« Musical Censorship | Main | Why I Strongly Dislike American Idol »

A Hip Hop examination and Lesson Idea

BTW, I thought this was posted last night; when I didn't see it today, I re-posted.

A Critique of Hip Hop
(In two parts…)
Part 1.
In the 1990s, gangsta rap became mainstream, beginning in about 1992, with the release of Dr. Dre's The Chronic. This album established a style called G Funk, which soon came to dominate West Coast hiphop. Later in the decade, record labels based out of Atlanta, St. Louis and New Orleans gained fame for their local scenes. By the end of the decade, especially with the success of Eminem, hip hop was an integral part of popular music, and many American pop songs had a major hiphop component, with artists like Eazy-E.
After N.W.A. broke up, Dr. Dre (a former member) released The Chronic (1992), which peaked at #1 on the R&B/hip hop chart and #3 on the pop chart and spawned a #2 pop single in "Nothin' But a 'G' Thang".. The Chronic took West Coast rap in a new direction, influenced strongly by P funk artists, melding the psychedelic funky beats with slowly drawled lyrics—this came to be known as G funk, and dominated mainstream hip hop for several years through a roster of artists on Death Row Records, including most popularly, Snoop Doggy Dogg, whose Doggystyle included "What's My Name" and "Gin and Juice", both Top Ten pop hits. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_Hop_music)

I remember sitting across a cafeteria table from Tre Pryor, my senior year in high school. Tre had his headphones on and was listening to a new CD. The artist was Dr. Dre, and the album was The Chronic. The year was 1992 and my love affair with West Coast “gangsta shit? had begun. Warren G, Nate Dogg, Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, Daz, Kurupt, Tupac, and eventually Eminem became my soundtrack for the next decade. They provided the background music for every good time I had. But here’s the thing: the music told a story. It told of a lifestyle and an attitude that was completely fascinating. The lyrics were controversial and adult. The beats were hypnotic. And while I am not (have never been, will never be) a gangster, I was fascinated by this music. It struck a chord with me, like the gangster films of Scorsese and DePalma, like the Sopranos and the Wire on HBO. Dr. Dre would rap “Now soon as I said it/ seems I got sweated/
By some nigga with a tech 9 tryin' to take mine/ ya wanna make noise, make noise
I make a phone call my niggaz comin' like the Gotti boys/ bodies bein' found on Greenleafwith their fuckin heads cut off/ motherfucker i'm Dre/
so listen to the play-by-play, day-by-day/rollin' in my '4 with 16 switches/
And got sounds for the bitches, clockin' all the riches /Got the hollow points for the snitches.? I could see the cars, the guns, the thugs, the women, the streets. Which leads to my assignment:

Part 2. Digital storytelling.

Allow my students to pick a song which tells a story (this does not necessarily just need to be hip hop, by the way). Using the song as soundtrack, they must create a digital story which contains all the ingredients of a more traditional narrative: setting, characters, conflict, theme, resolution. Using various software (Voicethread, PowerPoint, Comic Life, iMovie, or MovieMaker) the students would create a complete short story which would be narrated by their musical selection. This could be used in any creative writing class, or to explore the components of story and plot within a more traditional literature class.