Monthly Archives: January 2011

Chasing Content – February 2010

A car chase sequence of The Chain Reaction.Image via Wikipedia

The chase is on!

It’s time to hunt down that elusive content that tries to leave us in the dust and tuck away into the archives.

We do this at the start of each and every month here at Silent Cacophony and highlight the best posts of the previous year at this time.

You can read all of the posts from last February or just these favourites of mine,

Some Trek is Better Than No Trek – There were some problems with the Star Trek reboot but it’s nice to have a brand new movie franchise. New Star Trek adventures had been conspicuously absent for too long.

Amazing Beauty and Grace on The Ice – I was completely blown away by the performances of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. This ice dancing pair truly deserved to win the Gold Medals. I could watch them skate all day long. Simply amazing!

Castles in the Snow – I had my first trip to Winterlude last year and had a great time. If you get a chance to go up to Ottawa this month, make sure you check out this three week Winter Celebration. If you can’t make it up there, you can always look at these amazing photos from last year’s event.

Olympic Medals (Up Close) – I had a chance to see the Olympic Medals up close when I visited the Royal Canadian Mint. I was surprised to learn all the detail that was put into each and every one of the medals.

Winterlude Graffiti – Graffiti art is one of the four elements of hip-hop culture. I was delighted to see it being represented at last year’s Winterlude in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

I had some good times last February. I really enjoyed watching the Olympics, going to Ottawa to experience Winterlude for the first time, and writing tons of blog posts. It will be hard for February 2011 to live up to last year, that’s for sure.

Thanks for Chasing Content with me. See you here tomorrow for Teaching Tip Tuesday! 

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Know Your History: Season 1

Know Your History is a half radio program I produce for DOPEfm that focuses on the rich history of rap music and hip-hop culture.

As a hip-hop historian, I wanted an outlet to celebrate this music that I hold so dear to my heart. This show allows me to play some classic material and discuss the significance of the artists, songs, times, and culture of hip-hop.

That is why I refer to this show as “your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge.”

Last year we aired 12 full episodes, one for each month of the year. We also podcasted each episode and transcribed them for this blog. However, if you happened to miss any of that, or you’d like to have all of the segments in one place, I compiled them all for you here.

You can download all of the episodes of Season 1 for free in this zip file or you can go back and read the individual transcript articles.

Stay tuned next week for the start of a brand new season. We kick off Season 2 with an in-depth look at the art of sampling and its importance in hip-hop. 

Remember that DOPEfm can be heard each and every Saturday night starting at 12:00 midnight on 93.3 CFMU in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. You can also tune us in online worldwide, or download the podcasts.

Download Season One

Thanks for tuning in!

Know Your History – Gangsta Rap


Rap music comes in many different shapes, forms, and styles. To the casual listener though, there may only appear to be two distinct categories of rap.

First, we have artists like Solja Boy or The Black Eyed Peas. These artists put out music with commercial and mainstream appeal. Like the pop artists before them, such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, or even LL Cool J, their music can seem light and fluffy.
On the other end of the spectrum we have what is referred to as Gangsta Rap. This style of hip-hop is laced with profanity and its subject matter is often violent.
Early artists doing this style of music preferred to call it Reality Rap since they believed their music reflected the harsh realities of living in poor black neighbourhoods.
The truth is, emcees had been bringing reality into their music for quite some time before this sub-genre took root in the mid 1980’s.
While we cannot divisively credit one artist with the creation of Gangsta Rap, it is safe to say that these four artists were definitely the pioneers of the form. I’m talking about BDP, Schooly D, Ice T, and NWA.
In 1986 BDP recorded a song entitled “9mm Goes Bang” in which the rapper recounts a tale of shooting a crack dealer and his posse to death. The following year, they came out with an album entitled Criminal Minded and this was the first rap record that showed a firearm on the cover.
Schooly D came out with a self-titled record the same year that BDP released that song. Lyrically, his record reflected the image on the cover of the BDP record in a way that BDP did not. His rhymes showed a brand new narrative which was distinctly urban and gritty.
PSK is a story rhyme that paints a day in the life of Schoolly D. He is basically taking an entire day to party, to drink, to smoke, to have sex, and to assert himself through threats, violence and the use of a gun. Schooly D doesn’t come out and say it directly in the song but PSK stands for Park Side Killers and is obviously a gang.
Schooly D is one of the forefathers of Gangsta rap, that is for sure and his influence can be heard in the artists who really helped popularize the genre of Gangsta Rap. The next song I’ll be playing for you is Ice T’s “6 in the Morning” and you will immediately hear how similar the songs are. Ice T gives a lot of credit to Schoolly D and rightfully so. I think it is safe to call Schoolly D a forefather of the genre.
There are certain NWA songs that contain the same cadence and vibe of Schoolly D. The influence is unmistakable. That is why I had to start off with PSK here. We’ll get to NWA a bit later in the show. For now though, let’s turn our attention to Ice T.
I want to start with this quote from Star Pulse Dot Com
  • “Ice T has proven to be one of hip-hop’s most articulate and intelligent stars, as well as one of its most frustrating. At his best, the rapper has written some of the best portraits of ghetto life and gangsters, as well as some of the best social commentary hip-hop has produced. Just as often, he can slip into sexism and gratuitous violence, and even then his rhymes are clever and biting.”
In the last episode of Know Your History we discussed the power of hip-hop to educate and carry important messages. In this way, Political Rap and Gangsta Rap are closely related. However, like the quote says, Gangsta rap can sometimes perpetuate sexism and gratuitous violence. I think that it why many casual listeners despise hip-hop.
Quite often, this is the only rap music that makes it to the ears of the casual listener. Pop artists are coming out of Gangsta Rap genre more and more these days as well. And if this is all the casual listener is exposed to, it’s no surprise that many of them will come to despise rap music. Heck, even I hate a lot of those songs.
Artists like 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, and Eminem as well as countless other disposable acts, that will never be able to achieve the longevity these artists have built, continue to put out music that can be deemed as offensive to a lot of people. Pop artists are using the conventions of Gangsta rap often in their songs and these seem to be the songs that get media exposure either on the radio or video outlets.
That being said, there is some great Gangsta Rap out there. Some of the rappers are calling attention to issues that reflect the harsh realities of urban life (poverty, violence, drug use, abuse, and trafficking, and whatnot)
Ice T has built a lengthy career for himself and released several albums based on his gansta image and persona. He not only helped pioneer the subgenre of Gangsta rap but he also helped establish a very strong West Coast scene. Let’s hear from him now.
This is “6 in the Morning” by Ice T. This is Chase March for DOPEfm will be right back with our continued coverage of Gangsta Rap. Stay with us.

This song documents Ice T’s flee from the police. He’s bragging that he is free and that he’s got lot of cash. Disturbingly, in his tale, he recounts beating a woman in the street. Of course, he ends up in jail and has to continue his violence in order to survive there. He does his time, gets out, and pretty much goes back to the same hustle.
Gangsta rap was originally meant to portray the reality young black men encounter in the poor neighbourhoods and ghettos. Early pioneers of the form even called it “Reality Rap” but the truth is, while the situations and stories told in these raps may be based on reality, in most cases, the emcee is playing a role.
Real gangsters would never talk about this stuff. They be admitting all sorts of crimes on record and would be prosecuted for it.
A lot of popular Gangsta rappers don’t live in the ghetto. They have families and have used the money they have made from this music to give them a better life. Yet they continue the persona that led them to the fame. We accept that Ice Cube is a gangsta because he has built such a strong image for himself and becuase of his great body of work.
I think he deserves to be in the Top 5 rappers of all time. He is gangsta rap. Simple as that. In fact, before his successful movie career, before his incredible solo albums, he was in a little group called NWA.
Let’s hear from them right now. This is “Fuck Tha Police  “ from NWA.

NWA are probably the group most responsible for bringing Gangsta Rap to the forefront of hip-hop. Their debut album “Straight Outta Compton” was released in 1988 and it forever changed the face of hip-hop. The album managed to sell a ridiculous amount of copies with absolutely no radio play. Their music was so laced with profanity and violent lyrics that it simply didn’t have any outlets for it back them other than word of mouth.
But word spread quickly and the album went double platinum. It launched lengthy careers for some it’s members including Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Easy E.
NWA scared a lot of people. Their lyrics seemed to glamourize gang violence. But they called attention to issues such as police brutality and racism. It was a brand new world for me to be exposed to. Prior to hearing “Fuck Tha Police” I had no idea that police brutality even existed. It was shocking to me.
This album changed the landscape of hip-hop. Swearing took on a central role in a lot of records from that point onward, which I think is really a shame. Rap has always been about clever word play and sometimes it just seems to easy to swear.
There is a lot of rap music that doesn’t swear at all and it is really good. Yet, so many people think rap music has to have profanity in it to be rap. That is not the case at all.

Know Your History is a monthly show produced by Chase March. It can be heard on DOPEfm on 93.3 CFMU in Hamilton, Ontario. You can listen live every Saturday night starting at 12:00 midnight on the radio. You can also surf over to Cogeco Cable Channel 288 and catch us over the television, or point your browser to http://cfmu.msumcmaster.ca/

Remember you can download this show for free or you can listen to it in its entirety with the player below.

Thanks for listening!

MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com

Ten Intentions for a Better Classroom

I found this on Tumblr today and my first thought was, “Wow! I’d love to adopt this for my classroom.”

I like how it uses the word intent. These aren’t rules. These are ideals, and while we might not always be able to live 100% by them, they are something to strive for.

Of course, I’d need to simplify them a bit to fit my classroom. I’ve been thinking about how to put the headings into words the students would readily understand. I think I should just number them such as “1 – Support Life”

I also think I should replace “Synergize.” At first glance, “Synchronize” seems like a complicated term as well, but I think the kids might be able to relate that to how we synch our MP3 players with our computers.

I’d also like to add pictures to go along with each intent.

This project may take some time but I think it would be worth the effort.

If you have any ideas or suggestions to help me out, I’d love to hear them. I’ve been working on this for an hour now and am no closer to adapting it.

Teaching Tip – Visual Prompts

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

I don’t expect my Grade 3 students to write a thousand words but I do want to see them writing. Perhaps with a little encouragement, they will write longer and more detailed compositions. 
This is one of the picture prompts I have used in my classroom this year.

The picture shows a worm on a hook. He seems to be completely oblivious as to the imminent danger he is in.
It’s a cute picture that I hoped would inspire my students to write something creative.

Here is what one of my students wrote,

The worm is smiling because the fish is nice. 

The fish is going to help the worm.

One day there was a man that needed a worm. He looked here and there and finally found this worm. The man then went fishing.

A fish tried to eat the worm but the other fish helped him escape. The worm was helped out of the water to safety. 

The End

As you can see, my student thought he had to answer the two questions I posed before he began writing his story. I only wrote those questions to give my students something to think about. I wanted them to come up with something creative and this student did just that.

He didn’t write something about a clueless worm. He played with stereotypes here and turned the fish into a good guy and not the natural enemy as was suggested in the picture. That is very creative.

I started a Tumblr a while back because I wanted to collect images I could use for my morning writing program. My Tumblr has turned into much more than a simple image archive for my classroom however. I post images there that might not be completely appropriate for the classroom.

I have now started a second Tumblr now called Get Writing that is completely dedicated to Picture Prompts. So visit Get Writing and to find some great images that will inspire your students to Get Writing!

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Rap Calls Attention to Real Issues


T-shirt "Stop The Violence" grey / b...Image by 216 wear via Flickr

In the 1980s rap exploded in popularity. This allowed a brand new voice to be added to popular discourse, the voice of the black man.  Rap groups started to call attention to issues such as racism, freedom of speech, police brutality, racial unity, and countless other issues that affected the black youth.

Due to the popularity of rap music, and its capability of carrying messages, people began to hear these about some of these issues for the first time. Groundbreaking groups such as Public Enemy led the way for an entire sub-genre of hip-hop known as political rap.
These strong black men with very strong opinions could be heard in tape decks across the nation. This scared quite a few people who didn’t understand what was happening. A lot of people wanted to shut down this music and they tried to do so. They said it was a fad and that it wasn’t appropriate.
This next song was very off-putting to a lot of people. It’s “F*@k Tha Police” by NWA.
If you’re not familiar with NWA, you are probably familiar with the solo artists that came out of this group. NWA was Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Easy E, MC Ren, and DJ Yella. They were raw and edgy and had a style that brought forth a new sound in hip-hop. We will cover that in more detail in the next episode of Know Your History when we look at gangsta rap.
That was NWA “F*@k Tha Police.” When I first heard that track, I was really taken aback. First, by their excessive use of swearing. Most of the rap that I had heard up until that point was pretty clean. Secondly, their content surprised me. I had a pretty sheltered life and hadn’t even realized that police brutality existed.
Going back to Chuck D’s comment that “rap music is the black people’s CNN.” It just goes to show you how much we learn through some of the lyrics in hip-hop and how I might not even have been exposed to certain issues if it wasn’t for hip-hop.
I could talk about NWA for the rest of the show, but I have more ground I’d like to cover. Rest assured though, that NWA will be featured again in the very next episode of Know Your History as their influence and importance in hip-hop culture extends well beyond the political sphere.
Let’s move on to Boogie Down Productions. Some of you younger cats might not know who BDP is but I’m sure you know its main MC. BDP was Krs-One and Scott LaRock. In 1987 they came out with their historic album Criminal Minded. In that same year, Public Enemy came out with Yo! Bum Rush the Show. These two albums set off a new minstate in hip-hop. They showed us that social commentary and the message in the music was just as important as the overall sound of the record.
Unfortunately, BDP only got that one album out before founding member Scott LaRock was brutally murdered in 1987. Krs-One put out a tribute and a call to action called “Self Destruction.”
This track featured the best talent of the time; Doug E Fresh, Kool Moe Dee, Public Enemy, Miss Melody, MC Lyte, and many more. Together they formed Stop the Violence Movemement. This song is called “Self Destruction” and a very important one to play tonight.
Wow! The star power on that track. Krs-One got those artists together after Scott LaRock passed away to discuss and help improve the situation for black youth. Scott LaRock shouldn’t have had to die brutally like that. It’s interesting to see all of these rappers from different sub-genres coming together to speak for unity.
Just-Ice has a great lyric in that song. He says, “You don’t have to be soft to speak for peace.”
I think Krs-One really adopted that. He took on the name of “The teacher” and started speaking on a variety of different issues. He even carried on the BDP name for several years in honour of his lost partner in that group. When he did start releasing music under his own name, Krs-One, he kept the positive influence there.
Groups like Public Enemy, NWA, and BDP called attention to real-life issues. They aren’t the only ones, however. I have run out of time though. I wanted to play Paris today as well. You can look him up on your own in the meantime. He was actually a bridge of the first era of political rap and a new wave of it that emerged in the 1990s. Some of the groups in this second wave were Paris, the X Clan, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, and Poor Righteous Teachers.
In the late 90s spanning to today, there was a third wave of political rap and is referred to as conscious rap. Of course that would never have been possible without the contributions of Public Enemy, BDP, and NWA.

Hope this has been illuminating for you. Thanks for tuning in. Don’t forget to download the show for free. We’ll see you next month. Peace!

Thanks for tuning in!
MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com



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Know Your History: Episode 11 – Political Rap

Some people think hip-hop is totally devoid of a message. Granted, there are songs that are meant to be fun and pointless, but you will find this in any genre of music. Likewise, you will also find plenty of songs that carry a deep message to them, no matter what genre of music you listen to.

In this episode of Know Your History, we will explore the sub-genre of hip-hop known as political rap.

You can download this show for free to play on your iPod or MP3 player, you can stream it with the player below, or you can continue reading. Thanks for joining us!

When we think of political music in hip-hop, often the first thing that comes to mind is “The Message” by Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five. Since I’ve already played that song in a previous episode, I won’t play it again.
In the late 1980s, there seemed to be a new emphasis in the lyrical content of rap songs. The artists started to talk about real life issues.
I want to start off with the most political rap group of all time. Their lyrics brought awareness to police brutality, cultural awareness, racism, unity, and many other issues. Of course, we are talking about Public Enemy. Let’s hear from them right now.
That was “Fight the Power” from Public Enemy. It was off the third album, and arguably their best, Fear of a Black Planet. 
Public Enemy formed in 1982 with two emcees, Chuck D and Flavor Flav, although Flav was more of a hype man than an emcee. He did ad-libs and back-up vocals and then progress into doing some of his own songs, quite a few of those were politically charged as well. “911 is a Joke” is another song I considered playing for this show but since we only have half an hour and I have a lot to cover today.
In the future, I plan on dedicating an entire show to Public Enemy because they are one of the top bands of all times. They brought so much awareness and influence to everything that came after them. Their importance in hip-hop, and music in general, cannot be overstated.
Public Enemy have political charged messages in pretty much all of their songs. In the one we just heard, they are telling us to fight the power. They are talking about freedom of speech and how important that is.
In his lyrics, Chuck D says, “What we need is awareness. We can’t get careless . . . Mental self-defensive fitness.” That’s a really interesting line. He is saying that we need to be strong mentally. I remember seeing an interview with him once where he talked about how strong and fast black athletes are physically. He is encouraging us to be strong mentally as well (and when I say “us,” I mean those of us in hip-hop culture and not necessarily black.) 
Chuck D once referred to rap as ”the black people’s CNN.” CNN is the Cable News Network. Chuck D meant that hip-hop, at its very root, can be used to deliver messages and educate the youth to issues that really matter to the black community. Quite frankly, CNN didn’t cover that side of the news.
In the song, Chuck D mentions how Elvis is a hero to most and how he appears on stamps, while in contrast to that none of his heroes are on stamps or celebrated the same way.
Where were the images that black people could look up to? Where was the voice of the young black man?
It wasn’t on CNN or other channels on the television.
Rap music is what brought this whole culture’s voice to the mainstream audience. In the 1980s rap exploded in popularity and people started to hear these messages for the first time. Thanks to groundbreaking groups such as Public Enemy.
Come back on Monday as we continue this topic and look at groups like NWA and Boogie Down Productions. Don’t forget that you can download the entire show for free right now so you don’t have to wait for Part 2 of this transcript tomorrow.
Your comments are welcome as well as any requests for ideas or topics you’d like to hear on the show.

Thanks for tuning in.

MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com

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Hear This – Cradle Orchestra


I came across this amazing album by Cradle Orchestra quite by chance.

Sometimes all it takes is a name or a creative album cover to catch my attention. This one certainly did that. It’s called “Transcended Elements.”

As I scanned the tracklisting, I was intrigued to see the line up of notable emcees featured on this album.

I was expecting to hear a weird mash up of rappers to classical music, but what I got was straight hip-hop.

I was won over from the very opening notes. I was delighted to hear Speech from Arrested Development showing that he can still lead a great song.

The album doesn’t feel as if it were just thrown either. It plays like a cohesive project, thanks to the experience and expertise of Cradle Orchestra. These guys have been putting together live instrumentation and underground emcees for years now.

Japan has a strong hip-hop scene. However, I had never heard of Cradle Orchestra until this week. I’m just glad I stumbled across this album and I think you will be too. You really should Hear This!


MusicPlaylist
Music Playlist at MixPod.com

Hear This is a feature on Silent Cacophony that highlights some of the great music that is quite literally hiding in the underground.

If you have any suggestions of releases you think we should check for, please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Alan Davis Autograph

Alan Davis is a comic book artist and has been producing published work since 1979.

He has worked on Batman and The Outiders, The Uncanny X-men, JLA, Avengers, Iron Man, Spider-man, and countless other titles.

I found this autographed copy of Fantastic Four in a comic book shop and was happy to add this comic and this autograph to my collection.

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Teaching Tip – Get Them Writing

Student In Uttaradit 1Image via Wikipedia

Our students need to be writing every day.

Unfortunately, some of my students don’t see a purpose behind their morning journal. I have students who simply won’t start writing anything. They will talk to their classmates, play in their desk, sharpen their pencils for the third time, or anything else they can think of to waste away the twenty minutes of journal time.

I have other students who will scribble down a sentence or two as quickly as they can so they can then waste the rest of the time.

What can we do to motivate students to write?

The first thing I did was to change the morning journal time on the schedule to the term “writing.”

It’s a small change but one that I think has huge implications. It lets the students know that we are all writers.

Model writing

I write every single day and make sure my students are aware of that. During their morning writing time, I am working on lesson plans. I also show them blog entries that I think might be of interest to them. They see that I am a writer. That is important.

We are all writers

I teach my students about the writing process. We learn how each of us has something to say and share.

Use prompts

Some students need a little push to be creative. However, I have found that requiring students to write to a prompt stifles their creativity. I let my students write about something else if they ask.

A simple recap of their night is not enough

There is nothing more annoying than reading the same journal entry from the same student every day. I can’t tell you how many times I have a read a journal that told this story; I went home, I played video games, so-and-so came over, I went to bed.

We need get our students writing something more significant. I ask my students to pick one of those things and to write specific details about it instead.

Use Picture Prompts

Instead of having the students complete a sentence starter or answering a question, you can put an image up on the board and ask them to write an open response to that image. After all, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

I have found that picture prompts are quite useful and my students respond really well to them. Learn more about Picture Prompts. 

Use technology

You can have your students create digital stories on Storybird (more about this site in an upcoming teaching tip.)

Your school probably has a number of other computer programs you can get your students using. There are quite a few free websites that allow you to create comics or picture stories as well.

My students respond quite well to using technology. It motivates them to create.

Whatever works

Each classroom is different. You need to find what works for you and your students. I am constantly thinking of new ways to cultivate a new generation of writers. That is my goal. Hopefully, we can get them writing and enjoying it so that it carries on outside of the classroom.

Contribute a Teaching Tip

I hope you find my Teaching Tip Tuesday series to be useful in your teaching practice. Make sure you check out the archive for over 80 practical tips and strategies you can use in the classroom. If you have as tip you’d like to contribute, please don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a comment below. Thanks!

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