Monthly Archives: February 2011

Keep Shining – Together We Are Fireworks

Commercial radio is often full of songs that don’t have much substance to them. The lyrics often seem empty or hollow. Artits are quick to make catchy sounding records that have very little to offer other than a nice beat and an infectious rhythm.

Every now and then, though, a song comes along that makes me believe in the power of popular music.

I want to highlight two songs that have inspirational and powerful lyrics. Both songs also have stunning visuals to hammer the message home even more. The best part about these songs is that they are are great songs. They aren’t simply message-oriented. They rock!

First up is “Keep Shining” by Shad.

This song, coupled with an interview I had with Eternia inspired me to put together a special edition of DOPEfm highlighting the women of hip-hop.

Our International Women’s Day Tribute Show will air on Saturday March 12th and will feature 7 hours of radio completely dedicated to the women in hip-hop. I am very excited about this show and hope you are marking your calenders now.

You are probably more familiar with the second song I want to highlight today. This song is all over the radio right now and it has even been covered on an episode of Glee.

Here is “Firework” by Katy Perry.

I decided that this was a perfect song to teach the choir at my school. Normally, I stick to the traditional choir songs that most students are generally unfamiliar with. Needless to say, they are really excited to be doing a pop song.

I got a hold of the karaoke track and we are learning to sing it on time, on beat, and on key. So far, it is going quite well.

Just as I was putting this blog post together, I heard this song that sums up pretty much everything I was trying to say about pop music.

(Warning – Explicit lyrics)

Of course, good music is out there. You just need to be more selective in what you choose to consume musically.

Let’s Keep Shining because Together We are Fireworks!

How to Find Time to Write (Guest Post)

How do fiction writers find time to write? When looking over their daily schedules, it often seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Even with a busy schedule, writers can always find small bits of time to craft that fabulous novel. Let’s take a look at some tips that should help you find some free time to write during the week.

  • Lunchtime: Instead of chatting with co-workers, dining at a four star restaurant, or wandering around Facebook, use your lunch break to write.
  • Communications: How many minutes per week do you spend reading and responding to unnecessary text messages? Surely, writing your wonderful novel is more important. And no more tweeting or Facebooking until you finish writing! Don’t let telephone conversations drag on. All this time really adds up.
  • Appointments: Appointments away from the office or home such as doctor’s appointments or a hairdresser appointments provide great opportunities to write. You don’t need to read a year old magazine while you’re waiting. Use a tech gadget (if you own one) to write, or just jot down some ideas on note cards.
  • The morning: Quit hitting the snooze alarm. Get up early and do some writing before you go to work. Also, set the alarm an hour earlier than necessary. Over the long-term, you’ll get a lot done by writing for an hour every morning.
  • Taking care of children: While they’re playing or napping, squeeze in some writing time.
  • Entertainment: Cutback on watching television by AT LEAST half. Most people stretched out on their death bed don’t say, “I wish I had spent more time watching television!”
  • Schedule time: Schedule time for writing every day. Inform family members and friends of your writing periods so they’ll leave you alone.
  • The weekend: Let the kids clean the house! Try to spend a few hours on the weekend writing. Maybe you can even send the kids to their grandparents house.
  • Simplify your life: Why are you so busy that you don’t have time to write? Perhaps you can let go of some things in order to have time to work on your writing project. Stop surfing the Web!
  • Passion: If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing, you won’t try very hard to find time to write. So find something to write about that you actually want to make time for.

For those writing a novel, there are some additional techniques you can implement to make the most of your writing time.

  • Initial synopsis: Make sure it’s detailed enough to divide into chapters when you begin writing your novel. In the synopsis, include a short description of the action for each scene or chapter. Include what is going to happen in each scene and why. If you don’t, you’ll spend a lot time trying to figure out what is supposed to be happening as you write.
  • Characters: To save time, base some of the characters on people you know really well. This approach makes it much easier to figure out what a character will do in a particular situation. You’ll spend less time pondering and contemplating. As an added bonus, your characters will also have more depth.
  • Style: Consider using a transparent writing style. A Baroque writing style, for example, is very time consuming.
  • Animate: Don’t spend time animating things that really don’t need to be animated. For example, you don’t need to spend time describing every room the characters walk into.
  • Chapter length: Write shorter chapters. Make the character with the most at stake in the scene the focal point. You can write the scene quicker with this approach because you’re involved with a character who wants something from the action.

Hopefully these tips will help you find some time to let your creative side loose!

Brian Jenkins, a writer for since 2008, contributes content about careers in journalism and other careers in the writing field.

Image from London Clock Company 

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1000th Post Celebration

I hereby declare this Silent Cacophony Day! 

Let’s observe this day as an international holiday.


Because today marks a milestone here for this blog.

This is my 1000th post.

It’s exciting to have reached this many posts in four years.

I started this blog as a vehicle to establish myself as a serious writer. I set off on a five year mission to get something published. That was my goal.

Of course, this blog became much more than I had ever expected. It became a place for me to share some of my best teaching practices. It led me to become part of a radio show and conduct several artist interviews.  That led me to create and produce a half hour radio show dedicated to the art and history of hip-hop music. 

Of course, now I realize that I am still quite a ways off from realizing my original goal. I need to start revising my writing and sending out queries. I have two works in particular that I believe will be of interest to publishers.

So far, I have enjoyed this ride immensely. I really love what I am doing and have no plans to quit.

I’d like to thank each and every visitor, reader, commenter, guest poster, and anyone who has taken the time to read my words. I could not have done this without you.

I vandalized an image from The Mega Penny Project for this post and I apologize for my blatant graffiti art. The image shows one thousand pennies formed into a cube. How could I not overlay my logo onto that for my 1000th post? I mean seriously.

Here’s to the next thousand. Thanks for being here with me.

Time to celebrate!

Teaching Tip – Get Organized

One thing I have learned from all my years of teaching is that it pays to be prepared.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t always this organized.

I always made sure that I photocopied any material or worksheets I needed well ahead of time. However, on one more than one occasion, I simply could not find them when I needed them. I’d end up scrambling at the last minute to run off another set of copies.

I knew I needed an easy way to keep track of all my photocopies but it took me a while to figure out exactly how to do so.

This is my desk drawer and the perfect solution to the problem of lost worksheets.

As you can see, I have a file for every subject I teach.

These are my folders for the first block of study in my morning routine.

Monday – Spelling
Tuesday – Word Study
Wednesday – Grammar
Thursday – Spelling

I then have a folder for each day of the week to help organize any handouts I might need for my math lessons.

Here you can see a class set of worksheets. This is a quick activity I plan on doing with my class during a Language Arts period this Friday.

Your teacher desk probably has a drawer that supports hanging file folders. If not, you more than likely have a filing cabinet in your classroom. Failing that, you can pick up relatively inexpensive self-contained plastic frame.

And don’t forget to get these great tab dividers.

You don’t need fancy colour-coded ones either. I simply use the plain clear tabs and colour the paper insert with a pencil crayon before writing on them with pen.

In the above pictures, you can see that all of my Math tabs have been coloured yellow, all of my Language Arts (English) tabs are blue, my morning literacy block tabs are red, and Social Studies / Science tabs are green.

You will also note that the pink folders at the back of the drawer have several folders containing Language Arts worksheets. Behind that, there are several more folders with Word Ladders (more about those in an upcoming Teaching Tip Tuesday post.)

It is comforting to know that I have back-up lessons and materials to quickly draw upon whenever I need them.

Photocopiers break down. Stay ahead of the game.

I make sure that all of my photocopying for the upcoming week is done before I leave the school on Friday. That way, I can begin my weekend knowing that everything is set for Monday morning.

If I get to school and the photocopier is broken, if it’s going to take all week for it to be serviced, I don’t have to do any last minute tweaking of my lessons.

It pays to be prepared and organized.

I hope you have found this Teaching Tip post useful. If you have any ideas, comments, suggestions, or if you would like to write a post sharing your favourite teaching practice, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about.

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Gnomeo is a Gno-gno (I mean No-no)

When I first heard about this film, I was completely repulsed by the idea.

Romeo and Juliet retold with a bunch of garden gnomes.

Wait, it’s a animated film for children?

The ending has been sanitized too?

The star-crossed lover’s don’t die?

Are you kidding me?

The film is called Gnomeo and Juliet.

Okay, I must admit that I like the title and the play on words there but everything else about this movie totally
repulses me.

I am not one of those snobbish Shakespeare fans either. I loved Baz Luhrmann‘s Romeo and Juliet.

This film adapted the play perfectly, in my humble opinion. The dialogue was all straight from the original play. The film was shot in a music video style that really gave it a fast pace. The two leads were very popular stars at the time. Swords were replaced with guns. Fast cars and cool characters peppered the screen and the movie truly did deserve to have William Shakespeare’s name above the title.

Romeo and Juliet is a classic tale that can be told well in a variety of different ways. The Claire Danes and Leonardo DeCaprio version is not the only well-made film based on the play.

When I first heard of Gnomeo and Juliet , I hoped that people wouldn’t be stupid enough to go see it.

I was wrong.

Look at that. In the opening weekend it grossed over 25 million dollars and quite possibly could have been the number one movie had it been playing in more theatres.

I just don’t understand people.

Gnomeo and Juliet is a film that should not have been made. I think the concept is insulting. I wouldn’t have had a problem with an animated movie about gnomes. I wouldn’t have a problem with it being a cute story aimed primarily at children.

I think we should all demand more of the movies that are presented to us. We don’t need to go see a film simply because it is brought to our local cineplex. There are plenty of better things to do.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. I know I enjoy a good children’s film but quite frankly, I have no desire to see this. It only makes me want to present a kid friendly version of the play to my class such as this one by Lois Burdett.

Perhaps I will. I think I’ll go put on that Claire Danes DVD now.

What are your thoughts on all of this?

Please leave a comment below.

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Teaching Tip: Quieting Down a Rowdy Class (Guest Post)

Heiwa elementary school %u5E73%u548C%u5C0F%u5B...Image via Wikipedia

Elementary-aged children are easily excited and it can be difficult to quiet them down once something has really gotten them rambunctious.

Once a distraction has set in and gotten everyone giggling, it’s definitely a challenge to get the class hunkered down into a productive task again.

To help you out (and spare your voice), here are some tried-and-true tips for quieting down a rowdy class next time it starts to get a little out of hand.

1.) Freeze!

Growing up, one of my favorite game was freeze tag, where anytime you were tagged by the person who was “it,” you had to freeze in place until someone else came over to un-freeze you. This game also translates into a great tactic for getting a classroom to settle down after a recess, lunch break or any other time your class has been out and about on their feet and needs to get back to their desks and settled down.

The freeze tactic works best with a whistle. Any time your kids hear the sound of the whistle, they have to freeze in place where they are. On the third whistle, when your class is “frozen” and quiet, ask them to return to their seats and tell them it’s time to begin class once more.

2.) Lights off.

If a class has grown overly chatty to the point where you have to shout over the top of everyone, start clicking the lights off and on as a warning to your class. Another variation of this is if you turn off the lights and warn your class that anyone who’s still talking when the lights are turned back on will get their name written on the board, or whatever other type of disciplinary warning system you use.

3.) The shush signal.

This one was used effectively on me and my little friends when I was in elementary school. The teacher taught us all a hand signal (our pointer finger over our mouth in a “shush” signal with the other hand up in the air holding a peace sign). When the class got too noisy, she would look at the few students who were paying attention with the shush signal. One by one, we would all stop talking, copy her and work to get the other students’ attention to do the same. No one wanted to be caught being the last one (or two) holding up the shush signal because that meant we’d have to miss out on recess or some other kind of reward.

4.) Get them to repeat your words.

Finally, if you’re trying to give out instructions to a class that is having trouble keeping their attention fixed on you, I suggest getting them to repeat the last word of every sentence or repeat key words. For example, “Ok, I need everyone to take out their workbooks. Everybody say, ‘Workbooks!'” And the children echo you. “Everyone turn to page 27. Everybody say, ’27!'” And the children echo you. If the children know you expect them to echo you, they will have an incentive to listen to what you’re saying so they’ll know what to belt out when it’s time to echo. Believe it or not, I first witnessed this tactic from a pastor in an early morning church service as a means of keeping full-grown adults focused on the sermon!

These are just a few ways that the teachers I’ve encountered have gotten rowdy classes to settle down, quiet down or listen.

What tactics work best for you?

This guest contribution was submitted by Lauren Bailey, who specializes in writing about online colleges. Questions and comments can be sent to: blauren99 

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Recommended Reads – The Shack

Cover of "The Shack"Cover of The Shack

The Shack is the debut novel from William P. Young and the latest book to end up on My Recommended Reads list.

Like many of the books on the list, I discovered it quite randomly at the public library and was completely blown away by what I found.

The story revolves around a man who has suffered the loss of his youngest daughter. Her murder pretty much destroys him and he is merely a shell of a man when he receives a mysterious letter four years later.

The letter appears to be from God and is an invitation back to the scene of the crime. Mack isn’t sure he should go but the note assures him that God will be there.

(Spoiler alert)

When Mack arrives at “the shack,” he is greeted by an old black lady. She enthusiastically welcomes him with open arms and a warm, inviting hug. Mack feels like he should know her. She has a comforting presence but up until that very moment, he had never seen her before.

There are two other people at the shack, one of whom is an Arab-looking man, the other an Asian looking woman. At first, Mack thinks something must be wrong with his eyes as the woman appears to be a bit out of  focus.

It turns out that the old lady is God, the Arab is Jesus, and the other woman is The Holy Spirit.

I must admit that I have never understood how God could be three different entities, yet still be just “one” God.

Through the art of fiction, Young paints a great image of how the Holy Trinity works.

According to the story, Jesus is an average man. He gave up a lot to become a human being. He is not overly handsome, and he is not, by any means, perfect. In one scene, he is helping prepare dinner for the four of them and he clumsily drops the mixing bowl and creates quite a mess. Dinner goes on as planned but that one dish is absent from the menu.

God chose to appear to Mack as a woman so as not to reinforce any of the stereotypical images many people have of Him.

Mack spends a weekend with these Three People and has some heavy discussions with them. They show him some amazing things and have him do some basic tasks, in and around, the shack. In the process, Mack is finally able to move passed “the great sadness” that has been consuming him.

The dust jacket states that, “The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book.”

I must admit, that I almost didn’t sign out this book. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read some Christian propaganda disguised as fiction. I tried to put the book back on the shelf but something about it just called to me.

There is an interesting scene in the book where Mack mentions Christianity and Jesus admits that even he isn’t a Christian. That is just one of the scenes that I absolutely loved in this book.

I could write several blog posts about the themes in this book. I think I’m going to have to read it again. It was a good read and I’m sure you will enjoy it, whether you are a Christian or not.

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Teaching Tip: Multi-Syllable Rhymes

Eminem performing at the DJ hero party with D1...Image via Wikipedia

When people think of poets, they don’t often think of rappers, but Eminem gets a lot of attention for how he puts his words together. People who don’t even like rap, admire him for his skill.

I know what you are thinking

– Eminem in a Teaching Tip Tuesday post?

– Has Chase really lost it?

The answer is, “No!”

Eminem is a brilliant wordsmith and probably the best one the English language has ever seen. Many of our students listen to him and are quite familiar with his lyrics. We don’t need to play any of his songs in the classroom to illustrate our point either.

This lesson will energize our students and get them writing. They can listen to him when they go home and hopefully will do so with a new appreciation of his technique and style.

Here’s the lesson,

There are three types of rhymes,

Normal rhyme such as “cat / hat”
Multi rhyme such as my “cat / hi-hat”
and Longer Multi Rhyme such as “bit my cat / hit the hi-hat.”

Eminem rarely uses normal rhyme or multi rhyme. Instead he strings together complex syllables where each sound rhymes over and over again. He does this in a way that does not sound forced at all and has accomplished this from years and years of practice.

As a drill, Eminem breaks phrases down into syllables and then tries to find rhymes for each syllable. It doesn’t even have to make sense, this is a basic search for some complex rhymes. This is an example from his latest album, “Op-en-up-some-lanes / go-ing-through-grow-ing-pains / flow-ing-through-my-veins / go-ing-in-sane / diss-ing-Lil-Wayne.”

Here’s an example from Big Daddy Kane, “Ain’t no need for wondering who’s the man / Staying looking right always an exclusive brand

As you can see, this style of rhyming has been around in hip-hop for quite some time.

2Pac packed lots of mutli-syllable rhymes into his verses as well,

“do to me” – “community”
“concrete” – “wrong street”
“irrelevant” – “devil’s friend”

Classroom Activity 

Brainstorm some phrases with the class and write them on the board. Then choose one phrase and have each student write syllable rhymes for it. Stress that we are only looking for rhymes. Spelling and making sense doesn’t count. At the end of the time, compile all of our work into one Eminem style verse.

I tried this with my class last week. We chose the phrase “cold winter day” for this exercise.

1) First, we brainstormed word that rhymed with “cold”


– old
– fold
– bold
– gold
– mold
– polled
– rolled

Then we brainstormed words that rhymed with “winter.”


– sprinter
– printer
– spinster
– enter
– centre
– sinner
– winner
– Prime Minister
– sinister
– finger

As you can see, not all of our words were perfect rhymes. That is totally fine.

Lastly, we needed to list words that rhymed with “day.”


– bay
– say
– okay
– obey
– clay
– stay
– away
– tray
– pay
– Santa Fe

Then we tried to combine words from each list that made sense when put together. 

Cold Winter Day

– old spinsters pray
– gold winners play
– the old sinister man from the bay
– fold printer paper this way
– polled the Prime Minister today
– bold tornado lays destruction

One of my students is a bit obsessed with Hello Kitty. She brainstormed words that rhymed with that title and came up with this short poem,

Hello Kitty
wanted to go to Mellow City
so she hopped on a Yellow jet ski.

So Try it out! 

If you have any ideas, tips, or lessons you’d like to share, please leave me a comment, or you could even write a guest post for an upcoming edition of Teaching Tip Tuesday. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about. 

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Know Your History: 2nd Season – Sampling

Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. 

Today marks the start of our second season here on DOPEfm. 

I tweaked the logo a bit for the new year, but just like last year, you can look forward to 12 excellent episodes about rich cultural history of hip-hop.

My name is Chase March. 
I’ll be with you for the next thirty minutes as we explore the art of sampling. 

You can download the podcast for free, stream it with the player below, or continue reading. Of course, you could do all three as well. 

So without further ado, let’s start this new season of Know Your History.
Sampling is the cornerstone of hip-hop music. Everything in this culture was built upon sampling. At its root, sampling involves taking a piece of music from any source and incorporating it into a new composition. This was originally done by the deejays who would take two turntables playing the same record to extend the break.
The break of the record was the spot where most of the instruments dropped out so we could hear the drum pattern all by itself. DJs would effectively loop that section of the record so that it would play over and over again. This way, it sounded like an uninterrupted drum pattern.
Way before samplers or computers allowed us to loop up sections of songs, we were doing so with record players or tape decks. The advantage to doing it with a tape deck was that you only needed to have one record, one turntable, and one blank tape.
Making a pause-tape was time consuming. You needed to find the section of the record you wanted to loop up, wait for it to play and hit record on the tape deck at the exact right time. You needed to count to make sure the drum pattern would play back with the right timing.
Nowadays, all you need is a computer or an external piece of hardware to create musical loops quickly and efficiently. A lot of people see the ease of creating a sampled beat and mistake it for laziness. They are failing to see the history behind rap music. It started with sampling.
Sampling allowed us to create music with very little. You didn’t have to have a lot of money to make hip-hop music. You didn’t have to take music lessons, buy an instrument, find people that played different instruments, and form a band to produce something new.
You could take a small portion of someone else’s music and create something entirely new. That is basically what sampling is.
“Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang used the same music as Chic’s “Good Times.” It is instantly recognizable. We played this song in the very first episode of Know Your History. It is one of the most well-known rap songs even from those outside of hip-hop culture so I won’t play it again for you right now.
Taking a piece of music from a record and looping it up for MCs to rap over is the basic building block of hip-hop. We’ve moved beyond the simplicity of this over the years with the technology that soon became available. We can now take tiny sections of a record, chop it up, tweak it, replay it, add layers of sounds, and create a new song that most people wouldn’t immediately recognize as just a simple and quick borrowed musical backdrop.
Let’s look at some creative sampling now. I just stumbled across this sample myself last week. I was working on my computer and listening to an old mixtape that Eliot Krimsky posted on the excellent website Cassette From My Ex. The tape is called “How To Eat Ice Cream” and can be streamed for free, along with dozens of other tapes, at
Let’s listen to the original song and then see how the rap group Mullet ‘N Steps flipped it for their song “You Can’t Have Me.”
I couldn’t find a video of the original to embed here so click on the above link to hear the mixtape or download this show to hear it. 
I did find the hip-hop example though,

I’m sure you’ve inadvertently discovered some samples on your own. It’s happened to me time and time again. There have been several times where I have found myself in a store or on an elevator and the song that was playing was familiar somehow. I would listen carefully trying to figure out how I knew that song. Every time this has happened, I had never been familiar with the original record. I only knew the hip-hop song that had used the sample.
It would always take me some time to rack my brain and come up with how I knew it. I would then exclaim to whoever was within earshot that this song was sampled by so and so. No one in my present company seemed to care much though.
There are plenty of us who delight in discovering these old samples. Many hip-hop groups get so creative in how they sample, that it is a complex mystery to discover all of the sounds and samples they in their sonic masterpieces.
De La Soul crafted a song by taking a sample, slowing it down and playing it backwards. It wasn’t easily recognizable. It was a brand new composition. This is one of the most shocking cases that brought to light the legal ramifications for using samples in music.
Ultimately, artists should be compensated for the use of their music, however it is used. MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This” for example blatantly uses Rick James “Superfreak” and I am not saying that this use of a sample was a bad thing at all. We need to remember that rap music was built around samples.
Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” uses Queen and David Bowie samples in much the same way. Hammer and Vanilla Ice were both chastised by fans of the original artists for stealing and ruining the old songs. I still see people complaining about this style of sampling in hip-hop music.
I think that we can be creative in how we use our samples. For instance. in the De La Soul song in question, they slowed down the original sample and played it backwards. As such their, “Transmitting Live From Mars” only has a slight resemblance to The Turtles’ original “You Showed Me.”
De La Soul was taken to court for the use of that sample and it was a huge case that had ramifications for all of hip-hop. Samples now had to be cleared, meaning that we needed to get permission from the original artists before we could commercially release our new compositions based around those old sounds.
In theory, this makes sense. It is respectful to the original artists. Those artists should be recognized for the incredible building blocks they have given us. However, if we can disguise the original song, build layers of samples, chop up the sounds, replay them, and craft them into something that is no longer recognizable, then I think we should be allowed to do so.
It’s gotten to the point now where we have forgotten our history and the importance and brilliance that is sampling. I had an interesting discussion about this with Lucy ‘Lo a while back and I’d like to play you some of that interview right now.
Chase: “I think that is something that is sorely missing in hip-hop these days. Cats are afraid to sample almost because of all the legal ramifications and bullsh*t like that.”
Lucy’Lo: “You know what I call that? If we get caught for one of the samples we use, that’s what we call a good problem, when you’re big enough that someone’s recognizing that you’ve sampled something of theirs. That’s not something I fear, that’ something I look forward to. That’s a good problem to have because someone’s paying attention to you.”
Chase: “Yeah but at the same time, I think the sample police kind of need to stop. I actually read a post recently, somebody put it up on Twitter about “Reality Hunger: A Manifesto” which is a book that was recently published. In it, the author has sampled other author’s works, like paragraph for paragraph and pieced them together in his own book. So it’s basically a book full of sampled work from other authors. And if you think of it that way, that’s actually legitimizing sampling. And if he can get away with that, just by putting references in there, what I’m thinking is that if we were able to footnote our samples somehow, maybe at the end of a song or at the end of an EP, or a bonus track or a lost track at the end, saying we sampled James Brown and we sampled Run-DMC and we sampled The Monkees, or whatever, and we put that down, then we’ve footnoted it and we’ve created something new out of it.”
Lucy’Lo: “I think there’s something to that. Hip-hop comes out of sampling and repeating break beats. There would be no hip-hop without that. Hip-hop precedes the invent of drum machines and whatnot. So I do think there’s something to that. But as a musician I kind of feel that if someone samples me in twenty years, it’s not that I need to get paid for it, but I want the recognition that this is where this chord progression, this melody, this break comes from. So I do understand the need to credit the sample. As long as your crediting the sample as the sample, I don’t like the passing off as your own.”

I did that interview with Lucy’Lo about a year ago. We had a great discussion about hip-hop culture and of course sampling was a big part of it.

I think we should be able to sample in hip-hop as long as we give credit to the original artist. That is exactly what Lucy’Lo was saying in that little clip we just played. If you want to hear the rest of that interview, go to the Artist Interview tab at to download it and read it for free.

As hip-hop artists, we should have the freedom to sample as long as we are upfront and clearly admit the samples we have used. I think we could have a footnote system in place just like how it’s done in a piece of writing. When we credit someone for an idea in a blog post, academic paper, or a book, we don’t pay them for that. Why should rappers have to?

In talking to artists like Lucy’Lo, I have found that many of them don’t care so much about the money, they want the recognition. He even stated that if he gets caught for using a sample, it would be a good thing because people have noticed him. So, for the smaller groups not on major labels, who don’t have all the resources and money, continue to sample. I’m not mad at you and I hope no one else is either.

But if you do blow up and start making a lot of money with a certain song and end up getting caught for using a sample, you will have to pay up and cut the original artist in on your profits. It’s just respectful to pay homage to those that provided us with the building blocks for what we are able to do.

Producers can put the liner notes out there. It would be easy to make a commentary-type track at the end of an album that clearly lists the samples used.

Here’s some advice for all the producers out there. 

If you are making beats or songs and are using samples, start writing down the tracks you used for each song.

Years from now, you probably won’t remember what you sampled and you’ll have to dig through and try to figure out where all your sounds came from if you want to clear those samples. Of course at the end of your track, you could just tack on a small commentary by saying, “That sampled such and such.”

I want to play that De La Soul song for you now so you can see what the two versions sounded like and you can hear for yourself whether or not you think De La Soul should’ve been sued for this.

Was that what got De La Soul in trouble?


That wasn’t even a full song. It was an interlude. It was only a tiny little portion of their record. Sure, it did sell millions of copies and it is a hip-hop classic, but I don’t know if The Turtles shoudl have went after them so hard for the use of that sound.

Had I been familiar with the original record prior to this case, I don’t think I would have been mad at De La Soul for ruining the original song. I don’t think their interlude did that. I think they were creating something new and artistic.

Doesn’t all art build upon what has come before? Does the first artist to ever paint a hill get compensated every time someone else paints a hill? I don’t think so. Who owns an image of a hill?

However, we do have those records and they do belong to the artists in general. So maybe we need to leave the business behind here. We don’t need to be paying inordinate amounts of money to use a sample.

As musicians, we could reach out to each other and say, “I really like your record. I love the sound that you put down there. I want to use that to create something new. Can you let me do that?”

I am willing to bet that quite a few artists wouldn’t have a problem with that.

But maybe they wouldn’t and that’s why DJ Premier did this interlude on a Gangstarr record. (explicit language)

I love what DJ Premier said there, but it makes me feel a bit guilty for calling out the sample Mullet N Steps used. Of course, I only did so to illustrate a point, to show you what sampling is and how it fits into hip-hop culture.

I love sampling and don’t think we should do what some producers now do. They create all of their own sounds because of the fear of being sued. There is something rich and dirty and grimy about using samples that you simply cannot get with synthesized music.

Sampling is a part of hip-hop and has a place in this culture. We should recognize that and as musicians agree that we can share each other’s work to create new works.

Thanks for tuning in. You can download this show for free and subscribe to the podcast to get the best in dope mixsets, artist interviews, and Know Your History segments sent to you each and every week for free. What could be better than that?

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Friday Flash – The Lonely Cactus

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Let’s see if that is true.

I found this image on Tumblr and absolutely loved it.

Image via SnorgTees

I then heard about this thing called Friday Flash. The goal is to write a short story and the only limit is that you cannot use any more than one thousand words. You can find #FridayFlash stories by using the hash tag on Twitter. 
Here is my first attempt at a Friday Flash. I hope you enjoy it!
The Lonely Cactus
by Chase March

JC thought everything would change that one fateful day when someone came to his dry landscape and plucked him from the desert. The teenaged girl looked quite beautiful as she worked carefully to dig him out and place him in a planter pot.

“I’m free! Free to go anywhere you’ll take me!” screamed JC with sheer delight.
She took JC and put him on the floor of her car. He had never been in a car before. Up until this point, he’d never been anywhere before.
He wished he could see and asked the girl if she could move him up to the seat.
“Sorry, you’re going to have to stay on the floor,” she said to JC, even though she hadn’t heard him. After all, she didn’t speak cactus.
JC thought they had a special connection and that they completely understood each other. How was he to know that people just talked to plants and didn’t actually hear their responses?
He told her all about his life. About how the sun arced across the sky each and every day and painted a moving shadow across the desert. He told her about the time a hyena had chased a small rodent across the sand. About how the rodent tried to throw him off by running in a strange zig-zag pattern and ducking behind him. And about how bad he felt that he couldn’t help protect the little guy.
The car hit a bump in the road and the pot left the ground briefly.
“Hey, I’ve never jumped before,” said JC. “That was cool.”
The girl looked down at him to make sure he hadn’t tipped over.
“Sorry about that bump,” she said.
“No worries,” said JC. “I can jump. Watch this.”
He jumped again. This time the car hadn’t hit a bump. It was the first time he’d ever jumped.
“Thank you for this fun adventure, Miss?”
She didn’t answer him. He so wanted to know what her name was. Maybe she was just focused on the road. Too focused to answer him.
The car soon came to a stop in a driveway. She reached over and picked him up. He was very curious to see where they were going. He didn’t recognize anything. He certainly wasn’t in the desert anymore. There were tall trees lining the sides of the road. Not one cactus was in site. These trees had large green leaves and not spikes. He thought they looked a bit scary and was glad he didn’t have to talk to them.
The young girl brought JC inside her house and put him down to rest on the windowsill. He noticed another potted plant a few inches away from him. 

Image via Jintu
“Hey how’s it going?” he asked.
The girl leaned over the plant and deeply inhaled.
“Hey, she never did that to me. How come?”
The girl turned and walked down the hallway before the plant answered him.
“She likes how I smell,” said Jasmine. JC noticed that she did smell good. She also had beautiful white flowers.
“Do you know what her name is?” asked JC. “I asked her earlier but she must not have heard me.”
“Silly Cactus, she doesn’t speak plant.”
“But she answered me a couple times.”
“That’s just ‘cause people like to talk to plants. I’m glad they do or I’d be really lonely just sitting here.”
“I used to be lonely,” said JC. “Did she?” He waited to see if Jasmine would answer his question.
“Amy,” said Jasmine.
“Did Amy,” JC paused. He liked that name. “Did Amy rescue you from the wild as well?”
“No, she bought me. I was already in this pot.”
Just then, a cat jumped up on the couch and peered over at the windowsill.
“Hey, buddy,” said JC.
The cat sniffed the new arrival. JC thought he looked cute and cuddly so he reached out to hug him. The cat didn’t realize what was happening and didn’t have time to pull away.
JC was right. This was a cuddly animal. His first hug felt really nice… for a moment or two. But then the cat yelped as JC’s spikes jabbed him in the side.
The cat jumped back in pain and knocked over a candy dish. Amy came running out of her bedroom to see what was the matter.
She said, “Bad Buster” and swatted at the cat.
“Don’t be mad at the cat?” said JC. “It was my fault.”
Amy looked over to JC as if she’d heard him. “Oh, I guess I should have warned you about the cactus. They can be a bit prickly, Buster.”
Amy picked up Buster and stroked his fur. He let out a purr and dug himself into her embrace.
JC looked at Buster with a look of jealousy. He wanted a hug like that.
Jasmine could see it in JC’s eyes. “Sorry buddy, but you’re just a cactus. People might like us plants but we never get any loving like that.”
“Never,” said JC.
He started to cry. He liked his new house and he really liked Amy. Jasmine was straightforward with him as well. But he wanted a hug. He needed a hug. He rubbed his eyes and stopped crying. He didn’t want anyone to see what he was feeling. He turned and stared out the window.
“Don’t worry JC,” said Jasmine. “Amy will take good care of you.”
“But what about hugs?” asked JC.
“Hugs are for humans or cats.”
JC didn’t think that was fair. He looked out the window and just happened to see a porcupine. “Now there’s a spikey person just like me.”

Image via
He turned to Jasmine, “Think you could help me get outside one day to meet him?”
Jasmine said, “Who?” but quickly saw the porcupine, smiled, and added, “Of course JC. Just not right now. We’ll have to do it when Amy is out.”
JC looked out the window. He knew he’d get a real hug soon and he smiled the biggest smile he’d ever smiled in his life.


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What Exactly Is Too Much Knowledge (for children)

I keep seeing characters in film who are wise beyond their years. These young characters seem to have everything figured out. They speak of topics you wouldn’t expect someone their age to know anything about.

It’s easy to laugh at the apparent expertise of these young girls when you first encounter them on the screen. However, I think there might be more going on here than comedy.

Let’s take a look at some of these characters now. 

Gilmour Girls
Rori Gilmour, played by Alexis Bledel, is the adult in her household. Her mom is present in the relationship and provides for her daughter but for all intents and purposes, the roles in their household have been humorously reversed.

Kick Ass
Hit Girl, played by Chloe Moretz, is a ten year old vigilant. She is trained to be a deadly killer by her father and together they fight crime using brutal methods.
500 Days of Summer

Chloe Moretz takes on the role of the wise older sibling in this film. She is able to coach her brother about the affairs of the heart and sounds like an old sage as she does so. Like the Gilmour Girls, however, this is another role reversal as she is the younger sibling and is only ten years old.

Why do kids seem to be wise beyond their years nowadays?

I know I’m holding up film and television characters to illustrate my point here, but I see and overhear all sorts of things from the kids at my school that I could point out to you as well.

When I was ten years old, sitting on the sidelines, I never could have had a such an intense conversation about love with someone nearly twice my age. I wasn’t ready for love and I certainly didn’t know anything of substance about it.

At that age, I also didn’t know that evil existed everywhere in society. I fantasized about being a superhero, but the kind that never got hurt and never, ever took a life. Hit Girl is not living that innocent fantasy. She is a brutal assassin who fights some major evil but does so in disturbingly violent ways.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that I led a pretty sheltered life as a child. I don’t think that was a bad thing.

I hear some of the things kids say at school during recess, in the hallways, and sometimes even in the classroom and I just shake me head and wonder how they know about all that stuff. It wasn’t like this when I was a kid, was it?

Should kids know this much about sex, drugs, and violence?

I don’t think so.

Kids should worry about crushes, tests, and friendships, you know, kids’ stuff.

Let’s let kids be kids for as long as possible. That’s my word. 

What say you? 

Hip-hop Love from the Junos

The list of nominees was just released for this year’s Juno Awards.

There is a lot of hip-hop being represented this year.

Classified is up for Single of the Year with this patriotic jam “Oh Canada”

Eminem is up for International Album of the Year. It would be nice to see him win. He’s up against Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lady Antebellum, and Taylor Swift. If anyone either than he or Taylor Swift win this award, I’ll be upset.

leaked eminem album 'recovery' - a blinding re...Image by philcampbell via Flickr

Drake is up for a bunch of awards and while I supported him by buying his album, I really didn’t enjoy it much or give it too many spins. He will probably win in a least one of the categories though.

Image by philcampbell via Flickr

While Down With Webster are not a hip-hop group, they have a hip-hop mentality and deserve to win Group of the Year. They have some tough competition from Arcade Fire though. The might have better odds in Pop Group of the Year category. I think It’s Time to Win (play on words and their album title)

The Rap Recording of the Year should go to Eternia. Her album was in my Top 10 of ’10 list.

Shad’s album is also amazing and in my Top 10 list last year. He’ll be tough competition for Eternia, that’s for sure.

It looks like The Juno Awards are holding down hip-hop properly this year. Very nice to see!

The 40th anniversary of the Junos will be celebrated in Toronto this March. Make sure to tune in and support these amazing Canadian artists.

And don’t forget to Chase Content by clicking on the links in this post. Thanks!

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Teaching Tip – Guided Reading

A good reading program is absolutely essential for your classroom. Without one, your students will not improve as readers.

Having DEAR – Drop Everything And Read or SSR – Sustained Silent Reading where your students read quietly at their desks, does very little to help them become better readers. What you need is a guided reading program where you work with small groups of students, have them read the texts out loud and respond to what they have read.

So where do you start? 

Most schools in Ontario use DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) to assess what reading level our students are at individually.

You need to sit down with each student and have them read to you and answer some comprehension questions. It takes about 20 minutes to do each assessment but by the end of that time, you will have great data about that student.

If you teach Grade 3, you simply cannot teach from a Grade 3 Reader. Some of your students simply won’t be able to read at that level. Others won’t be challenged enough.

Once you have assessed every member of your class, you will find that you will have four or five different levels of readers in your class. Some may be at grade level, some may be a grade behind or even grades behind, and some students will be reading above grade level. Form your readers into groups and have them read texts at their level.

So you’ve got you reading groups, now what?

I’ve been at some schools that have levelled book libraries and those books come with a single card that gives you ideas on how to present the books and teach lessons to small groups. I have found that these guides aren’t that useful. They require you to be familar with the book and do a little bit of pre-reading before hand.

Let’s face it, teachers are busy. We don’t have time to review four or five different books and do the planning for reading groups each and every week.

Find a reading program that lays everything out for you. 

Soar to Success is a great reading program. It’s a tad expensive but if you can get your school to buy it, I highly recommend it. It’s a reading intervention program and is meant to help those students who are struggling with their reading.

The best thing about the program is the incredibly detailed Teacher’s Guide. It lays out step by step instructions for teaching every book in the kit. It tells you to read up to a certain paragraph, stop and talk about this word, have the students make a prediction, etc.

It quite simply is the best program I have ever seen and I have used it successfully for two years.

Online Reading Program

Reading A to Z is a more cost effective program and I find the books and exercises to be much more useful than the ones in the levelled library we have at my current school. It requires an annual subscription but is well worth the price.

I know teachers that use this program and print out the books for the students. That is quite time-consuming as well. I use their projectable books and have my small groups come up to the Smartboard to  read aloud.

Structure your timetable.

Reading Groups should take about an hour of your daily schedule.

You can read through an entire text with a group of four or five students in about 15 minutes. You can then send this group back to their seats to work on a response activity of some kind. If you have four groups, you should be able to meet with each one every day.

Of course, sometimes you need more time. Your students may need extra help and you may only be able to meet with two groups a day. That is completely fine as well.

What say you?

How do you run your reading groups?

What Reading Program are you using?

Do you have any teaching tips you’d like to share?

Please leave a comment below. Teachers helping teachers is what this is all about. 

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