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The Rise of Hip Hop Culture

January 29, 2021 | Jessica Smith

Eighth grade students had fun testing their knowledge of the early roots of hip hop. The class played an online game called “Kahoot” that creates a game show atmosphere. As students study hip hop culture, they are considering the cultural, social, and political factors that gave rise to this unique and popular genre of music.

Students are exploring hip hop culture and its roots through watching primary source videos of interviews and music, reading and summarizing short articles, and engaging in class discussions. In the picture above, students are watching a 1958 video of Cab Calloway. Cab Calloway was a wildly popular jazz singer, band leader, and dancer who performed frequently at the Cotton Club in Harlem. His use of dance during instrumental breaks, scatting, and audience participation were a precursor to modern hip hop.

As part of this study, students will listen to and discuss hip hop music from 1973 through present day. They will consider how many hip hop artists have shed light on injustice and have used their art to address issues in their communities. As part of this study, students will eventually choose a social justice issue that is important to them. They will compose a beat in Soundtrap, an online digital audio workstation. Finally, students will write lyrics and create a rap that makes a statement about and highlights the issue they have chosen. 

For a glimpse into the roots of hip hop culture, watch The Evolution of the Emcee: Akala at TEDxSalford video above.

Jessica Smith

Music Teacher, Preschool and Grades 6-8; Worship Coordinator

With more than 20 years experience teaching music in a variety of settings from elementary to college, Dr. Jessica Smith has a deep love for music education, integrated arts curriculum, world music, and worship.
In 2017, Smith traveled to Ghana to study West African drumming and dance as part of a fellowship from Fund for Teachers. In 2015, she completed four years of training to become a Guild Certified Feldenkrais™ Practitioner, a method that uses neuroscience and movement as a catalyst for potent learning. As a clinician, Smith has led workshops in vocal studies and drum circle facilitation. Before coming to Mustard Seed School in 2008, Smith was the Director of Preparatory & Continuing Studies at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music where she also served as a Visiting Professor.

Dr. Smith enjoys traveling and spending too much money on plants at the Union Square Greenmarket.

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