#HipHopEd Top 20 Thought Provoking Hip-Hop Songs of 2017


For the past few years we as a #HipHopEd community virtually come together and make suggestions of Hip-Hop songs that were released in the current year that we felt were “thought provoking.”  We purposely don’t use terms like “educational” or “positive” because these terms can be extremely subjective and limit the creativity and critical thinking skills that are inherent in every true Hip-Hop Educator.  “Thought Provoking” is a term that speaks to the collaborative effort between the musical work and the educator to facilitate a teachable moment and or discussion through the analysis and evaluation of the musical work and the issues brought up through the overall interpretation.  We strive to not make this a mere popularity contest or a selection of favorites based on aesthetics that negate the creativity and originality of modern day voices in our culture.

It is our hope that this list will be a provocative one that you will find useful for your listening and continued development as an educator.  There are some challenges to the process such as the number of followers an individual making a song selection has and the notoriety or lack thereof of the artist being suggested; but its imperfections still capture the human element that makes the list a living document that may look different if the suggestions were reviewed and agreed upon by a panel of “experts.”  We simply counted the number (retweets) and (likes) for song suggestions from 9:00 pm Tuesday 12/19/17 to 3:00 pm Wednesday 12/20/17 EST.

I want to thank one of our #HipHopEd collaborators, Joquetta Johnson for creating the play list once the data was compiled.  Follow Joquetta on Twitter @accordin2jo 

Share your thoughts to the list by tweeting us @TheRealHipHopEd.

#HipHopEd Top 20 Thought Provoking Hip-Hop Songs of 2017

Lets take this list as an opportunity to create lessons, activities and professional development workshops together in 2018.



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:

Masta Ace / Ed OG A’s & E’s:

Smoothe The Hustler “The Art of Rap” Count the MCs:

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


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

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 http://chirpstory.com/li/103442. 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: http://edcvs.co/13BUruH
2. Songs 30-21: http://edcvs.co/13BUAhI
3. Songs 20-11: http://edcvs.co/13BUIhb
4. Songs 10-1: http://edcvs.co/13BULcN

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

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 www.FamilyEducation.com)

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)” https://sites.google.com/site/motivationataglanceischool/psychosocial-moratorium

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 www.FamilyEducation.com)

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 http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLP47NQEbZOS2vBNdn0t_GMBHUJ5LGF0Ms

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!

#HipHopEd “Profanity Free Mixtape”

Curated by Amil Cook and Timothy Jones for #HipHopEd


On November 13, 2012 #HipHopEd featured its weekly chat session, which was operating off the topic, “Creating and Evaluating a #HipHopEd “Profanity Free Mixtape.” This was an important topic for #HipHopEd to tackle because of the realities that Hip-Hop educators face in teaching our students through Hip Hop music and culture. This chat was not trying to devalue and delegitimize the substantive value of Hip-Hop music that contains profanity and delves into seedier topics. This chat was actually the response to the continuous requests for Hip-Hop tracks that could be played in schools around our country and classrooms throughout the world, without creating ethical and professional dilemmas for these much needed and highly valued educators.

As educators and adults, many if not all of us have learned how to speak effectively in the various settings that we find ourselves in, from our classrooms, office suites, homes, and our neighborhoods.  This instinctive ability to “switch up” is something that many of our young people based on the language that they hear and speak at school and in their neighborhoods.  If you include the language in the Hip-Hop that many young people listen to and the movies that they watch, they are bombarded with profanity filled narratives that can limit the range of how youth use words to communicate.

The #HipHopEd “Profanity Free Mixtape” is a resource for educators to allow young people to hear Hip-Hop that met and or meets the musical aesthetics test of the day based on overall production, content, and delivery.  The songs on this Mixtape can also serve as examples for students who believe that you cannot effectively rhyme without using profanity.  In putting together the Profanity Free Mixtape, we wanted to be conscious of trying to focus on music by Artists with a level of commercial success so that students wouldn’t dismiss the Mixtape as an underground effort of Artists who never achieved mainstream success.

For this endeavor “Profanity Free” is focused on language with some consideration for subject matter.  We know that you can have a song with questionable subject content without being profane and in these circumstances we as the Executive producers of the project made the decision as to whether to include the song on the list.  We also wanted a list of songs that are absent of profanity which is different than edited versions of songs that are on the radio and are on sale at retailers such as Walmart.

Out of this chat, came numerous song suggestions that have been collected in one place for educators, Hip Hop aficionados and others to enjoy, share and teach with. Here is the link to #HipHopEd’s “Profanity Free” Mixtape Edcanvas, an intuitive educational media platform, that contain profanity free Hip Hop track in each of its tiles. Here is the link to #HipHopEd’s “Profanity Free” Mixtape YouTube Playlist of profanity free Hip Hop tracks.
It is our hope that more songs will be suggested and included to this dynamic and live database of profanity free Hip Hop tracks. If you have a suggestion, comment or find profanity in any of the songs let us know.

For those who don’t know, #HipHopEd is a Twitter hashtag that hosts interactive chats on a range of topics at the intersections of Hip Hop and education. These chats take place every Tuesday from 9pm to 10pm EST. Unlike many other educational Twitter chats, #HipHopEd embraces the freestyle, the cypher and inclusion of everyone in attendance. Timothy Jones (@tdj6899) serves as the Master of Ceremony, tweeting out the week’s topic on Tuesday mornings, inviting special guests and community members.

#HipHopEd was created by two top tier leading educators, Brandon Frame (@brandonframe) and Dr. Christopher Emdin (@chrisemdin). #HipHopEd has organically grown into a significant community, mission and movement, intertwining and advancing education and Hip Hop simultaneously. The community’s response to #HipHopEd was so overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic that other participants and leaders were brought into #HipHopEd’s leadership team. Make sure you get involved with #HipHopEd and come through the weekly Tuesday night chats from 9pm to 10pm EST. Alright ya’ll, it’s time to get it! Let’s keep building!