Monthly Archives: December 2011

Top 11 Albums of 2011

I started this tradition two years ago when I wrote the post Top 9 albums of ’09 and continued it last year with the Top 10 Albums of 2010. So I guess I need to compile the Top 11 Albums of 2011.

The problem is that I listened to a lot of mix tapes and podcasts this past year. I also continued to bump my favourite albums from last year. So I really didn’t listen to as many new albums as I normally would have. At first I wasn’t sure I’d be able to compile a list of eleven albums, but I did it (with one little cheat)

Here are my Top 11 Albums of 2011.

11. Sa Roc – Journey of the Starseed

This was released at the end of December in 2010 but I only discovered it last week while randomly using Bandcamp as a jukebox. It’s been in heavy rotation since I got it. The beats are nice and she’s got a great flow. It’s a conscious hip-hop record that is worth your time.

10. Muneshine and Vinyl Frontiers – Larger Than Life

Muneshine has really stepped up his game. He’s always been nice on the boards but he has proven time and time again in the past few years that he can rock the mic with the best of them. This is a great collaborative project between him and the production team, Vinyl Frontiers. I so love that name.

9. Evidence – Cats and Dogs

Evidence always laces us with hard hitting beats and intelligent rhymes. He never fails to disappoint. This album has been in constant rotation this year.

8. The Roots – Undun

The Roots are one of the most consistent acts hip-hop has ever seen. They constantly up their game and hit us with quality music. They made this list two years in a row now. Nice!

7. OK Go – OK go

I’m cheating a bit on this one. It came out nearly ten years ago. I knew of the group and really enjoy some of their ground breaking and innovative music videos but I’d never checked out any of their albums. That changed this spring after my girlfriend and I watched all of those videos online one night. We then decided we needed to get their album. I don’t know why I hadn’t picked it up prior to this. It really is great.

6. Common – The Dreamer / The Believer

We’ve been waiting for this record for a while. Common is back with producer and friend No I.D. and together they’ve crafted a great album. He also wrote a memoir this year. In between those two projects, The Internet was abuzz with tribute mixes, remix compilations, and a few leaked tracks. Common didn’t disappoint. This was his year.

5. Torae – For the Record

I love Torae when he comes smooth. I wasn’t overly impressed with Double Barrel last year, but this record hearkens back to his classic mixtape Daily Conversation. The beats suit him better here and his delivery is sharp. Love this record!

4. Avril Lavigne – Goodbye Lullaby

If you only heard the single “What the Hell,” you really missed out on a great album. That single doesn’t reflect the album at all. It is a more mature sounding record full of heart-felt ballads. It’s a bit of a departure from the dancier pop music of the day.

3. Kadyelle and Kiel – One Nighter E.P.

I so love Kadyelle. I was hoping we’d have her new album this year. Instead we had this dope E.P. that I had in constant rotation. It was my most played record of the year.

2. M.O.P and Snowgoons – Sparta

This is classic M.O.P. Hard hitting beats and hard hitting rhymes. It’s a perfect length as well. Some critics think it was too short at only ten tracks long. But this album really works. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

1. Hassaan Mackey and Apollo Brown – Daily Bread

This is classic East Coast hip-hop that reflects back to the Golden Age. Apollo Brown delivers the classic boom-bap landscape he’s known for as Hassaan Mackey delivers smooth rhymes and dope narratives. There really wasn’t any contest here as to which album deserved the top spot this year. Amazing record!

Top 11 Albums of 2011 by Chase March on Grooveshark

George Stroumboulopoulos on the Red Carpet

George Stroumboulopoulos came through The Red Carpet of the Stylus Awards just as the organizers were shutting it down.

He was very popular and there were about four media outlets that all wanted to grab a quick interview with him.

The organizers rushed him through the line right passed us. I made eye contact with George and he motioned to me that he’d come back to talk.

He was being pushed along in such a hurry that I was sure he was just being polite and that I’d missed the interview.

He did three quick interviews and wouldn’t let the organizers push him along any further. He turned around and came back to us. All the while, one of the organizers stood behind him and motioned for me to make it quick.

George: “What’s happening?”

Chase: “I’m good. Chase March from DOPEfm. I’m a huge fan, man. Ever since you were a VJ on Much Music.”

George: “That feels like a life time ago, man.”

Chase: “We’re a hip-hop show from Hamilton.”

George: “Very cool! From The Hammer, I love it!”

Chase: “What’s it feel like to be at the Stylus DJ Awards?”

George: “I’m happy to be here. There are a lot of talented people here. We’ve been doing a lot of this stuff on our show, having different DJs play their thing. I like being around it.”

Chase: “What DJs are you looking forward to seeing tonight?”

George: “M-Rock. I love M-Rock. He was just killing it the other night I saw him play. They’re all good though.”

Chase: “I love how you’ve been supporting the female deejays.”

George: “You have to. If you have the opportunity to play stuff, then you should play stuff.”

Chase: “One of the coolest Canadians I know.”

George: “You’re very kind.”

Chase: “Keep doing your thing. Peace.”

And with that, he was gone, the doors were closed, and the Stylus Award Show officially began.

Personification in Rap (KYH Episode 22)

Hip-hop has the power to make things come alive. Whether it is due to the process of storytelling, the persuasive message behind the song, or through an infectious rhythm or hook. Hip-hop has power. Of course, that is one of the reasons we celebrate it each and every month on this segment of DOPEfm, we call Know Your History.

My name is Chase March and I’ll be with you for the next half hour as we explore personification in hip-hop. You can download the podcast of the show for free, stream it with the player below, or continue reading.
When you think about where hip-hop cam from, it might be surprising to hear that rap music has even employed this literary device. However, rap has grown and developed over its long history. It may have started out with simple, pithy rhymes, but it was not content to stay there.
Certain artists have pushed the boundaries of what this art form is capable of, and in so doing, have changed the entire culture. There’s no better way to start our discussion today than with this song that really changed the face of hip-hop. It came out in 1994 and immediately took hold of the hip-hop audience. It sparked a lot of discussion, a few answer records, and kicked off the idea of concept songs in hip-hop.
This is “I Used to Love H.E.R.” by Common Sense. Listen to this brilliant track and we’ll be back to discuss it in detail.

That was from the album “Resurrection” that was released in 1994. It was Common’s second album and while he made a little bit of noise with his first release, it was this song and album that made him a star.
A band fought him over the name “Common Sense” so he dropped the “Sense” part of his moniker and became “Common.” Strangely enough, this shortened name really works for him. He’s a great lyricist and artist but he is also very close to the regular people. In that sense, he is a common man.
The track we just played was anything but common, however. It’s hip-hop’s first example of a concept song. When listening to the song, we assume that he is talking about a lady. Everything in the song leads us to believe that. It’s one of those songs that upon hearing the ending, you immediately want to hear it again to see exactly what he has done with the lyrics. Of course, I’m not going to do that right now. That is what rewind is for. If you’re listening to this on the radio, go find the track yourself to listen to it again, or check out our podcast on DOPEfm.ca.
That song was produced by NO I.D, by the way, a dope producer who has crafted quite a few hip-hop classics. Common starts off the song by saying, “I met this girl when I was ten years old. And what I loved most, she had so much soul. She was old school when I was just a shorty. Never knew throughout my life she would be there for me.”
He talks about how this girl grew up and how a few things led her astray. It’s a familiar tale that’s been told in books and movies, although Common really flips it by letting us know that he hasn’t been talking about a girl at all. Instead, he’s been talking about hip-hop.
Common personified the culture of this music as a woman, and in so doing, charted brand new territory for this art form. Prior to this song, the speaker in the poetry we had always heard in rap music, was the rapper himself. Now, all bets were off. Rappers could go into character, they could rap from different perspectives, they didn’t always have to stand behind the persona of the rap icon or superstar MC. This song, literally, took hip-hop in a brand new direction.
Organized Konfusion ran with that concept in their song “Stray Bullet” later that same year. Let’s drop that song right now and come back to talk about it. This is Know Your History: Episode 22 – Things Come Alive: Personification in Hip-Hop. This is your host Chase March and this is the group that introduced the world to Pharoah Monche. This is Organzied Konfusion’s “Stray Bullet” and be forewarned, it tells the graphic tale from the perspective of a stray bullet.
That was “Stray Bullet” from Organized Konfusion’s 1994 album “Stress: The Extinction Agenda.” It’s the first story rhyme within hip-hop to be told from the perspective of a bullet. Since this iconic song, this concept has been done to death (pardon the pun.)
That song gets rather graphic. The bullet kills a kid at a playground and the bloodshed continues with a lot of innocent life lost. Hopefully this song makes people think twice before shooting a gun off near a playground or a busy crowd on a street. It’s a shame that we have to deal with gun violence like this at all.
This concept was done again by Nas a few years later in his 1996 release  “It Was Written.” And while it’s true that this song, “I Gave You Power” probably owes its entire existence to the first two songs we played today, it’s hard not to be blown away by the story Nas weaves in this tale.
This is “I Gave You Power” by Nas. We’ll be back to discuss how he uses personification in this song to tell a great story and deliver a powerful message. We’ll be back with more Know Your History.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. That’s what they say anyway, and that’s what Nas illustrates in the story we just heard. The gun had no choice in the matter. He was used in ways that a gun should never be used. Nas says that himself with the lyric, “I’ve seen some cold nights and bloody days. They grab me, bullets spray. They use me wrong, so I sing this song to this day.”
At the end of the song, the gun fights back and jams at a critical moment so he doesn’t have to take any more lives. He is actually happy when his owner is shot dead because he thinks his days of being used to kill people are over. He has a brief celebration until someone comes by and picks him up. That’s the story of a gun and Nas paint s powerful tale with the song “I Gave You Power.”
Of course, personification in hip-hop can go beyond woman and guns. In the next song, the object that gets personified is ignorance. Ignorance is a villain in this tale that plays out like a comic book. It is Jeru the Damaja’s “You Can’t Stop the Prophet.” I really love this song.
Check it out and we’ll be back to explore how hip-hop using personification to craft brilliant concept songs such as this one.

That was the first time I ever heard a comic book being played out over the radio waves. Jeru the Damaja gives us an origin tale along with an arch nemesis. “One day I struck by knowledge of self. It gave me super-scientifical powers. Now I run through the ghetto, battling my arch nemesis Mr. Ignorance.”
I love how Jeru has constructed a story rhyme that basically makes him a super-hero. And he isn’t battling an ego-maniac. The evil that he fights is real, even though the song is based around a high concept. The enemy is persuasive and attacks everyone. The song ends in a cliffhanger, much like the old Batman television series. “Will the Prophet be able to get out of this jam?”
It symbolizes the daily battle we all have against ignorance. It lets us know how important it is to learn as much as we can about ourselves, our situation, and our society.
Hip-hop has used personification to deliver some great stories and political messages all at the same time. The songs we’ve played today are the best example I can think of. XXL has compiled a list of the Top 25 Personified Rap Songs and you can check it out if you want to find out more. I would have trimmed the list down a little. I don’t think all 25 of those songs deserve that shine.
A few songs that I think use personification well are Eminem’s “25 to Life” from his album “Recovery.” That song is a Dear John letter to hip-hop where he considers divorcing the music. Ultimately he comes to realize that hip-hop is so ingrained into who he is that he could never really leave it alone. It’s like what they say about women. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t leave ‘em alone.
I also really like Masta Ace’s “Hold You” featuring Jean Grae. This track deals with Masta Ace’s relationship with hip-hop, and in particular, with the microphone. Papoose goes undercover to police hip-hop in his track “Sharades.” Krs-One’s “I Can’t Wake Up” is an interesting tale where KRS-One dreams that he is a blunt and is being passed around by a who’s who of hip-hop celebrities.
And then of course, there is Mobb Deep’s “Drink Away the Pain” where they focus their lyrics on alcohol dependence, while Q-tip uses his verse to tackle to subject of some people’s obsession with name brand clothing.
Those are a few of my favourites.
It’s hard to believe that hip-hop went nearly twenty years before employing personification. Common changed the game forever in 1994. Since then we’ve had nearly twenty years of records and I’m sure we’ll have plenty more. We’ll probably have someone else come out with a game changing song as well.

Thanks for listening. This is Chase March and you better Know Your History! 

Download this episode now or stream it with the player below.

A DOPEfm Christmas

Here’s a Christmas album unlike anything you’ve ever heard.

I know that I get bored of the same old Christmas music every year, so I wanted to put together a straight hip-hop Christmas mix. I had to dig to find enough content to fill an entire CD but I found some really interesting tracks.

This mixed album starts out innocently enough with the classic Run-DMC song “Christmas in Hollis” and continues that way with music from Cross Movement and Random. Next up is a remake of Kurtis Blow’s Christmas Rappin’ by a who’s who of Canadian MCs.

The album then gets explicit. Parental discretion is advised for tracks 6, 7, and 8. First we hear an Eminem impersonation  “What if Eminem did Jingle Bells.” Then Mr.Lif tells us about the time Santa used a machine gun. We also hear Easy E wishing us all a “Merry MFing Christmas.”

The rest of the album is pretty tame. You can skip through the tracks if you find any of them offensive.

I hope you enjoy this mixed album. It will also be played on the show tonight. Listen to us live starting at 12:00 midnight on CFMU. You can find us on 93.3fm on your radio dial from the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada area or online at http://cfmu.msumcmaster.ca/

Download A DOPEfm Christmas album version

Download A DOPEfm Christmas as an MP3 file

or stream it with the player below.

Merry Christmas!

If you cannot see the audio controls, listen/download the audio file here

The Bridge Wars (Hip-Hop History Podcast: Episode 21)

Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. We’re all about the music here and not about boring dates, historical figures, and battles.

Wait a minute, hold that thought. Hip-hop has those things too. And unlike high school history class, I think you’ll enjoy our half hour together.

Download this episode for free or stream it with the player below.

My name is Chase March and today we will be looking at an historical battle in hip-hop. This battle began in 1985 and several shots were fired back and forth until a truce was called twenty years later. The shots were records and the truce was an entire album. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
It’s pretty much embedded into hip-hop culture that you need to represent who you are and where you’re from. So when MC Shan did that back in 1985, it was not an unusual thing. He wanted everyone to know that he was from the borough of Queensbridge with his record “The Bridge.” Little did he know at the time, this record would start a feud within hip-hop and launch “The Bridge Wars.”
And it all started with this one song, MC Shan’s “The Bridge” 
That was “The Bridge” by MC Shan. In that song, he was doing what we all do in hip-hop culture. He was saying where he was from and representing his neighbourhood. A neighbourhood with a rich history of hip-hop. Queensbridge would go on to produce notable acts such as Nas, Mobb Deep, and Capone-N-Noreaga, among others.
So, this song started off innocently enough,
“You love to hear the story, again and again,
Of how it all got started way back when,
The monument is right in your face,
Sit and listen for a while to the name of the place,
The Bridge,
Queensbridge.”
I don’t think MC Shan was trying to infer that hip-hop began in Queensbridge with those lyrics. But I can see how they could have been interpreted that way but some people.
Today, it’s a well-known and undisputed fact that hip-hop began in The Bronx. But in 1985, rap music was just becoming popular. Records were starting to get played outside of New York. And while most people knew hip-hop started in New York, they might not have known about the differences among the five boroughs.
The two members of Boogie Down Productions wanted to set the record straight. Krs-One and Scott LaRock released a record quite similar to “The Bridge.” They called it “South Bronx” and instead of just representing their neighbourhood, they took a few shots at MC Shan.
Listen to this track and we’ll be right back with Know Your History: The Bridge Wars. This is BDP’s “South Bronx.”
That was “South Bronx” by Boogie Down Productions and for a lot of people, it was their first exposure to Krs-One. Of course, he would go on to have a very successful career with BDP, and later as a solo artist.
That was a classic battle record in every sense of the word. It wasn’t simply an affirmation of where they were from. It wasn’t a love record to The Bronx and the birthplace of hip-hop, but it is often read that way.
These lyrics show how Krs-One came out swinging at MC Shan,
“Party people in the place to be, KRS-One attacks,
Ya got dropped off MCA cause the rhymes you wrote was wack,
So you think that hip-hop had its start out in Queensbridge,
If you popped that junk up in the Bronx you might not live.”
Hip-hop heads from the Bronx are proud of hailing from the official birthplace of hip-hop, and while Krs-One threatened violence, fortunately, the Bridge Wars stayed completely on record, where they should have.
In 1985, MC Shan was rolling with the Juice Crew. This crew was comprised of rappers, producers, and DJs, most of them hailing from Queensbridge. The collective was formed by legendary producer Marley Marl and included radio DJ Mr. Magic, and rappers; Roxanne Shanté, Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, Craig G, and later, Tragedy the Intelligent Hoodlum, and Grand Daddy I.U.
There was a history between Krs-One, Scott LaRock, and Mr. Magic that might have fueled this answer record. DJ Red Alert tells the story on “Beats, Rhymes, and Battles Part 1” on a track simply titled “Conversation 2.”
Red Alert: “[BDP], one time, was called 24/7 on an independent label. And when that record was put out, Mr. Magic at that time, went back to WBLS. He dissed the record. As he dissed the record, Scott LaRock and a guy by the name of Kris, who was Krs-One. So, when they heard that record “The Bridge” that represent for Marley and for Magic, they said, ‘We gonna answer back for that.’
Bud: “So it was ulterior then.”
DJ Red Alert: “No question, son.”
You know what? It doesn’t matter what the motives were behind this answer record. “South Bronx” was a dope jam that called attention to the birthplace of hip-hop.
Of course, the Juice Crew needed to respond to this personal attack and did so with the track MC Shan’s track “Kill That Noise.”
That was “Kill That Noise” by MC Shan. It was from the album “Down By Law,” which was released in 1987. Although, it was called “Kill That Noise,” it really didn’t kill anything. The Bridge Wars were far from over.
In a spoken word break in that song, Marley Marl says, “Yo Shan! I didn’t hear you say hip hop started in the Bridge on your record?”
MC Shan responds truthfully, “I didn’t. They wanted to get on the bandwagon.”
Truth is, the answer record had already been established with The Roxanne Wars just a year prior to The Bridge Wars starting. We covered that in the last episode of Know Your History. If you missed it, go to chasemarch.com to download it for free.
Battles had been common in hip-hop well before the answer record took hold in 1984. The Bridge Wars started with a single record released in 1985 and two years later the war raged on. In fact, it would carry on for decades. And to this day, some people still take sides.
Music is timeless and tracks like this next one continue to blast out of car speakers, iPods headphones, and college mix shows such as this one. This is “The Bridge is Over” by Boogie Down Productions. I’m Chase March for DOPEfm and we’ll be right back with our extensive coverage of one of hip-hop’s biggest battles, The Bridge Wars.
We’re back here on Know Your History. We’ve been exploring The Bridge Wars in this episode and we just heard BDP’s “The Bridge is Over.”
In the lyrics to that song, Krs-One acknowledges the contributions the other boroughs of New York have made to hip-hop culture. He says,
“Manhattan keeps on making it.
Brooklyn keeps on taking it.
Bronx keeps creating it,
And Queens keeps on faking it.”
At this time in hip-hop history, Staten Island hadn’t really made a mark on the music and that is the only reason the fifth borough of New York is absent from that verse. It’s interesting to see how he gives credit to the other areas of New York but tears down an entire borough.
This wasn’t about Queensbridge. It wasn’t simply a neighbourhood battle or a bit of a turf war. It was bout beef between two crews, Boogie Down Productions and the Juice Crew.
There were several other records made including Roxanne Shanté’s “Have A Nice Day,” Craig G’s “Duck Alert,” Rockwell Noel & The Poet, “Beat You Down” and “Taking U Out,” BDP’s “Still No. 1, MC Mitchski’s “Brooklyn Blew Up The Bridge,” and MC Shan’s “Juice Crew Law”
The final squashing of these beef didn’t happen for decades. Remember that it started with one record back in 1985 and it grew from there with a number of answer records.
Lines continued to be thrown back and forth on record all the way up to 2001 when MC Shan appeared on the compilation album QB’s Finest with these lines,
“Hip hop was set out in the dark
The Bridge was never over, we left our mark.”
History shows us that BDP came out on top. All three of their responses were huge records and they went on to have a great career that continued with Krs-One’s solo work. No member of the Juice Crew has had the level of success that Krs-One has had.
At least Krs-One didn’t just rub it in. He finally got together with Marley Marl to record a project in 2007. Their album “Hip-Hop Lives” said a lot before anyone even heard it. But there is a record on there that kind of explains the whole situation. This is “Rising to the Top” and listen to the story Krs-One recounts.
That track put an end to The Bridge Wars. It’s called “Rising to the Top” and it’s from Krs-One and Marley Marl’s album “Hip-Hop Lives.”
Krs-One explains the beef like this in those lyrics,
“Answer records were big then;
after Shante did it, everyone was trying to spit them
So we spit on…
To tell you the truth, it was the only way a MC could get on
We answered MC Shan’s “Queensbridge”;
A dope jam about where he was from and where he lived;
But in the Bronx there was these kids
KRS, Scott La Rock tryin’ to live…”
Krs-One admits that he owes his success in part to MC Shan and Marley Marl.
It’s hard to say whether there would have been room for the Juice Crew and BDP to both be successful artists. Perhaps they would have both strived. Who knows? 
Does healthy competition even exist in hip-hop. We have winners and we have losers. Quite often the losers fade away into obscurity, remaining famous for the one record and that’s about it. Those MCs who find themselves on the losing side of popular opinion, those who don’t come correct with their response so that it resonates with the hip-hop audience, become a footnote in history.
When it comes to the battle of words and putting them down on a record, I think it is like a sport. We can keep score and appreciate the art behind both sides. I hate when rap battles spill over into real life and become violent. This should never happen. We should all strive to show our best sportsmanship. Keep the battles on records and focus on the art behind all of it.
So that’s my take on The Bridge Wars. Remember you can go to chasemarch.com to read the transcript and download the twenty other episodes in the archives. And don’t forget to go to dopefm.ca for great mixsets, free podcasts and downloads as well. You can also tune us in live each and every Saturday night on 93.3 on your fm dial in Hamilton, Ontario or worldwide at cfmu.mcmaster.ca.

Thanks for listening! This has been Chase March and you better know your history! 


Rych Kydd

Chase: “We’re on the red carpet at the 2011 Stylus Awards with Rych Kydd. You’ve got a trophy in your hands.”

Rych Kydd: “Rated Next DJ 2011.”

Chase: “How’s that feel? That was handed out last night?”

Rych Kydd: “Yeah, at the pre-nominee party. It feels amazing. A lot of hard work, a lot of effort, long nights, early mornings, all paid off. It’s good to be recognized by your peers.”

Chase: “What kind of gear are you using?”

Rych Kydd: “I use two Technic 1200s, a Rain TTM 57SL Serato Mixer. I’m always on the vinyl. I can get in touch with the CDJs.”

Chase: “Nice! That’s really cool to see a traditionalist here. How do you get your vinyl? Are you a big digger too?”

Rych Kydd: “Of course. I go to see Eugene every two weeks to see what’s going on at Play De Record. If I go somewhere else and they have record stores, I shop around. But Play De Record is my number one place.”

Chase: “Are you excited about seeing anyone in particular tonight?”

Rych Kydd: “Yeah. I’m excited about seeing JD Era, A-game, all my other peers that are nominated. All love. All love.”

Chase: “It definitely is cool to see something like this where we celebrate the DJ and show them some love. They are the foundation of hip-hop. It all started with the DJ.”

Rych Kydd: “Grand Master Flash. Exactly.”

Chase: “All right. Well, congratulations on your award. Thanks for talking with us.”

Rych Kydd: “Thank you!”

Visual History of Christmas Trees

History of the Christmas Trees

I’ve always wondered about Christmas trees. The entire idea seems quite ridiculous. Cut down a tree, bring it inside, and adorn it with shiny things. Why do we do this exactly?

Well, here’s a great poster that might shed some light on the subject (pardon the pun)

There are a lot of interesting facts and points of discussion here for your students to ponder.

Perhaps you could have your students make a similar poster about another holiday tradition. I wonder why people started making fruitcakes?

More Teaching Tips

Tell Her She’s Beautiful

Is that true?

Do beautiful girls need to hear that they are beautiful?

And if so, how do we do that?

I’ve wanted to compliment women before on their beauty but I’ve often been afraid of the reception I’d get. I don’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to put forth unwanted comments. And I don’t want to come off as sexist.

So what do I do?

I’m not talking about cat-calling either. Men have no business shouting at a woman, whistling, or make rude gestures. I’m talking about a sincere compliment with no attached awkwardness or sexual pressure.

For example, last week I went downtown. I walked past a bus stop and noticed a young lady waiting for the bus. She looked like she might have been a college student. She was absolutely stunning. I walked past her and thought to myself, “She is gorgeous!”

I didn’t say anything, however, because I didn’t know how to.

Can you tell a random person that you find her attractive? Do some of these women want to hear such a compliment? And what you about someone you know? Can you tell a co-worker that she looks good on a given day?

What do you think? 

For the guys out there, do you compliment women often on their beauty? And how do you go about it?

For the ladies, do you like to hear compliments on your beauty? Does it make you uncomfortable?

Please leave a comment below and add to the discussion.

Thanks!

The Roxanne Wars (Know Your History: Episode 20)

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

I’m your host, Chase March, and I’ll be with you for the next thirty minutes as we explore a huge war within hip-hop.

You can download this episode for free or stream it with the player below.

Like most wars, this one was started with a single shot. In fact, I highly doubt the original artist had any idea that their song would create such a stir within hip-hop, while at the same time, sparking an interest in female emcees, and laying the ground work for rap battles move to recorded music.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. Let’s set the stage by playing a track by U.T.F.O. They released a 12” single in 1984 for the song “Hanging Out.” 
It was the B-side to this record that received all of the attention, however. This is the first shot that started what is known as The Roxanne Wars. This is “Roxanne Roxanne” and will be right back with this look at hip-hop’s first bout of recorded warfare.
That was “Roxanne Roxanne” by U.T.F.O. The song recounts what happens when a fictional girl won’t respond to the advances of the guys in the group. They all try to win her affection but she simply isn’t interested in any of them and lets them know this in no uncertain terms. Of course, they act like it’s absolutely preposterous for her not to be won over by their charms, their fame, or their smooth rhymes. As such, they call her “stuck up” and even go so far as to insult her family.
It was a catchy song and not aimed at anyone in particular.  It reminds me of another famous B-side that came out one year early in 1983 from a group called Run-DMC. That song was called “Sucker MCs” and it was a battle record where Run attacks any would be opponent on the microphone. He didn’t direct his message at anyone in particular. He just unleashed rhymes to let people know that his group was for real.
U.T.F.O. didn’t direct their record at anyone in particular either. They were just having fun with it and the hip-hop audience responded well to the song. It was a big hit and they would likely draw in a large crowd for the concert they were supposed to be in. For some reason, however, they cancelled their appearance at this particular concert, a seemingly small move that would have huge repercussions.
Hip-hop was a male-dominated genre of music at this point in time. There were no successful female rappers. Since hip-hop had moved from the live atmosphere to recorded music, females on the microphone were conspicuously absent. That was all about to change do to this one innocent record, a cancelled show, and a young girl who just happened to be in the right place, at the right time.
What happened was, legendary producer Marley Marl, radio personality Mr. Magic, and Tyrone Williams from WHBI were angered over the cancellation of the UTFO show. A fourteen year old girl overheard their discussion, and knowing who they were, suggested that she could record a song in response to “Roxanne, Roxanne.”
It sounded like a huge opportunity. After all, what is worse that a woman scorned?
From that moment on Lolita Shanté Gooden would be known as Roxanne Shanté. She was already an avid rhymer and a fierce freestyler. She seized the moment like most freestylers and acted like a woman scorned by what they men had said about her on the record. As legend has it, Shanté recorded the song in one take. It was laced with profanity, had a real street edge to it, and was unlike anything we had heard from a female emcee up to that point.
The song was rerecorded with a new beat and less profanity so it could be released as a single. Both versions of this song came out in 1984 but I want to play you the original right now.
Listen to this song, and we’ll be back to explore how this record sparked an interest in female emcees and paved the way for rap battles on wax. This is “Roxanne’s Revenge” by Roxanne Shanté.
That was “Roxanne’s Revenge” by Roxanne Shanté. That one record proved that there was an audience for female emcees. It helped warm up the game for females on the microphone and set the stage a few years later for the success of acts such as Salt N Pepa, MC Lyte and Queen Latifah.
That record made Roxanne Shanté a bonafide hip-hop star and also established the tradition of the answer record. Tons of people tried to follow in her footsteps by releasing their own response songs to the original U.T.F.O record. It got so convoluted that there were over one hundred such songs. I haven’t heard them all, and quite frankly, I don’t have any desire to. Roxanne Shanté did it first and she made a memorable record, and made her mark on the industry.
Of course, UTFO didn’t like this at all. They manufactured their own Roxanne, much like Shanté and Marley Marl had done. While it made The Real Roxanne a star, the record really paled in comparison to what Shanté had done. But judge that for yourself. This is “The Real Roxanne” and we’ll be back to look at a few of the other answer records in this long battle known as “The Roxanne Wars.” Stay tuned!
That was “The Real Roxanne” but I have a hard time calling her that since she most definitely wasn’t the first Roxanne. Roxanne Shante put a record out a year earlier and kept it pretty real in the process. She was a writer, an avid freestyler, and she adopted the persona of Roxanne in a real and honest way. In my humble opinion, she deserves the title of “The Real Roxanne.”
Several rappers tried to capitalize on the popularity of these Roxanne records. All in all, there were close to 100 singles put out that year in response to either “Roxanne Roxanne” or “Roxanne’s Revenge.” Most of them were pale imitations of the original recordings and completely forgettable after the first listen. You could tell that these artists were blatantly attempting to ride the coattails of someone’s success.
I have a few minutes to play you some of those songs. Let’s start off with this one from someone claiming to be Roxanne’s sister.
That was DW and The Party Crew featuring Roxy (Roxanne’s sister.) I kind of like how siblings stick up for each other. It’s a cute concept and I think it works better than some of the other countless Roxanne Wars shots.
It wasn’t just females responding to these tracks either. Here’s one that from some other fellow that have beef was well.
Enough of that. That was The Invasions “Roxanne’s Dis” and by this point in time, a lot of people had just about had enough of these Roxanne Wars, including these guys.
Sorry, but I couldn’t find an embed link for this song. Download the podcast or stream it with the player below to hear it. 
That was The East Coast Crew “The Final Word: No More Roxanne (Please)”
I can definitely understand the sentiment there. I mean, there were so many Roxanne records coming out that it was just preposterous. 
I appreciate what the first Roxanne did, Roxanne Shant
é. That was nice! That was unique! That was clever! 
Unfortunately, everyone tried to copy her success in exactly the same way and started releasing their own response records to either “Roxanne, Roxanne” or “Roxanne’s Revenge.” But it wasn’t original and it got really watered down. And we ended up with one hundred Roxanne Records. It’s ridiculous.
Next month, we will look at another famous battle within hip-hop, The Bridge Wars. It was between the Juice Crew and Boogie Down Productions (BDP.) Strangely enough, Shant
é got caught up in this battle as well since she was part of The Juice Crew. But that’s a story for next time. 
While The Roxanne Wars were the hip-hop first battle taken to the record, it certainly wasn’t the last. There have been some famous ones between Ice Cube and NWA, Common and Ice Cube, Canibus and LL Cool J, to name a few. 
There were some awesome battle records that came out in hip-hop culture. But The Roxanne Wars were the first. Before “Roxanne’s Revenge,” the answer record in hip-hop didn’t exist. You gotta give props to Roxanne Shanté. I love what she did with that record. Not only did it establish the tradition of the answer record in hip-hop, but it also sparked an interest in female emcees. 
One record can do a lot.
This has been Chase March. Thanks for tuning in to Know Your History. See you next month for another great episode.

Riviera for Skype (Product Review)

I have recorded dozens of interviews for my radio show over the past few years. Some of those interviews were done at the radio station and some were done on location at the concert venue. Of course, these ways of conducting interviews can sometimes be a little trying. We have to work within time constraints and things don’t always go according to plan.

I have been trying to figure out how to record telephone calls from home to help simplify the interview process and for me to be able to produce more radio segments.

I’d heard of Skype but really had no interest in video conferencing with anyone. But I found out that you can use it just like a phone. You can talk to other Skype users for free and you can also purchase time to call any landline or cell phone number.

In order to record your phone conversations on the computer, you need a VOIP recorder. I have been using  Riviera for Skype and I am impressed with how simple it is to use.

Here is what the Skype Call Rercorder looks like . . .

The interface is not overly crowded with options. You can access it easily through the desktop icon or from the system tray on the start bar.

You can set it to automatically record your conversations as well. They are recorded as MP3s so you don’t need to load any conversion software, or worry about where and how you can playback the files. You also are not limited by time. You can record conversations of any length.

The calls are conveniently stored as MP3 files in a folder labelled “Calls.”

You can record Skype calls of any type including the free Skype-to-Skype calls, SkypeIn / SkypeOut, Conference calls, calls to cells, etc.

They offer free support, free lifetime updates, and upgrades.

In the interest of full disclosure, Riviera for Skype, is giving me a full version of their VOIP recorder for writing this post. However, after using this program and seeing how easy and effective it can be, I’m sure I would have forked over the money to buy it. 

You can try Riviera for Skype for free for 14 days. If you like it, you can purchase the program for less then $12. That’s a great deal.

Teaching Tip – Making Comics Online

Here’s a comic strip that I created in less than five minutes, using a website I had never tried out before.
 

Comics are perfect for the classroom. They allow students to explore all sorts of new environments and feel confident with what they have written and created.

There are quite a few free websites that allow you to make comic strips quickly and easily. Here are two that I have tried and think your students will enjoy.

Boy’s Life – This comic creator gets kids writing and creating short comic stories right away. I created the above comic in two minutes using this free online program.

Arthur – Arthur is a great character that many children enjoy. I particularly love the television series. It is humorous and intelligent. This comic creator will appeal to anyone who has seen the show or read any of the books.

Why make comics in school? 

  • It gets students writing – The students might not even realize they are actually writing.
  • It gets them creating media – They can save the images or print them out.
  • It encourages creativity – Students love clicking on the buttons and using the elements available to create a story. It forces them to be creative.
  • It’s fun – Most students will enjoy creating comics online. 

But . . .

Some students might feel constrained by these programs that only allow them to use certain characters, settings or props.

Some students might want to draw their own comics from scratch. 

Creating comics is a great activity no matter how it is done.

So go out there and get creative!

More Teaching Tips

Take it Down or Cover it Up – Please!

It really annoys me when a store goes out of business, everything gets cleaned out, the store is left vacant, and the owners fail to do this one simple thing.

I can’t tell you how many times I have been driving and noticed a store that I’d like to visit. Sometimes, the store is inside a strip mall. Sometimes, the store is downtown. Sometimes, it’s a stand alone shop.

No matter where the store exactly is, it usually takes a bit of effort to get there. I have to turn down a street, find a parking spot, and walk a little bit.

The store’s sign and familiar brand lead me to my destination. That’s what they are designed to do. That’s why I think when a shop goes out of business, for whatever reason, they owe it to us to . . .

Take Down The Sign

If the sign is on an awning and would be costly to take down, I can understand leaving it up. However, it would only take a few minutes and one can of paint to cover over their logo and store name. That way everyone would know that the store is out of business. I think they owe us that much.

For example, a can of orange paint could be used to cover up the logo and store name in the above photo with ease.

Cover Up The Sign

Here’s one business that did it right.

It doesn’t take long to cover up a sign. Sometimes, it is as simple as taking out the plastic and flipping it around so that the logo now faces in and not out.

Does this bug you too?

Leave a comment below and add to the discussion. 

The December Mixtape

I don’t know if this is going to become a tradition or not, but I really felt like making another December themed mixtape.

Unlike last year’s mix, this one is fully tracked and in album format. It’s meant to be listened to straight through, but since each song has its own track, you can skip through them at your leisure.

You can download this new mix for free or stream it with the players below.

I really enjoy making tapes and sharing them with you. Please feel free to pass then along. Download them to your iPod or MP3 players, burn them to CD, give them away as presents, +1, tweet, or Facebook it as well.

Thanks for listening.

I hope you have a great December!

DOWNLOAD – The Decemeber Mixtape (album format)

The Birth of the Rap Battle (Know Your History: Episode 19)

Battles are as old as hip-hop itself. The crowd was the ultimate judge when it came to the early days of this culture. Whether it was to determine who ruled the dance floor, which neighbourhood had the best deejay, or who could rock the microphone the hardest. Battles have been a staple of hip-hop since its very inception, but not in the way you might think.

Welcome to Know Your History. I’m your host Chase March, and we’ll be exploring all those questions and more in Episode 19: The Birth of the Rap Battle. You can download this episode for free or stream it with the player at the bottom of this post. 
To start off, let’s go back to 1981. Imagine an era where hip-hop had to be experienced. You would go to a party and hear a DJ throwing down long music sets where the tracks all blended together seamlessly. There would be MCs on the stage rhyming and rhyming and rhyming. The microphone would be passed around but the vibe was pleasant and cheerful.
Most of the MCs at the event would take a few lines to praise the DJ. They would then spend a good portion of their rhymes telling the crowd how awesome they are. Sometimes rappers would tell stories that were humorous and playful but most of the time, it was an exercise in bragging.
In fact, that is exactly where hip-hop started. The DJ would be spinning a set and occasionally jump on the microphone to hype up the crowd. He would say short rhymes to get the crowd dancing and to remind them of just who it was, providing the musical entertainment.
DJs were awfully competitive and tried to improve upon their skills. They soon employed MCs or master of ceremonies, to hype up the crowd so they could be free to concentrate solely on the music. It wasn’t long before the short rhymes became longer and longer and developed into entire songs.
Recorded rap music was still fairly new at this point in time, however. There were roughly two hundred 12” singles put out in 1981. You can find a list of those releases on RapHistory.net.

200 releases in one year. Nowadays it feels as if there are that many rap singles released every week. And with the ease of the Internet, mixtapes, soundcloud, bandcamp, blogs, etc, that number might be even higher.

One of the most popular records of 1981 was this one. I want to play it for all of you to help set the scene for a special night around Christmastime that year where everything in hip-hop changed. I’m not kidding. Stay tuned to figure out what it was. This is “Feel the Heartbeat” by The Treacherous 3.
All right, Chase March back with Know Your History. You just heard “Feel the Heartbeat” by The Treacherous 3. The group consisted of Kool Moe Dee, who went on to have a successful solo career, LA Sunshine, Special K, and DJ Easy Lee. The boys were riding high on the success of that record in 1981 and were invited to host The Harlem World Christmas Rappers Convention.
There were several MCs performing at that legendary, but now defunct New York night club for the event. The Treacherous 3 were there as hosts and were not scheduled to perform. All of the MCs that did perform that night had that same light-hearted, bragging-type routine similar to the song I just played. This is what is known as old-school rap.
No one knew it at the time, but a new era was on the precipice. This event would go down in history as the start of a new culture of rap battles.  
Today, we are all familiar with what a rap battle is. Most everyone has seen a battle on television or in the movies. Eminem’s 8-Mile was a pretty good portrayal of what you can expect to see at a rap battle. 106 and Park on BET has a segment called “Freestyle Fridays,” Aux-TV has “The Ultimate MC,” and Toronto has “The King of the Dot” contests. 
If you haven’t seen a battle, it basically works like this. Two emcees are pitted against one another and have a set amount of time to perform a short freestyle rhyme. Someone goes first and then the opponent responds immediately with their own freestyle. There are often two or more rounds. The object is to deliver funny and witty rhymes that tear down your opponent. The goal is to one-up them and come up with the best rhyme. Of course this is putting it in the simplest of language. Rap battles aren’t all about the rhymes.
This Christmastime show at Harlem World wasn’t a battle as we know it today. It was more of a showcase that allowed rappers to get up on the stage and display their best rhymes, to hype up the crowd, and to just have fun with it.
Before we go any farther, let’s make it clear that this rap showcase turned into the historic Kool Moe Dee vs Busy Bee Starski rap battle. It started off innocently enough as well.
Busy Bee Starski was one the biggest acts in hip-hop at the time. He had an incredible stage performance and delivered fluffy party rhymes in the classic old-school style. He was always a crowd pleaser and felt pretty confident that he was the best MC on the bill that night.
But like I said, earlier, hip-hop has always been competitive. There was always a desire to show that you were the best at rocking the microphone. And ultimately, the crowd was the judge of this. Hip-hop fans aren’t content with album sales, radio spins, or artificial ways of determining who is the best. It all comes down to skills and a show-and-prove mentality.
Troy L. Smith interviewed The Treacherous 3 about this battle. In the article, you can see how the fans at the show wanted to see who the better MC was, Busy Bee or Kool Moe Dee. You can see exactly how this battle came to be. It’s a really interesting read and I suggest you go to Tha Foundation website to check it out.
Kool Moe Dee is quoted as saying, “Busy Bee got beside himself that night and I let my ego get caught up in it.” End quote. Basically Busy Bee was on stage doing his bragging type rhymes and they sounded nice. Someone in the crowd suggested that Busy Bee was only safe because Kool Moe Dee was not on the bill.
Busy Bee couldn’t do much else but respond to that little comment. He didn’t explicitly disrespect Kool Moe Dee. He simply repeated that he was indeed the best rapper in the house and that no one could touch him.
L.A. Sunshine told Smith, “I was laughing at him when he was talking shit. But Moe took things to heart. I felt what Busy Bee said was kind of harsh.”
Kool Moe Dee recalls,  “So the agitator is pushing the fight, so Busy has to defend himself and he ends up dissing me by saying, ‘It don’t make a difference who’s in it. Ain’t nobody beating me.’ So I’m like did he just say that?” End quote.
You can see that both rappers egos were on the line here.
Kool Moe Dee continues, “So this night I am hosting the show because we just finished putting out a record. We were hot so I was like the celebrity host. After he said those words I was standing there, saying did he say that? And one of the brothers screamed out, ‘What you going to do now?’ So I am literally pushed into the circle to fight. So I’m like oh shit. I run upstairs and I tell Charlie Rock who is also hosting the show, ‘Yo put my name on the list.’ He said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Put my name on the list. I’m in the contest.” He’s like, ‘You getting in it?’ I said, ‘Yes and put my name right after Busy Bee.’ Charlie’s like, ‘Alright.’
That’s the story behind what happened. But you really need to hear the entire exchange that happened on the stage. Kool Moe Dee’s response wasn’t the typical old-school style rhyme we were used to. I’m going to leave it at that for now, play you the clip from 1981 and be right back to talk more about what many people call rap’s first battle.
You could hear Busy Bee getting a lot of audience participation in that clip. It was a typical of what you would hear in the live hip-hop events back in the early 1980s.
What Kool Moe Dee did, however, was anything but typical. He decided that instead of just bragging, he would actually come out swinging. He starts by attacking Busy Bee’s old-school flow and actually tells him, “You ain’t shit.” This is quite a departure from, “I’m better than the rest.”
Kool Moe Dee continues his verbal assault of Busy Bee by criticizing his name, claiming that he stole rhymes, saying that his verbal skills were repetitive and boring. Kool Moe Dee continues to take shot after shot at his opponent.
This exchange has been credited as the first rap battle. At the very least, it was hip-hop’s first direct attack of an emcee that we have on tape or record. It signaled a shift in the culture as well.
Kool Moe Dee had some time to figure out what he was going to say in that rhyme. He admits that he threw it together quite quickly, jotted it down, and that it wasn’t exactly a freestyle.
A freestyle is a completely improvised rhyme. Nothing is written down. You basically think of a line or two before grabbing the microphone. You start with what you have and then just keep going.
It’s a difficult skill and not every great rapper is able to do it. It’s kind of like juggling. There are so many different things you need in play for a freestyle to work.
I found a website that has some Great Advice for BattleRappers and Freestylers.

The best advice is that practice makes perfect. You can only get good at something by doing it. So get yourself some instrumentals, start rapping, and record your rhymes. This will allow you to figure out what sounds nice. In fact, you can even write down your favourite lines and start collecting them like weapons you can stow away until they are needed.
Observe what is around you. If you can add details of your surroundings, you can really get the crowd on your side. They can tell that you are in the moment and will respect it. It also gives you specific things in which you can attack your opponent.
Good freestyle rappers don’t have routines. They make up their rhymes right off the top of the head. They are quick and witty, but this comes from practice, attention to detail, and a good memory.
One of the best freestyle rappers is Supernatural. Every time I have heard this guy he has blown me away. He has done shows where fans hand him random objects in rapid succession and he manages to fit them all into an improvised rhyme that flows, makes sense, and uses humour in completely novel ways.
That was the brilliant freestyle rapper, Supernatural. There are plenty of rappers out there who can come up with rhymes off the top of their heads. When rappers use improvisation this way to come up with lyrics, we call it freestyling.
I know many people listening to this, myself included, who have been in an argument with someone and walk away steaming. Ten minutes later, we think of a brilliant comeback and will then kick ourselves for not being quicker. Freestyle rappers can just come up with this stuff instantly while in that moment.
Freestyling is a skill but it is also a talent. Not every successful rapper can freestyle and not every freestyler can compose a great song or album. But it does earn you respect and can open the door to a promising career.
When it comes to battling, freestyling is probably your greatest asset. If you have to write all of your rhymes, you might not have something that will completely suit the moment. I have been to battles where it is obvious that the rappers were reciting rhymes that they had already pre-written.
If a rapper is truly freestyling, they should never repeat the same rhyme. It is like talking because most of the time you don’t rehearse what you are going to say. Also, the freestylers just sound better, in my humble opinion.
You know, an emcee can display technical skill, have amazing rhyme schemes, and literally out-rap their opponent and still lose a battle.
Why?
Because the audience doesn’t often pick up on all that stuff. It does get the humour, however.
Humour is something we can all relate to. It’s universal. When you hear someone making fun of another person and doing so in a clever rhyme, you can’t help but laugh. That is one of the appeals of battling.
Several rappers have made their careers out of being witty. Eminem, for example, puts so much into his rhymes with punchlines, situational comedy, and sometimes he even pokes fun at himself. I think he often puts people off with his offensive lyrical content, but when you look at how he puts his words together and the beauty behind exactly what he is doing with his rhymes, you have to marvel at what he does.
Eminem actually established himself in hip-hop by entering battles, and totally destroying his competition every step of the way. He is definitely one of the best emcees ever in the way he puts his words together. He is, in my humble opinion, the best wordsmith the English language has ever seen.
If a rapper is truly freestyling, they should never repeat the same rhyme. It is like talking because most of the time you don’t rehearse what you are going to say.
I found this article, “How to Survive a Freestyle Rap Battle” If you’re an aspiring rapper or want to learn how to freestyle or improve your skills, you should go check it out.
We’re just about done this month’s dose of hip-hop knowledge. Time flies. I didn’t even get to the answer record yet. I was hoping to, but we are running out of time.
We covered a lot of hip-hop history today. We started talking about how hip-hop began with improvisation. DJs would say short rhymes to hype up the crowd. This lead to MCs bragging about their DJ and about their own rhyming skills. This lead to friendly competition and then to outright battles.
The rap battle became a culture unto itself in the early 1980s thanks to the legendary battle between Kool Moe Dee and Busy Bee. A few years later, this blatant attack of fellow rappers jumped from the stage and live venues to records. We then got something called the answer record. But that is another tale for another time. Next time, actually,
This has been Chase March for DOPEfm bringing you your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. Thanks for tuning in. Remember to check my blog, chasemarch.com, for transcripts and free downloads and, of course, the show’s website dopefm.ca for all of your hip-hop needs.
See you here next month for another installment of Know YourHistory.

Scaredy Squirrel Drama Lesson

Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt is a really great picture book that children of all ages will enjoy.

It’s about a squirrel who is afraid of anything outside of his nut tree. He stays in his tree trying to avoid all the harmful things in the world such as poison ivy, sharks, and killer bees.

There a probably a million things you could do with this book in your classroom. Today, I thought I’d share with you a drama lesson that I tried out last week with a Grade 1 class. It takes roughly half an hour and is suitable for the primary classroom. It involves cooperation and movement.

My students really enjoyed this lesson. I’m sure yours will as well.

1) Read the picture book “Scaredy Squirrel” to the class.

2) Brainstorm a list of things that scare the students.

3) If no one brings up thunderstorms, tell them how your dog whimpers and hides whenever there is a big storm.

4) Have the students sit in a circle and tell them that we can create a thunderstorm right here in the classroom.

5) Rub your hand on the floor or carpet in a circular motion and instruct all of the students to do the same. This will sound like the wind that comes before a storm.

6) Then use your fingers to quietly tap on the ground. This will sound like light rain drops.

7) Next, tap harder to simulate a harder rain.

8) Slapping the ground will sound like thunder. Some students might want to clap their palms together for an extra thunderous effect.

9) Then have the students repeat these sounds in reverse order. This way it will sound like a storm slowly coming in and then moving away.

10) Some students might suggest flicking the lights on and off for the lightning.

11) It may take you a few tries to get this sounding great. When you do, have the students focus on just the sounds.

12) Next you can choose a student to act out part of the story. He or she gets to pretend to be the squirrel.

13) Have another volunteer act out the part of something scary. They can choose something from the story or from the list of things we brainstormed.

14) The rest of the students will practise being good audience members.

15) Coach the students on how to use their bodies and voice to act scared. They can run. They can shake. They can hide. They can make a whelp or a (little) scream. Encourage them to get right into the role.

I hope you have found this lesson useful. It’s really amazing how a group of people can come together to simulate the sound of a thunderstorm. Plus, it’s a fun story and fun to act out.

More Teaching Tips

Jully Black (Red Carpet Interview)

Daddy J and I caught up with Jully Black and her producer on the red carpet at the 2011 Stylus Awards.

Here is a transcript of our interview.

Chase: “Jully Black! Chase March and Daddy J from DOPEfm.

Jully: “Nice to meet you. I’m here with my producer, Young Pete Alexander.”

Chase: “Nice to meet you! We’ve been fans of you, Jully, since back in the day when we first heard you singing the hooks for all of the hip-hop groups in Toronto, like Choclair and all those dudes.”

Chase: “We’ve seen you progress all through the years. So, how does it feel to be at the awards today?”

Jully: “It’s an awesome feeling. It’s nice to know that hip-hop is being celebrated in Canada. It is a genre that is pretty new to this country, even though we’ve been doing it for about ten – fifteen years. It’s just nice to come together. It’s nice to bring my boy from Atlanta. (to Young Pete) How do you feel about hip-hop in Canada?”

Young Pete: “It’s definitely progressing. You got Drake, definitely opening up a lot of doors. He’s got a great production team, which I’ve never met, but I’ve been hearing about Boi 1da, T-minus, and people who are the new generation in Canada coming up. It seems like it’s the perfect season for what is going on in Toronto. It’s really progressing.”

Chase: “You have a great video for ‘Seven Day Fool.'”

Jully: “Thank you.”

Chase: “My girlfriend really loves that song. She’s a feminist and is really into strong female role models. She’s impressed with what you do. I think she’d want me to ask you this, ‘How important is it for you represent femininity and be a strong woman role-model?'”

Jully: “I think it’s very important to embrace your womanhood and your femininity. Just because you are into female empowerment doesn’t mean that you are in opposition of men. I think that a strong woman needs to be able to support a strong man as well. So, there’s a balance. It’s important to have your self-esteem in check. I think that is the core of femininity.”

Chase: “It’s hard to know exactly what you are saying in that song because it sounds like you are saying ‘this’ and then it sounds like you are saying ‘that.’ But I think you just answered that question right there.”

Jully: “You gotta go back and ask Etta James. That song originally came out way back in 1961. It might have meant something different back then.”

Chase: “Yeah, maybe. But your take on it was really nice. It’s great to see you still doing your thing and making such good music all the time.”

Jully: “Thanks!”

Putting Graffiti In Its Place

This is a bridge in a Kitchener suburb. You cannot see the underside of this bridge from the road. You cannot see the graffiti art if you are simply walking by on the sidewalk.

The colourful logos and words are pretty much completely hidden from view.

That is why this is the perfect spot for graffiti artists to work their magic.

This isn’t intrusive graffiti. It isn’t rude or crude. It doesn’t disrespect anyone or anything.

This graffiti is perfectly placed so that it is unobtrusive. It isn’t an eyesore for anyone.

True, some people might like to walk down to the creek or river bed and not be bombarded with bright, unnatural colours.

But I think, graffiti art, when done well (and these pieces are done well), is actually quite nice

These pieces took time and effort. There are a variety of colours, line styles, and shading techniques used in each piece.

The artists were also respectful of each other. No one has taken more than their fair share of available wall space.

Unfortunately, there are a few tags and words of profanity to be seen on these walls. I can tell you that these were added well after the fact by people who were not artists and had no affiliation to any of these pieces. It’s a shame really.

Graffiti isn’t always bad. It gives kids a chance to be artistic. It can brighten up an area. And when done in places such as these, it really doesn’t hurt or inconvenience anyone.

Let’s open up more of our city spaces and suburb spots like this to talented artists and finally put graffiti in its place. A place where it can be viewed, shared, admired, and practised safely.

More Graffiti Art

I’m a NaNoWriMo Winner!

I did it!

I wrote an entire 50,015 word novel in the month of November to win my very first National Novel Writing Month prize.

It feels good!

When I first decided to take on this challenge, I only had a rough idea of the story I wanted to tell. I wasn’t sure I should tackle it though. I’d written novels before but I’d never tried to stuff the whole creative process into one month. It sounded crazy.

But I felt like I needed the challenge. I thought that it would at least get me started on a new fiction project. I’d been working on a lot of hip-hop articles and podcasts but my fiction had taken a bit of backburner and I wanted to correct that.

I spent the last week of October trying to get my blog in order. I’d pre-written posts and scheduled them all so my blog would pretty much run on auto-pilot for the whole month. This freed me up to write, write, write.

I set a goal to write 1,700 words every day and I was able to stick to it for two weeks straight. I wrote a blog post to fill you in at that point. I had planned on writing weekly updates for you but I just couldn’t find the time.

I spent roughly three hours a day writing, every day. There were a few days in the month where I didn’t write but I managed to stay right on top of my word count goals nevertheless. Sometimes I would write during my recess or lunch breaks at school. I did most of the writing at home though.

The novel is called “Outside of the Blocks.” It’s a play on words because it’s about reclusive Lego artist, who doesn’t even realize that he is an artist. He basically plays with Lego blocks all day. His young neighbour comes across his hobby and puts some photos of his creations online and this forces him out of his self-imposed exile.

Here’s my original blurb,

Eli Thomas keeps to himself. He stays at home most of the time and creates elaborate structures out of Lego blocks. His world is turned upside down when his nine year old neighbour discovers his art creations and helps him break out of his self-imposed isolation. But is Eli ready to get outside of the blocks? And is the world ready for a socially awkward Lego artist? 

I had a lot of fun participating in NaNoWriMo and I’d like to thank everyone who cheered me on. I don’t think I could have done it without the motivation. Thanks!