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. Furthermore, it owes this attribute to the very frequently ignored element especially in South Asia which is Knowledge. There is a perception about the term ‘knowledge’ in South Asia that it can 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. Especially due to socially conscious rappers such as Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole to name a few. In 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. University of Arizona, Cornell and University of Wisconsin-Madison are just a few of those Universities which have dedicated programs for hip-hop education. They often use hip-hop music as an education tool as well for talking to different student communities and groups.
There is obviously one aspect that incorporating hip-hop into an academic curriculum generates interest in the youth. As a consequence promotes literacy. It can also be used to stimulate students about the existing social and political matters. A few modern-day educators and teachers are starting to see such advantages. They are now using hip-hop and rap music as medium to connect with the youth. Although such approaches were commencing only in Northern America, they now have rapidly spread out to other parts of the world. Especially in European countries such as Germany and France.
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 comparisons 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. Which can be used to engage students and teach everything from English to 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 the following “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.”
The Hip-hop education centre has the following mission
“The Hip-Hop Education Centre 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.”
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 education professionals to try and experiment and eventually implement such approaches in education and also get in touch with students via a medium which appeals to them.
In India we have had attempts to use elements of hip-hop to create awareness among students to follow education. It also helps in their creative development and prevents them from getting involved in grievous habits. Especially those kids living in the streets. Crews such as ‘SlumGods’ have been following such principles and deserve a huge shout out for these practices. The After-School of Hip Hop is successfully being run under the Dharavi Project. An initiative taken by UMG and Qyuki in association with SlumGods.
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 very far away when hip-hop will be used as one of the mediums for education. Hip-hop and education if incorporated together can make academic endeavours interesting for both the teacher as well as the student.