Hip-Hop, other than being a culture and a genre is also a very powerful tool for empowering the masses about political and socially relevant issues. It owes this attribute to the very frequently ignored ‘5th element‘, Knowledge, especially in South Asia which is perceived to only be acquired by mugging up statistics and facts from books. This is true………. only if you are still stuck in the 1950’s.
The origin of Hip-Hop was based on disseminating the happenings in the black community. It is this element which diluted with time but has resurrected due to socially conscious rappers such as Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. A culture which is often criticised for promoting guns, drugs and sex, is there any scope for Hip-Hop being used as a tool for education ? It is in fact. Several Universities such as University of Arizona, Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have dedicated programs for Hip-Hop education which uses Hip-Hop music as a tool for learning as well as interacting with different student communities and groups.
Incorporating Hip-Hop into an academic curriculum is generating interest amongst the youth and as a result promoting literacy along with stimulating the students about the existing social and political matters. A few modern-day educators and teachers are starting to see such advantages and are using Hip-Hop and Rap music as the medium to connect with the youth. Although such approaches were initiated in Northern America, they have now rapidly spread to other parts of the world especially in European countries such as Germany and France.
There have been several elements in Hip-Hop-based education and some of them are as follows :
1. The Hip-Hop Education Guidebook
2. Hip-Hop Educational Literacy Program
3. Trials of a Hip-Hop Educator
4. Hip-Hop Schoolhouse
5. Hip-Hop 101
6. Hip-Hop Saves Lives
Such programs aim at creating awareness among educational professionals to try and experiment and eventually implement such approaches in teaching. This, in turn, helps them communicate with the students through a medium which appeals to them.
The mission of the Hip-hop Education Center is that it, “Aims to be a centralised online social network, learning and information exchange, and archival management system offering the infrastructure, tools, and social impact to transform how we think about teaching and learning, education and schooling, academic scholars and public intellectuals.”
Hip-Hop is now a growing favourite among English teachers and tutors as it provides them with a platter of words in the form of metaphors, similes, verbs etc. Lyricism is now often used by teachers to draw a correlation between classical poetry and modern-day art. In classrooms from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and everywhere in between, teachers realise that the popularity of Hip-Hop is a powerful tool that can be used to engage students and teach everything from English and Algebra to the Periodic Table of the elements in Chemistry class.
Toni Blackman, The U.S. Department of State’s Hip-Hop Cultural Envoy (believe it or not but that is a real title) since 2001 says that “Hip-hop is a very powerful educational tool; it’s very exciting, teaching has to change. When teachers have to compete with technology and media for students’ attention, you have to get your game tight if you want to succeed.”
In India, we have had attempts to use elements of Hip-Hop to create awareness among students to follow education. It helps them in their creative development and prevents them from getting involved in grievous habits, especially the kids living on the streets. Crews such as ‘Slumgods’ have been following such principles and deserve a huge shout out for doing so.
Hip-Hop-based education at one time seemed a very distant dream but now with evolving technologies and changing mindsets of the parents as well as educators, the day is not far when Hip-Hop will be more prominently used in the education system. Hip-Hop and education if incorporated together can make academic endeavours interesting and entertaining for both the teacher as well as the student.
Hip Hop Histories: Noted hip-hop scholar Jeff Chang and others dedicate the Cornell Hip Hop Collection