The first day of my communication course at a 2-yr college would begin with my instructor introduction. Educators know that the foundation of a good course is to establish rapport with students at the onset. I observe the urban students who display a look of determination towards reaching academic goals. Some students are wearing cornrows and braided hairstyles. Other students are dressed impeccably as though they are working at a five star hotel. An entrepreneurial student can be found in the back of the class with a backpack full of snacks to sell students an item at a price that is half off from that of the vending machine. Other students may have CD’s from their latest independent projects to sell to students as a way to supplement income. In the midst of all of this, I can hear the chimes of cell phones spewing to the latest beats of lyrics and rhythmic tunes of hip-hop.
In my polished candor some of the students may not have a clue of my awareness of their struggle to complete academic pursuits while balancing financial and personal challenges of city living. I usually begin by saying, “Welcome to the course. Communication is important because some of you may become a best-selling author. Some of you may be inventors who need to persuade investors to take part in a new product that will fulfill a need in our country.” At this point the class is very still and I can see I have grasped their attention. To build on this connection I share my years of the eighties and nineties in the city of Boston. Once during my introduction a student said, “Y’all, Dr. D is from the hood! I lived in Boston and heard of the area she is talking about. She is not lying when she tells you that she grew up in the hood!” In the midst of sharing, I would inwardly go back to the days of hearing Slick Rick’s La Di Da Di rap tune that featured Doug E. Fresh. Some of the lines I vividly remember are the following:
La di da di, we like to party. We don’t cause trouble, we don’t bother nobody.We’re… just some men that’s on the mic,And when we rock upon the mic, We rock the mic (Right!). I… woke up around ten o’clock in the mornin’, Gave myself a (stretch up), a mornin’ yawn and… I got the Johnson’s Baby Powder and the (Polo Cologne). Fresh dressed like a millions bucks, threw on the Valley shoes and the fly green socks.
The lyrics spewing over the rhythmic percussion caused me to put my head back and bop to the music with a hope that my tomorrow would be stronger than the present. Despite the negative realities of the drug pushers, my peers and I could hear the beats popping in the background of the city rigor. The music influenced the movements of breakdance and free form expression which provided an outlet for many to partake in something positive. I recalled observing my brother break down electronic devices to build his own recording studio from scratch. Hip-Hop was a sidebar to my lived reality. I would convey to the class that we can use our realities as instruments of motivation.
It is no wonder why scholar Edgar Tyson wrote the article Hip-Hop Therapy: An Exploratory Study of a Rap Music Intervention with At-Risk and Delinquent Youth. He indicated that Hip-Hop Therapy (HHT) could be a useful strategy in building the self-concept of students. Interestingly, Millennials are merging all facets of their personal and academic lives with fused influences of social media and music. It is no wonder that there are hundreds of Hip-Hop courses that are developing in our country.
We also love to listen to well noted scholar Michael Eric Dyson who is known for spewing the lyrics of Tupac and Nas as he tells the stories of the voiceless to bring attention to issues of our young African-American males. Dyson finds a way to bridge the social theories of humanity with that of lyrics from America’s greatest lyricists. Hip-Hop has come a long way from the late seventies. I wonder what our Hip-Hop theory will be in years to come. I always love to watch the new videos about voting, or decision making that begins with a jazzy beat. The challenge will be to encourage artists and listeners to create content that is uplifting and non-degrading. There is something to be learned from Hip-Hop.