Unit III: American Dream or…

American Dream built by the AmeriKKKan Nightmare #HipHopEd

American Dream built by the AmeriKKKan Nightmare #HipHopEd


Students will explore Black Voice, diaspora, cultural syncretism the Harlem Renaissance and the development of Jazz as foundational to Hip-Hop.

I. Part 1: Diaspora (3 days)

Students will examine and trace the role played by the African Diaspora on Hip-Hop up to the Harlem Renaissance and also understand the role played by the latter.

  • Read pp 6-26 in the text of “Black Jacobins” by C.L.R. James and take notes: http://ouleft.org/wp-content/uploads/CLR_James_The_Black_Jacobins.pdf
  • Answer the following reading/listening QUIZ questions: What would happen to personal narratives let alone those like the Sundiata, or centuries older ones like Zaynab in the process of being made captives in the Middle Passage? Do you believe any griots survived, if at all—and why?
  • Listen to “Diasporal Histories” by Professor A.L.I. and take notes
  • Answer the following reading/listening QUIZ questions:
    • How many narratives are woven into the story told by Professor A.L.I.?
    • What is A.L.I. describing in the first verse?
    • Who and/what are Baileys/Bailys?
    • Define Griot?
  • Watch the following video by Blitz the Ambassador, featuring and beginning with a griot/djali/jali reciting: 
  • Answer following reading/listening questions: How many griots are in the video? (Consider the definition of griot)
  • Listen to “Love’s Gonna Get’cha” by KRS-One and “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash (Melle Mell Rhyming) and take notes
  • Answer following reading/listening question:
    • What imagery in the narrative stands out to you?
    • Are KRS-One/Melle Mell modern day griots–why or why not?
    • If so, then what is the moral of the story that he tells?
    • Must there be a moral to a story in order to be considered a griot, why or why not?
Jazzmatazz #HipHopEd

Jazzmatazz #HipHopEd

II. Part 2: Jazzmattazz (3 days)

Students will explore how jazz was foundational to Hip-Hop through a detailed examination of Jazz’s influence on Hip-Hop and its own growth out of slavery.

The Harlem Renaissance & Hip-Hop #HipHopEd

The Harlem Renaissance & Hip-Hop #HipHopEd

III. Part 3:  The Renaissance (4 Days)

Students will delve into the historical context and framing of the Harlem Renaissance and draw connections between the luminaries of the Renaissance and their direct impact on the development of Hip-Hop.

  • Harlem Renaissance Video:  and take notes
  • Read “#3 Civil Rights by Copyright (Da Remix!): From Harlem Renaissance to the Hip-Hop Generation” from “Hip-Hop’s Inheritance dream” by Rabaka and take notes
  • Discussion: What do you think the connection is between the Harlem Renaissance and Hip-Hop?
  • Choose one of the Harlem Renaissance’s major figures to explore
  • Write a brief bio about one of the Harlem Renaissance’s luminaries and consider the impact they may have had on the lyricism/imagery in Hip-Hop. (3 Paragraphs; intro/body/conclusion) – in the conclusion please postulate the possible impact this person could have had on Hip-Hop
  • Upload Double Spaced Word Doc (TNR 12 point font; Citation CMS)
  • Read “Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175884 and pull out the imagery of the five senses and answer the following questions: How does Hughes use the senses to depict a sense of loss and gain and what does he mean about a “Dream Deferred”? (2 paragraphs)
  • Listen to “Juicy” by Notorious BIG and take notes
  • Answer the following questions:
    • How does “Juicy” compare to a “Dream Deferred”…
    • is BIG living the dream?
    • How does he use the senses to depict the dream life?
    • Is this a life that Hughes would approve of? (2 paragraphs)

IV. Part 4:  Coded Language (3 Days)

Students will decipher coded language in Hip-Hop, explore the coded language in the song of the griot, in negro spirituals, in the game called the “dozens” and its usage in Hip-Hop collective consciousness.  Students will also consider why coded language was important and what it was a response to.  Students will be introduced to the double-entendre poem.

  • Answer the following questions:
    • What are the origins of “Ya Mama Jokes”?  
    • What is the definition of “Crackalackin”?
    • What does “Uncle Tom” mean?
  • Watch this clip about the Negro Spiritual “Wade In The Water”:  and take notes
  • Answer following reading/listening QUIZ questions: What is the hidden message if any in this spiritual; justify your answer using the lyrics.
  • What are “The Dozens” a reference to a lyrical game often played in the post-antebellum communities?
  • Read the 14th Amendment here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv and answer whether there is any coded language in there:
  • Listen to the “The Pen” by Professor A.L.I., take notes and consider the double entendre in play throughout this song—then answer in what ways does this song point out the contradictions in the language of the 14th Amendment and what are some of the interplays of language in the song: write 2 paragraphs in response to these questions.XFactor by Professor A.L.I.
  • Listen to “Me and My Girlfriend” by 2pac, what is coded language and what is he talking about?
  • Watch the following video and answer why did Jay-Z remix 2pac’s song and whether he changed the meaning if at all? 
  • Listen to “I Gave You Power” by Nas and “Words of Wisdom” by 2pac, take notes
  • Answer the following questions: What are the benefits of using coded language? If an artist like 2pac’s code was broken, would he then be a threat to the “masters” of those in power that he was critiquing? What are the differences between 2pac’s song, Jay-Z’s song and Nas’s song? In “Words of Wisdom”, 2pac establishes his own definition for several words, how does this glossary help people listen to his music—does this increase or decrease the codability of 2pac?
  • Listen to “B.I.B.L.E.” by Killah Priest and take notes and answer the following questions:
    • What role if any does spirituality/religion/faith play in Hip-Hop?
    • What imagery/codes does Killah Priest use and confront about the coded messages in our world?
Holy Texts and Hip-Hop #HipHopEd

Holy Texts and Hip-Hop #HipHopEd

V. Part 5: Holy Texts (3 Days)

The first multi platinum artist in Hip-Hop was MC Hammer, he became so popular that he was labeled as non-Hip-Hop artist by many in the genre. Then the first number one rap single was Crossroads by Bone Thugs and Harmony. 2pac became one of the most established and erudite stars in Hip-Hop before his untimely death and his popularity has been linked to the heavy dose of spirituality in his music. Then there is the first single that put Kanye on the map “Jesus Walks” and the remix that made Lupe Fiasco famous. Finally there is Lecrae, a best selling digital artist but is described as a Chirstian Hip-Hop artist… students will understand how and why religion plays such a significant role in Hip-Hop.

  • Read “The Love” in the Gospel of Hip-Hop
  • Watch the “Pray” video by MC Hammer
  • Read the following interview with Davey D and MC Hammer and focus on the part about religion: http://www.daveyd.com/hammerpt2.html
  • Answer the following question: What is the code behind religion and faith in general and its role in this type of music?
  • Watch “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs N Harmony here: 
  • Listen to “Who Do You Believe In” by 2pac
  • Watch “Only God Can Judge Me” by 2pac 
  • Listen to “Do G’s get to Go To Heaven” by Richie Rich (a tribute to 2pac)
  • Listen to Boogiemonsters’ “Mark Of The Beast” here: 
  • Watch “Prayin’ For You” by Lecrae
  • Discussion-what imagery do you notice in these videos and in the lyrical content of these songs?
  • Answer the following questions:
    • Describe the relationship of the Story of Zaynab to that of faith and connect that to the role of griots and marabouts in West Africa, before the Middle Passage and the role of the Baily’s and other ‘Muslim’ former captives/slaves and the role of Negro spirituals upon the development of Hip-Hop in a two to three paragraph quickwrite.
  • Read the following article: http://www.vocativ.com/culture/religion/islam-hip-hop/ and take notes
  • Watch “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West: ; and watch “Muhammad Walks” the remix by Lupe Fiasco 
  • Watch “Way Of Life” by Yusuf Abdul Mateen:
  • Read: “Muslimhiphop.com: Constructing Muslim Hip Hop Identities on the Internet” by Inka Rantakallio here: http://www.cyberorient.net/article.do?articleId=8623 and take notes (focus on her conclusion and thesis).
  • Watch this video about the return of Mecca: 
  • And examine this website thoroughly: http://www.returnofthemecca.com/
  • Watch Basic Instructions by Professor A.L.I. feat. Shabazz the Disciple
  • Watch a Brother Ali interview at Stanford University here: 
  • What faith seems to play a greater role in Hip-Hop and why? Use all of the above videos, articles and websites to articulate and defend your answer. 2-3 page essay.
  •  Rev Run’s transformation at Church: 
  • Napoleon the Outlaw to Mutah Beale: 
  • Discussion

Part 5.1. Asiatics (2 days)

  • Students will explore the foundational role played by Islam in the Middle Passage, then by the NOI, and break off movements like the NGE, and parallel movements like the Moorish Temple of Science on Hip-Hop.  Students will be able to explain why the term “Islamic Hip-Hop” is a redundancy as Islam is woven into the inextricably into the history of Hip-Hop.
  • Listen to “Asiatics” by Professor A.L.I. and Planet Asia + Discussion
  • Read the following article: http://hiphopwired.com/2012/06/28/the-meaning-of-the-5-a-look-at-the-nation-of-gods-and-earths/2/ take notes and post questions on Canvas about the NGE
  • Read the following article about Lyricism and Vocab and note many of the most loquacious on this list are members of the NGE: http://rappers.mdaniels.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/
  • Watch Lord Jamar’s 5% Documentary Part 1:  
  • Watch Lord Jamar’s 5% Documentary Part 2:  [youtubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cycX9MpMQAc]
  • Listen to “Rock This Funky Joint” by Poor Righteous Teachers
  • Listen to Lord Jamar’s “Supreme Mathematics”:
  • Listen to Lord Jamar’s “Original Man” ft. Raekwon and Kasim:
  • Listen to I.S.L.A.M. by Lord Jamar:
  • Watch this advertisement for a 5% Nation book and consider the artists depicted:
  • Answer the following questions (1-2 page reflection)
    • How significant do you think Supreme Mathematics and Science, i.e. the 5 Percent nation or NGE is in Hip-Hop?
    • Is there some irony in that this movement is loosely derived from an Islamic narrative, the same one, which Zaynab is couched in? 

Part 5.2: The Tribe of Shabazz and the X-Factor (6 Days)

  • Students will study and understand the history and influence of Malcolm X to Malcolm Shabazz, the exploration on the role played by Malcolm X’s legacy on Hip-Hop and his family’s role as stewards of the movement.
  • Listen to Malcolm X “No Sell Out”:  take notes and answer the following questions:
    • Why was this record made?
    • Why use Malcolm?
    • Why was no other black speaker used?
    • Why not MLK?
    • What was it about Malcolm that made him pertinent?
  • Listen to the Malcolm and Me Interview Part 2 on Professor A.L.I.’s XFactor and answer the following question: When Malcolm Shabazz the grandson of Malcolm X, talks about his affiliation with the Ahlul Bayt or the Shia, he is hearkening back to the story of Zaynab—the fact that this interview takes place after he comes back from Syria having connected with Zaynab’s shrine in Damascus is also poignant. Why is this narrative important in light of Malcolm X’s impact on Hip Hop?
  • Watch Mos Def Read Malcolm X:
  • Watch Peter Bailey on Malcolm X:
  • Watch Malcolm’s Echo:
  • Watch Spike Lee on Malcolm:
  • Watch Adisa Banjoko on Malcolm and Hip Hop
  • Watch the following clip “Malcolm X” by Stormshadowz ft. Professor A.L.I.:
  • Please read this article about the Nikki Minaj Controversy: http://hiphopwired.com/2014/04/08/nicki-minaj-jabs-malcolm-xs-daughter-chi-raq-track-listen/
  • Read the following article about Malcolm X and Hip-Hop: http://hiphopandpolitics.com/2014/02/14/remembering-malcolm-xs-long-connection-hip-hop/
  • Share your thoughts on all of these videos in the comment section on Canvas
  • Listen to “XFactor” the title track from Professor A.L.I. and answer the following questions: (QUESTIONS TBA)

VI. Part 6: The Bronx (5 Days)

Students will study the early history of Hip-Hop through film, graphic novel and on-line lectures given by Hip-Hop luminaries such as KRS-One and flesh out the lyrical forbearers to Hip-Hop.

  • Watch the following lecture by KRS-One in 4 parts:
  • According to KRS-One in these lectures, who were the game changers in Hip Hop?
  • Listen to “South Bronx” by KRS-One
  • Read Ed Piskor’s “Hip Hop Family Tree Part 1” in its entirety and
  • Listen to “Mount Krushmore” by Professor A.L.I.
  • Research a subject introduced by Piskor then, write a short 5-7 page essay explicating the impact this person had on the Hip-Hop genre and/or movement. Research should be cited. Outline (with fully written intro, all topic sentences and evidence cited and bullet pointed analysis—Bibliography, Footnotes and Conclusion not needed): Final Draft due:

Part 6.1: The Founders (2 Days)

Students will explore the roles key regions and individuals played in the formation of Hip-Hop.  Jamaica to the South Bronx, and the role-played by Oakland an examination of the impact of Lee Scratch Perry, Kool Herc and H. Rap Brown on Hip-Hop will be studied in great detail.  The role of protest sloganism in Hip-Hop will be explored as well.

  • Watch the following videos: of H Rap Brown and of Lee Scratch Perry and James Brown and Jocko
  • Rap Brown:
  • Muhammad Ali:
  • James Brown:
  • James Brown 2:
  • Cab Calloway 2:
  • Cab Calloway original:
  • Lee Scratch Perry:
  • Gil Scott Heron (forward to 9:11)
  • Black Panthers and Hip-Hop (21:33 mark)
  • Which of these groups or individuals had the greatest impact on Hip-Hop in your opinion? (short paragraph, post it and participate in discussion/debate)
  • Listen to “King Solomon’s Mines” by Professor A.L.I. feat. Kam and then listen to Listen to “I Used to Love HER” by Common how does the message behind the changing nature of Hip-Hop compare between the two and what is the role that the West Coast played based on each song (2 paragraphs)?

 Part 6.2: Sugarhill (4 Days)

Students will engage in an exploration of Hip-Hop entrepreneurship from Sylvia Robinson and Sugarhill Records to Russell Simmons and Def Jam to the Lowkey and Mackelmore phenomena of independent artistry rivaling corporate structures.  Students will be able to identify economic resistance in Hip-Hop as well as understand that ‘what goes pop’, is not in essence Hip-Hop as it was constructed.

  • Read Gyatri Spivak’s Essay on the Subaltern and answer whether Hip-Hop is or was ever subaltern based on her definition: http://www.mcgill.ca/files/crclaw-discourse/Can_the_subaltern_speak.pdf
  • Then watch the following videos and research their release to understand the timeline; at which point does Hip-Hop cease to be subaltern, if it ever was based on these videos?
  • Watch “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang:
  • Watch “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaata:
  • Watch “Walk This Way” by Run-DMC and Aerosmith:
  • Watch “King of Rock” by Run DMC:
  • Watch “Me, Myself and I” by De La Soul:
  • Post a comment and participate in a debate and/or discussion
  • Read ““Back to the Old School!”: On The “Old School” Origins and Evolution of Rap Music, Hip Hop Culture, and the Hip Hop Movement” in “Hip Hop’s Amnesia“ by Rabaka
  • Watch “Krushgroove” or “Wild Style” and write a 1-2 page reflection about the economics of independent artistry in the genre of Hip-Hop and the role Hip-Hop played as a subaltern culture

VII. Part 7: Blackness (5 Days)

Students will consider the history outlined above and ascertain the question as to what is Black Culture and why it can’t be extricated from Hip-Hop?

  • Read ““Say It Loud!—I’m Black and I’m Proud!”: From the Black Arts Movement and Blaxpoitation Films to the Conscious and Commercial Rap of the Hip Hop Generation” in “Hip Hop’s Inheritance” by Rabaka and take notes
  • Read “Origins of Hip Hop Tracks 1-3” in “Gospel Of Hip-Hop” and take notes
  • Listen to “Blackness” by Professor A.L.I. and answer the question, considering the above, is “Blackness” inextricably related to Hip Hop and vice versa? Post your answer and participate in the debate on canvas.
  • Watch this clip by Ice-T:
  • Watch this clip by Lord Jamar:
  • Listen to “MC’s Act Like They Don’t Know” by KRS-One
  • Watch this clip from Paul Mooney:
  • Watch this clip from Grandmaster Caz:
  • Watch this clip from Common: 
  • Watch the Intelligent Hoodlum’s “Black and Proud” video:
  • Listen to “Verbs of Power” by XClan
  • Watch this clip from Talib Kweli:
  • Of these clips, which do you agree with the most, feel free to find another that better articulates your opinion, if at all?
  • Watch “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice:
  • Watch 3rd Bass’s response on Vanilla Ice called “Pop Goes the Weasel”:
  • Listen to Arsenio’s take and his interview with Vanilla Ice:
  • Watch Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady”:
  • And “Without Me” by Eminem:
  • Watch this Talib Kweli clip about White Privilege in Hip-Hop:
  • Watch Rakim on Eminem:
  • Watch Eminem on Rappers:
  • Watch Rakim and Eminem on rapping:

VIII: Part 8: Coast to Coast aka Hip-Hop Regionalism (Unknown Time)

Students will understand how Hip-Hop is flavored by the divergent philosophies and ideologies of Booker T. Washington, WEB Debois and Marcus Garvey & Malcolm X.  The role played by the BPP on Hip-Hop Consciousness and the role played by Gang Culture like the Slausens and the Bloods and Crips.  Students will explore the differences in Hip-Hop based on these regional influences and elucidate emerging tensions as a result.

  • Listen to “Git Up, Git Out” by Outkast
  • Watch T.I.’s “What You Know About That”:
  • Watch “ATLliens” by Outcast:
  • Listen to “NY State Of Mind” by NAS or “The 18th Letter” by Rakim
  • Watch “South Bronx” by KRS-One:
  • Watch “Queens Bridge” from many artists:
  • Listen to “Fresno State of Mind” here:
  • Watch California Love and listen to the lyrics by 2pac and Dr. Dre:
  • Watch “Born and Raised in Compton” by DJ Quik:
  • Listen to “Oakland” extended version by Too Short here:
  • Watch “I’m from Hayward” by Russell City:
  • Watch “To Live and Die in LA” by 2pac:
  • Watch “Cleveland is the City” by Bone Thugs in Harmony:
  • Watch “Let’s Ride” by Richie Rich:
  • Watch “Devil Made Me Do It” by Paris:
  • Watch to “Homecoming” by Kanye:
  • Listen to “Coast to Coast” by Professor A.L.I., do you agree with his thesis in his hook based on the previous songs? Consider the content and the influence on various regions. Listen closely to these lyrics and take notes.

Students will write a research paper studying one of these or other iconic figures through a sampling of their speeches and writings and then examine Hip-Hop that comes out of the region that they impacted and see what parallels in themes they can pull from lyrical song content. Students must use at least three different artists from the same area and they cannot be a part of a formal group. This research paper will be 7-10 pages in length.


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