of our children, and so on. In college, I was blessed to have another strong connection with a man who guided me into adulthood. He continues to be a strong father figure in my life today. Dr. Barron H. Harvey was the man who fathered me while, in my head, I was having conversations with my biological dad that now remind me of one of lyrics by Lupe fiasco: “I want you to be a father / I’m your little boy and you don’t even bother / like “brother” without the R.” my relationship with my dad had eventually became non-existent to the point where I would wonder: “You see what my problem is? That I don’t know where my poppa is.” Those were the thoughts in my head that laid heavy on my heart as I transitioned into adulthood, despite the father figures in my life.

As a young adult, with my personal and professional lives ahead of me, I met Mr. Mahmood “Billo” Harper. Mahmood invited me into his world and I saw in him a futuristic interpretation of myself as a “Hip-Hop Dad.” Mahmood showed me how to incorporate my love of hip-hop into my business and family life.

Within hip-hop culture, the crews evolved similar to how relationships develop in personal life. Rappers went from coming together to do shows and songs to coming together to establish businesses. This shift is exemplified in the emergence of Wu-Tang Clan in 1994. Wu-Tang redefined how to do business within hip-hop. The family structure of “the posse” was a new model. Hip-hop evolved from having crews on the street corner to having clans in the corner office . . . similar to how relationships can evolve from boyfriend/girlfriend status to a husband and wife union. As hip-hop continued to develop in this way, so did I. In 1998, I put aside my boyhood ways and got married. I became a husband and a father in the same moment because my wife, Vanessa, had a seven-year-old daughter.

Raising my daughter Jasmine (I never use the term “step”) called forth all the positive images and lessons that were presented to me by hip-hop and by the wise men in my life— both my elders and my peers. I was now initiated into a new sort of hip-hop crew. Within my new family, some of hip-hop’s basic values and practices applied: nothing should break down the unit, posses roll deep, and your word is your bond. And if someone in the crew presents an “outsider” (i.e., me, in this case) as being “down,” then the so-called outsider must receive the same love and support as every other member of the family . . . regardless of tenure. I joined Vanessa and Jasmine’s crew by making my wedding vows to both of them. I knew that the success of my marriage would be based on my ability to keep my promises to my wife and my new daughter. Without these rules to live by, I don’t think that I would have been psychologically or emotionally equipped to be a father to Jasmine.

By 1999, I was a happily married man in my thirties. I was still a hip-hop head and I began to notice a growing frustration within the hip-hop community—mostly centered on the issue of fatherhood. More and more, rappers began to address the pain caused by fathers’ dysfunctional relationships with their children. Though I had forgiven my father for his not being around, I could still relate to this pain. It motivated me to do my best for my daughter and for the young people that I worked with as director of the teen program at Martha’s Table (Martha’s Table is a prominent non-profit community-based organization in Washington, D.C.). Many of the teens in my program don’t have fathers or father figures in their lives. Through my work, I felt I was answering Quan’s hip-hop plea: “Can we please have a moment for children who got raped or murdered, or trapped in the system who never knew their father, never learned to dream but was guided by drug dealers, killers and crack fiends.” I have established long lasting bonds with most of the teens in my program over the past twelve years and I saw, once again, the value of the blended family.

Still and all, I longed to have a son. I believed a son would help heal any remaining wounds that were created by my biological father. In 1999, god answered my prayers and my son Isaiah Jeremiah Ezra Jones was born on my thirty-first birthday. He was named in honor of all the father figures who filled in the gaps for me and my wife. Since that day and moving forward, Isaiah will always know what life is like with his dad. His life challenges will not be based on the hard circumstances that come with growing up in a single parent home. Instead, he will benefit from my having broken a cycle of bitterness and my having learned how to love past pain. The father and the man that I become; and the man that I will raise my son to be, are deeply rooted in my belief, trust, confidence, and reliance on Jesus Christ for all things. As I continued to mature into manhood, I found comfort and joy in serving Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth, in my rewarding work, and in a faithful marriage. All these things helped me to be secure in my identity and purpose in life.

When teens ask why I am the way that I am and why I care as much as I do, I love that I get the chance to tell them that I love them because Jesus first loved me and that He gave me so many fathers to model after. I believe I must be a father for them too. I am also proud to tell them that hip-hop culture, contrary to popular belief, has been a guidepost for me to follow with regard to building a family unit—be that family in the household, in the projects, on the block, or at the local community center. The role that hip-hop has played in my life is based on an insight that was god-given. Hip-hop influences my ministry from the pulpit as a minister and I have been afforded a spiritual father who leads me as my Pastor, Bishop Larry H. Jordan, Sr. I am able to reflect on hip-hop culture in a way that many see as contradictory to how hip-hop has been defined by society. I know better. In the words of Inspector Deck I say, “Leave it up to me while I be living proof to kick the truth to the young black youth.” my life with hip-hop, family, mentors, and friends has consisted of the love, lessons, learning, and leadership necessary to mold me into what I am and all the things I will become.

By Optimus

MTCA: (S) 101 “Beat 2 the Rhyme” Creative Writing for Academic Achievement

1picThis workshop will introduce concepts based on the 5th stage of development for adolescence (12 to 18 years) according to Erickson’s Stages of Development.  The creative writing and critical thinking assignments will focus on the following:

–          Identity
–          Social Interactions/Peer Groups
–          Moral/Ethic Issues
–          Moratorium
–          Philosophy of Life
–          Skills for High School Students (according to

Song: Young, Wild & Free (Wiz Khalifa)                                Stage 5: Moratorium

Sound Check: If you could do three things and not worry about the consequences of your actions or being disciplined by your parents or any other adults, what would they be and why?  Ask a few students to read their responses and make a list on the board.  Or you can have everyone read their top response of the three that they wrote down.

Introduction: “A psychosocial moratorium is when a person takes a break from “real life” to actively search for their identity. The developer, Erik Erikson, noted that it is a period of time “during which the individual through free role experimentation may find a niche in some section of his society, a niche which is firmly defined and yet seems to be uniquely made for him” (Erikson, 1956). During a psychosocial moratorium, a person has the opportunity to try on multiple identities and/or roles before firmly committing to one. They also finalize their sense of ethics and morals in this stage. Erikson intended for it to be the final stage of identity development, which takes place in late adolescence. People going through a psychosocial moratorium are said to be having an “identity crisis.” Erikson postulated that identity development facilitated personal functioning and well-being. If a person does not make a commitment to an identity or role after taking a moratorium, or if they don’t have a chance to take a moratorium, the person has a high risk for developing confusion about their identity and their role in society. (Erikson, 1956; Erikson, 1988)”

This break from “real life” is a prominent theme in adolescence because youth want the freedom of choice without the full weight of the consequences of their actions.  In looking at this theory further and attaching socioeconomic status to it, do we have a difference between the moratoriums for the wealthy versus the poor?  Do adult like responsibilities placed on young people from lower economic families like watching younger siblings and preparing meals impact a young person’s ability to fully engage in his/her moratorium?  Is the notion of taking a break from “real life” inherently negative, positive, or neither?  We are going to listen to a song by Wiz Khalifa called “Young, Wild & Free” and discuss whether Hip-Hop provides a sort of moratorium for youth to escape “real life”, but at what cost if Hip-Hop is presented as “real life?”

Performance: Pass out the lyrics to “Young, Wild & Free” and then play the song.  Have the students read along as the song is playing so that you know that they are paying attention because they will keep time with the song.

 Lyrics of Emphasis:
–          We’re just having fun/ we don’t care who sees
–          Living young and wild and free
–          Saggin’ my pants, not caring what I show
–          Got my own car, no job, no children

Students should choose 3 of the 4 lyrics and write (3) sentences that explain what is being said by each lyric.

Lyrical Exercise:
In the song the emphasis of being young, wild and free is on using drugs and partying.  I want you to attempt to rewrite the chorus and write a verse that focuses on other activities that young people participate in under the motto of “Young, Wild and Free.”  In the chorus you should change the first two lines to include the other behaviors that young people participate in under their moratorium and therefore not considering the consequences.  Your verse should talk about the fun that you have in doing whatever it is that you are doing and how society should really back off because you are “young” and this is what your youth is about.  Your verse should be 12 lines in length.

Performance: Each student will read their completed work in the front of the class and submit.

“Young, Wild & Free”
(with Snoop Dogg)
(feat. Bruno Mars)

[Hook: Bruno Mars]
So what we get drunk?
So what we smoke weed?
We’re just having fun
We don’t care who sees
So what we go out?
That’s how it’s supposed to be
Living young and wild and free

[Verse 1: Wiz Khalifa]
Uh, Uh huh
So what I keep ‘em rolled up?
Saggin’ my pants, not caring what I show
Keep it real with my ni*&as
Keep it player for these h*^s
And look clean don’t it?
Washed it the other day, watch how you lean on it
Give me some 501 jeans on it
Roll joints bigger than King Kong’s fingers
And smoke them h*^s down ’til they stingers
You a class clown and if I skip for the day
I’m with your b&#$% smokin’ grade A

[Verse 1: Snoop Dogg]
You know what?
It’s like I’m 17 again
Peach fuzz on my face
Lookin’, on the case
Tryna find a hella taste
Oh my god, I’m on the chase, Chevy
It’s gettin’ kinda heavy, relevant, sellin’ it
Dippin’ away, time keeps slippin’ away
Zip in the safe, flippin’ for pay
Tippin’ like I’m drippin’ in paint
Up front, four blunts, like, “Khalifa put the weed in a J”


[Verse 2: Wiz Khalifa]
And I don’t even care
Cause if me and my team in there
There’s gonna be some weed in the air
Tell ’em Mac

[Verse 2: Snoop Dogg]
Blowin’ everywhere we goin’ and now you knowin’
When I step right up, get my lighter so I can light up

[Wiz Khalifa]
That’s how it should be done
Soon as you thinkin’ you’re down
Find how to turn things around
Now things are lookin’ up

[Snoop Dogg]
From the ground up, pound up, this Taylor Gang
So turn my sound up and mount up and do my thang

[Wiz Khalifa]
Now I’m chillin’, fresh outta class, feelin’
Like I’m on my own and I could probably own a building
Got my own car, no job, no children
Had a science project, me and Mac killed it

[Snoop Dogg]
T-H-C, M-A-C, D-E-V, H-D-3, high as me
This is us, we gon’ fuss
And we gon’ fight and we gon’ roll
And live off life


[Bridge: Wiz Khalifa]
Yeah, roll one, smoke one
When you live like this you’re supposed to party
Roll one, smoke one, and we all just having fun
So we just, roll one, smoke one
When you live like this you’re supposed to party
Roll one, smoke one, and we all just having fun


Sample Lesson 2

1pic2This workshop will introduce concepts based on the 5th stage of development for adolescence (12 to 18 years) according to Erickson’s Stages of Development.  The creative writing and critical thinking assignments will focus on the following:

–          Identity
–          Social Interactions/Peer Groups
–          Moral/Ethic Issues
–          Moratorium
–          Philosophy of Life
–          Skills for High School Students (according to

Song: Starships (Nicki Minaj)                     Stage 5: Moratorium

Sound Check:

“So he moves with his peers, different blocks, different years
Sittin on, different benches like it’s musical chairs
All his peoples moved on in life, he’s on the corners at night
with young dudes it’s them he wanna be like
It’s sad but it’s fun to him right? He never grew up
31 and can’t give his youth up; he’s in his second childhood” –Nas 2nd Childhood

“Time flyin she the same person, never matures
All her friends married doin well
She’s in the streets yakkety yakkin like she was 12
Honey is twenty-seven, argues fights
Selfish in her own right, polite, guess she’s in her second childhood”- Nas 2nd Childhood

(If a person does not make a commitment to an identity or role after taking a moratorium, or if they don’t have a chance to take a moratorium, the person has a high risk for developing confusion about their identity and their role in society.) Analyze the two quotes from Nas’ song “2nd Childhood” and the statement in italics and write a short paragraph for each one telling what you believe could have happened to these individuals during the period of adolescence and their psychosocial moratorium that has them in these life conditions as adults.  Ask a few students to read their responses and make a list of the reasons mentioned in the paragraphs on the board.

Introduction: We are continuing our study on Erickson’s theory of adolescents participating in a “psychosocial moratorium” as a process of establishing their identity.  The break from “real life” as the moratorium is called takes on different forms based on socio-economic status and the individual desires of the youth.  Culture can play a significant role in influencing the behaviors that take place under the auspices of a “moratorium.”  What happens when the behaviors that are being promoted are behaviors that are legally adult in nature and are irresponsible for adults to participate excessively?  The song that we will be reviewing is “Starships” by Nicki Minaj.  The song is very upbeat and promotes a spirit of partying and forgetting the worries of the day, but at what cost?

Performance: Pass out the lyrics to “Starships” and then play the song.  Have the students read along as the song is playing so that you know that they are paying attention because they will keep time with the song.

Lyrics of Emphasis:
–          They say, what they gonna say?
–          Get on the floor, floor/Like it’s your last chance
–          Can’t stop ‘cause we’re so high
–          That’s our life, there’s no end in sight

Students should choose 3 of the 4 lyrics and write (3) sentences that explain what is being said by each lyric.

Lyrical Exercise:
Look through the verses of this song and identify the behavior in the song that you deem irresponsible.  Think about the potential short and long term consequences associated with the behaviors celebrated in the song.  Write two 8 line verses to “starships.”  One verse will outline the responsible way to ensure that you are ready to fly high in young adulthood in a manner that is healthy for you and full of opportunity.  The other verse should outline the consequences of the irresponsible behavior that you identified within the original song.  Include the chorus:

“Starships were meant to fly/Hands up and touch the sky/can’t stop ‘cause we’re so high/Let’s do this one more time” before each of your verses in your poem.  You can choose which verse you want to go first in your poem.

Performance: Each student will read their completed work in the front of the class and submit.

Nicki Minaj

Red one
Let’s go to the beach, each
Let’s go get away
They say, what they gonna say?
Have a drink, clink, found the Bud Light
Bad b@#$%@* like me, is hard to come by
The Patrón, own, let’s go get it on
The zone, own, yes I’m in the zone
Is it two, three, leave a good tip
I’ma blow all my money and don’t give two s#$^#

I’m on the floor, floor
I love to dance
So give me more, more, ‘til I can’t stand
Get on the floor, floor
Like it’s your last chance
If you want more, more
Then here I am

Starships were meant to fly
Hands up and touch the sky
Can’t stop ‘cause we’re so high
Let’s do this one more time

Starships were meant to fly
Hands up and touch the sky
Let’s do this one last time
Can’t stop…

(We’re higher than a mother#$@%^) [x3]

Jump in my hooptie hooptie hoop
I own that
And I ain’t paying my rent this month
I owe that
But f#@$ who you want, and f#$% who you like
That’s our life, there’s no end in sight
Twinkle, twinkle little star

Now everybody let me hear you say ray ray ray
Now spend all your money cause today’s pay day
And if you’re a G, you a G, G, G
My name is Onika, you can call me Nicki

Get on the floor, floor
Like it’s your last chance
If you want more, more
Then here I am

Starships were meant to fly
Hands up and touch the sky
Can’t stop ‘cause we’re so high
Let’s do this one more time

Starships were meant to fly
Hands up and touch the sky
Let’s do this one last time
Can’t stop…

(We’re higher than a mother#$@%^) [x3]

Starships were meant to fly
Hands up and touch the sky
Can’t stop ‘cause we’re so high
Let’s do this one more time

Starships were meant to fly
Hands up and touch the sky
Let’s do this one last time
Can’t stop…

(We’re higher than a mother#$@%^) [x3]

The Sport of Hip-Hop: The Battle

TheSportoftheBattleBy Timothy Jones for #HipHopEd

The two MCs pictured above, to the left, Busy Bee and to the right, Kool Moe Dee, are credited with participating in the first MC Battle in 1982.  Over the past 30 years the MC Battle has been implemented in various forms from individual versus individual to crew versus crew.  Hip-Hop as a culture also embraced the aesthetic of the battle in the other creative staples of Hip-Hop as well (DJ, Graffiti, and Break Dance).  If you study the landscape of the South Bronx in the 1970s which is the decade that what we call Hip-Hop today was born (1973 to be exact) you have to acknowledge the gang culture that dominated youth culture.  Within gang culture competitions were settled violently and were seemingly never ending.  The Hip-Hop Battle provided an outlet for youth to compete in a manner that was non-violent and actually had a semblance of structure.  As the development of the standards of excellence was established in the Hip-Hop arts, these standards were used as ways of determining who was the best or the victor in any battle scenario.

There is research out there about the benefits of youth competing in organized sports.  Young people develop self discipline, teamwork, sportsmanship, and confidence just to name a few character benefits of sports.  It is easily accepted in our society because of the role that sports plays in almost every fabric of our lives.  For those of us who were blessed to grow up alongside of Hip-Hop we witnessed the attributes that have been identified as the benefits of participating in sports, being achieved by those who participated in Hip-Hop Battles.  In the inner cities you had the neighborhood youth who excelled in the various Hip-Hop Arts receive the same accolades that top athletes received for staring on their high school or neighborhood all star team.

This article is not a piece to outline the history of the battle within Hip-Hop, but to introduce and reintroduce to some positive aspects of the Hip-Hop battle and it’s similarities to other more acceptable modes of competition.  The goal is to open the minds of educators to incorporate the concept of the Hip-Hop battle in its various artistic forms into the classroom as method of developing and promoting communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking amongst their students.   To help present this theoretical approach, think about the academic based battles ranging from spelling bees, science fairs, multiplication/math competitions, and a game show called jeopardy.  Oratorical battles in the form of debates are used to help distinguish the best candidate for the President of the United States in a similar fashion as the audience decided who won the legendary battle between Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee.

Over the years the Hip-Hop battle has helped sustain, rejuvenate, and expand the artistic standard of MCing and Dance.  The following is a resource of a collection of Hip-Hop MC Battles that range from the initial battle of Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee to the battle at the end of Disney’s “Let it Shine” (Don’t laugh J).  You can use the videos as resources for professional development to educate yourself on the Hip-Hop battle and some you can show to your students to get the energy flowing in the classroom.  If you are familiar with the history of Hip-Hop there are some classic battles that I did not include in the playlist.  I didn’t want to have a list of videos of songs that served as the weapons used in the battle.  I wanted to focus on reports about battles, and footage of actual in-person battles.  Here is the link to the playlist

I would be remiss if I didn’t end this piece by making a clear distinction between a “battle” and “beef.”  In the spirit of Hip-Hop, the best way to explain the difference between two is as follows:

Beef is when the battle goes beyond the wax and needle

Beef is when the battle spills out amongst the people

Beef is when the battle ends inside a building with a steeple

Beef is when the battle uses weapons that are lethal” – OpTIMuS

Make sure our students understand the difference between a battle and a beef so that the benefits of battling never give way to the burdens of beef!