I got the idea for today’s Teaching Tip as I read the memoir by rapper, actor, and songwriter, Common. His book is entitled “One Day It’ll All Make Sense”
There are a few passages in the memoir that were written by his mother. When I read this one, I immediately thought of how it could be used as a discussion point for the classroom.
“I remember one time when Rashid was maybe eight years old, he overheard me on the telephone talking to a professor . . . When I got off the phone, Rashid was giving me a funny look.
“Mama, how come you talking white?”
It took all of my composure not to bust out laughing. He was giving me that little-boy serious look, like he was deeply concerned.
“I’m not ‘talking white,’ honey. I’m talking with someone from the university, and when I do that I change up my vocabulary.”
He still looked confused.
“Look, Rashid, do you talk to me the same way you talk to your cousin?”
He shook his head.
“Do you talk to your cousin the same way you talk to God when you pray?”
He shook his head again.
“Well, see, that’s what I’m talking about.l You change the way you speak depending on whom you’re addressing.”
Since he’s been grown, he’s mentioned that moment to me several times.
“Now I understand,” he says. “The words you choose matter.”
I couldn’t help but read that passage and think about using it in a classroom discussion.
Part of the English program requires us to teach students how to communicate orally. You can check the curriculum document to see how you could apply this quotation to your specific grade.
One of the Grade 7 expectations from the Oral Communication strand states that students need to be able to “demonstrate an understanding of appropriate speaking behaviour in most situations, adapting contributions and responses to suit the purpose and audience.”
After reading the above passage, you could brainstorm a variety of situations or people that the students would have to interact with and how they would speak differently for each. You could have them role-play discussions with friends at the park, a police officer, a store clerk, a judge, their grandmother, etc.
I hope you enjoy my Teaching Tip Tuesday series. There are over 100 useful tips, tricks, and lessons that you can access at any time. See you here next week for a new one.
I like uniquely Canadian television and that is precisely the reason that I have been enjoying Arctic Air.
Arctic Air is an ensemble drama that can be seen Tuesdays at 9:00 on CBC. The show is set in Northern Canada and revolves around a small airline that has outdated planes. The pilots must navigate through the tough weather, small dirt runways, and small communities.
It is nice to see First Nation characters on prime time television. Adam Beach plays Bobby Martin, and at first, he’s not a very likable character. He seems to be more concerned about making money than having any connection to his hometown or to his people. (Spoiler Alert)
Bobby comes back to negotiate a mining deal with a local land owner. Just when it looks like he is about to sell out his friend, he has a change of heart and does the right thing. When he finds out that the airline that his now deceased father had founded is in a bit of financial difficulty, Bobby decides to stay and help out the struggling airline.
I’ve really been enjoying the show. The pilot episode didn’t completely blow me away. It had a few lines of contrived dialogue but it did help set up the theme and mood of the series. The second episode is where things really started to gel and last week’s episode was full of suspense and great drama.
It’s rare that we get such uniquely Canadian programming on our televisions. I think we need to support shows like this; shows that put First Nation peoples in the spotlight, shows that tell our stories and are set in our country.
If you have ever had to travel to Northern Canada, this series will bring back memories of riding in those small charter planes. If you haven’t, you will get a nice glimpse of what it’s like to live in a remote area of the North.
I hope you give this series a chance. The fourth episode airs tomorrow night at 9:00 on CBC. You can also catch full episodes online at CBC.ca.
We covered a lot of topics last year from sampling to comedy to rap battles to personification to gender roles. If you missed the shows when they aired on the radio, or you missed the podcasts, I hope you will take the time to download the complete series sets.
Season Three starts really soon. Look forward to hearing twelve more episodes this year that dive deep into hip-hop culture. It’s my way to share some of the classic material that this art form has produced while highlighting the significance of songs and artists from this rich, cultural history that is hip-hop.
Batman deserves a mixtape, doesn’t he? After all he does to protect the city from crime, the least we could do is honour him with a mixed CD.
The tape starts out with the theme from the television series and then moves in to Snoop Dogg’s “Batman and Robin.” The song blends into The Last Emperor’s brilliant take on rappers battling super-heroes and villians in “Secret Wars.” We then have two songs from the soundtracks of Batman films.
Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” seems to fit with the persona of Bruce Wayne and how he has to hide certain aspects of his life to protect his secret identity. The next song totally fits with the theme since Bruce Wayne is a Billionaire.
Side B starts off with a track from Robin’s point of view. It’s a pretty interesting take on being a “Sidekick.” And when Nazareth sings, “Now you’re messing with a song of a b*tch,” they could definitely be taking about Batman. I certainly wouldn’t want to have to go against him in battle.
I originally made this tape as a birthday present for my brother. He’s a huge Batman fan and owns hundreds of the comics.
I hope you enjoy this mix. It can easily fit on to one CD or you can download the mix to play on your iPod or MP3 players. All of the songs blend into each other but they are on their own track so you can skip through songs at your leisure or listen to the mix straight through.
I found this excellent teaching tip today on the local message board. You need to be a member of my school board to access the site so I thought I would share this tip with you here. It was originally posted by Dr. Megan Cyrisse Parry-Jamieson.
“Hi all — I’ve been having good results with word work in my grade 7 class – the first thing they loved I stole from a colleague (Christina Young) — I hit up Home Depot for the out of style paint chip strips. Each kid got one — and got to put one word on one of the colours. Then they had to come up with ‘lighter’ or ‘darker’ versions of the same word — they loved it, kept the strips, and I’ve heard them talking to each other about ‘that word is too light, you need a shade darker’ — so it stuck! woo hoo!”
I tried this activity out myself. I really like how it gets the kids brainstorming about different words that mean the same thing. We can introduce the term synonym during this lesson and get the kids using a thesaurus.
I thought I’d come up with words for fight as an example. This is what I came up with.
You can see that at the bottom of the paint strip I used the most tame version of the word fight I could come up with.
Scrimmage is a friendly game or competition.
Scrap is a word we often use to describe a small fight between two people. Sometimes a scrap will break out during a game or a scrimmage.
Match is a more formal word for a game than scrimmage (like a boxing match)
Bout is also used in boxing and we can see that imagery with this word.
Fight is a strong word and you can see that we’ve been working on way up the strip so that as the colours get darker, the definition of the word does as well.
Brawl means lots of people are involved in the fight.
And finally a Melee is used to describe a fight that is utter chaos and involves a large group of people.
I think if I were going to do this activity with younger students, I would give them a small list of words to choose from. This way they wouldn’t be overwhelmed by all of the choices in the thesaurus.
Megan also had something else to share on the message board . . .
The other thing I’ve discovered are the word scafolding organzers at freeology.com — I’ve added several to my website under ‘student stuff’ and ‘daily 5’ — the top 3 are word work specific — find a word, the definition, several examples, and several non-examples, where they will find it, and how they will connect it
I’m finding it awesome in terms of improving word choice, but it’s also really helping for concept retention and vocab comprehension in my rotary science classes — for kids to see that ‘conductor’ is something that transfers energy well, NOT the guy driving the train…. helps. Also helps when they make the link between Conductor and Contact — build in reminders…. my ESL kids are attending to specifics better — whenever they incorrectly substitute a visually similar but not related word they get a word sheet — feel free to pull them off my site — they’re free for teacher use etc. from freeology.com
Many online music players have become available in the last few years, including popular sites such as Pandora and I Heart Radio. With the rise of social-networking sites, some players have been developed for the purpose of listening to and sharing music on these sites. Spotify is one of the leaders of the social-network music players, and it deserves its place near the top.
How it Works
New users must install the player on their personal computers when they sign up. After that, users can sign in through Facebook or through any computer. Your personal music library will be available through the app when you sign in through your home computer, but you’ll be limited to Spotify’s library if you sign in elsewhere. However, Spotify’s library includes over 15 million tracks, so you shouldn’t have a hard time finding what you want. The free membership option includes 20 hours of streaming music, but you’ll have to pay $4.99 a month if you want to get unlimited music and hear it without advertising. For $9.99 a month, you also get access to an offline mode, mobile access, and exclusive content.
Spotify offers an easy way to listen to free music without resorting to illegally downloading it. The service is also a great way to share your musical interests with friends through Facebook or Twitter, which can also help you to discover new music. There are a variety of features, which allow you to organize your music and to discover new favorites. For example, you can create playlists of your favorite artists, find new music by clicking on “related artists” or by browsing “artist radio” channels, and learn about your favorite musicians with biographies. You can also find new music by browsing songs according to their popularity. Searching is easy, and you can find music by artist, song, or album.
There are few drawbacks to the service, and those that exist are based more on personal preferences rather than actual problems with the service. For example, though you can connect with friends to share musical tastes and to learn about new music, you can only search for friends through your Facebook connections. You can’t browse user profiles on the site. The interface is easy to use and looks quite similar to the iTunes music library interface. The drawback is that it is quite text heavy and does not use many images, such as large logos, album covers, or artist photos. Those who are looking for an intuitive way to discover new artists may be a bit disappointed by the lack of features.
Overall, Spotify is a great service with a wide variety of free, streaming music available. I was able to find all the artists I could think of, even some that were a bit obscure. There were soundtracks and karaoke versions of music, as well. Though the basic service only offers basic features, you can listen to the music you want to hear and share it easily on Facebook or Twitter. The drawbacks of the service are minimal, and users will find a lot of great benefits in the service.
Chase: “You should check it out. We dedicated the entire overnight show to Women in Hip Hop.”
Lissa Monet: “It’s still up there?”
Chase: “Yeah. You can check out the podcasts and articles. It was really cool. So, you are nominated again this year?”
Lissa Monet: “Yep. I’m up for two awards, Female DJ of the Year, and Mixtape, which DJ P-Plus and I won last night for ‘Love Letters and Broken Hearts.'”
Chase: “Congratulations! That’s awesome. I remember last year we talked about the Girl DJ category and now you are outside of that as well. That is very cool to see.”
Lissa Monet: “Exactly.”
Chase: “I mean, it’s good we have the Female DJ category, but it’s nice to see just “DJ.” I’m all for getting rid of the gender terms like actor and actress. Just get rid of them. A person who acts is an actor, you know?”
Lissa Monet: “Absolutely.”
Chase: “What do you have to say to any young girls listening right now?”
Lissa Monet: “Just be persistent and consistent. Do what you love, and the passion will reap the rewards for you. It’s one of those things where if you do it for all the right reasons, it will come back to you ten-fold.”
Chase: “For sure. Good luck with everything tonight for your second nomination and congratulations for the award you got last night.”
Welcome to Know Your History. I’m your host Chase March and today we are continuing to explore masculinity in hip-hop culture.You can listen to this episode with the player below, download it for free, or just keep reading.
I hope you were with us last episode as we discussed what it means to be a man in this day and age and how that is reflected in our lyrics and music videos. If you missed that episode, you can go back to read the transcript and download the podcast for free.
We started off this episode of the show with a quote from Jackson Katz. It’s from his documentary “Tough Guise,” which is a clever play on words. He talks about the violence we see in the media and how equating violence with masculinity sets unrealistic standards of what it means to be a man. The title of his film refers to not just guys as men but guise as in a disguise or a costume that we put on and wear. Some of us aren’t even aware that we are wearing this costume. It has been so ingrained in us from birth.
Judith Butler refers to this as performativity. I discussed this in the last episode but basically what it means is that we perform our genders much like the way Katz describes it as wearing a disguise. We often aren’t aware that we are engaged in any kind of a performance. We don’t think much about gender roles at all. It’s time we did though because if we recognize that we are playing a role and it isn’t exactly working, than we can change it.
Tony Porter says, “See collectively, we as men are taught to have less value in women, to view them as property and the objects of men.”
That quote was from Tony Porter’s excellent TED talk and I encourage you to go watch it. We played a few clips from it last episode and you’ll hear from him again later today. He raises a great point there and rap videos clearly show this to be true. Women are often seen as eye candy or sex objects.
Women aren’t shown the respect they deserve in hip-hop culture. Of course, hip-hop isn’t solely to blame for this inherent lack of respect towards women. It can’t be.
But as hip-hop writers, artists, and producers, we do have a lot of power to start shifting towards a culture of respect towards women. It’s about time we started we started taking that responsibility.
How do we make women a subject and not just objects?
We do it by our words, actions, and responses to everything around us. Like Chuck D said, “a man tells his business situation like, ‘We can’t do that. We won’t go there. We can’t. It’s a slap in the face to me and my constituency, my family, where I come from, and all.’ That’s a man.”
I want to play a song from a really amazing rapper. Her name is Eternia and she has been making quality music for years now and has to work really hard to be heard in a music industry that is male dominated. The track is called “Everything.” It was produced by 9th wonder. Listen to what she has to say and we’ll be back to continue our discussion in this special edition of Know Your History.
That was Eternia and her track called “Everything.” She starts off the song by saying, “I wish I wasn’t a woman, I mean wouldn’t change it now, but imagine if respect was a given.”
I don’t know why respect isn’t a given. I don’t know why we treat women as inferior to men. We do though. I’ve seen it time and time again in this culture we call hip-hop. A lot of people will shoot a female rapper down before even giving her a chance. It’s not right. We have a lot of talent and a lot of voices out there that aren’t being heard.
I listen to a lot of female emcees. One of my favourite currently is Kadyelle. She’s from Australia and when I interviewed her, this is what she had to say, “Considering basic hip-hop culture is about respect and humanitarianism and love and mutual appreciation for each other, and yet when you bring females into the equation, it really brings out the worst in a lot of males in the industry.
It’s a shame that I am constantly being told that if I want to be out there touring and putting out releases that I just have to accept it. It’s the kind of criticism that you get that not a single person will comment on your songs, they’ll comment on the fact that your skirt maybe isn’t short enough, or your top isn’t low-cut enough, or maybe there is another female rapper out there that happens to be skinnier than you or hotter than you. It’s pretty ridiculous.
I don’t know why there’s so much tolerance for that kind of behaviour in hip-hop culture. I don’t know why it exists. It’s a shame and I hope over the next decade or two we see the last of that. It’s a ridiculous, out-dated situation that really needs to end if people want to see more females in the industry be successful.”
That was Kadyelle from an interview I did with her last year. You can find the entire interview at chasemarch.com You can find her music online on her bandcamp page as well. Her name is spelled Kadyelle. Let’s spin something her from right now This is Class A, featuring Kadyelle and the track is called “You Drive.” This is Chase March for Know Your History on DOPEfm and we’ll be right back.
That was “You Drive” by Class A featuring Kadyelle. When I interviewed Kadyelle she told me that women are still seen as second class citizens. At first I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. I knew that there weren’t enough female rap artists in the game though.
Kadyelle explained it to me like this, “It’s really hard to be taken seriously. The reality is, you don’t even realize how much misogyny there is in the world, and especially in the hip-hop community, until you start putting yourself out there, doing shows and tours. People will basically hate us, just because we’re female, no matter how good you are.”
I know that rappers often use language to villianize the feminine. We talked about this a lot in the last episode of Know Your History. We also talked about how rap fans always seem to leave female MCs out of their Top 10 or 20 lists. Some of these rap fans will have one favourite female MC some will go some will completely distance themselves from female MCs. When interviewed for Vlad TV, Sean Price had this to say.
And he’s not the only rap artist or fan to have this view. Kadyelle said that many people will hold female artists to a much lower standard. Many people unfairly assume that women can’t rap or that they can’t rap well. This is ridiculous. Some of my favourite rap acts are female. In fact, my last year’s Top 10 list included 3 female rappers.
Kadyelle: “It’s well past the hour where we need to all put our prejudices behind us. It would be completely unacceptable if these prejudices existed racially. Everyone needs to support the notion that having prejudice against someone’s gender is wrong in society and it’s wrong in music.
I really do think the bar needs to be raised. I think holding females to this lower standard is just silly and detrimental. I think there are so many females out there that are, or could be, as good as any of their male counterparts. It’s time that that got recognized.”
We’ve been talking about redefining masculinity within hip-hop culture. One way for us to do that is to actually start spinning more tunes from the talented women that are continuing to make quality music. We have the female pioneers such as Queen Latifah and MC Lyte that many artists or fans include in their top ten lists but women are still creating quality music and all you to do is to tune into DOPEfm to hear some of it. We spin tracks from female MCs pretty much every week. And since we’re a campus radio show, we only play the music that we like and enjoy.
There are a lot of issues to talk about when we look at gender roles within hip-hop music and culture. I hope this two part episode has helped bring some of them to light. I hope it gets us talking about this in a way that we really haven’t before.
It’s time for us to redefine what it means to be a man in hip-hop music. We can show vulnerability. We can stop villainizing the feminine. We can show our wives, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers in a positive light. We can do a lot more than what we have been doing.
Let’s listen to Tony Porter again,
“I grew up in New York City, between Harlem and the Bronx. Growing up as a boy, we were taught that men had to be tough, had to be strong, had to be courageous, dominating — no pain, no emotions, with the exception of anger — and definitely no fear — that men are in charge, which means women are not; that men lead, and you should just follow and do what we say; that men are superior, women are inferior; that men are strong, women are weak; that women are of less value — property of men — and objects, particularly sexual objects. I’ve later come to know that to be the collective socialization of men, better known as the “man box.” See this man box has in it all the ingredients of how we define what it means to be a man. Now I also want to say, without a doubt, there are some wonderful, wonderful, absolutely wonderful things about being a man. But at the same time, there’s some stuff that’s just straight up twisted. And we really need to begin to challenge, look at it and really get in the process of deconstructing, redefining, what we come to know as manhood.” – Tony Porter
I hope this show will serve as a call to arms for those of us creating hip-hop. Whether you write lyrics, make music videos, write for a blog or a other publication, or whether you are merely just a fan, it’s time to step up and let people know that there is a different way.
Hip-hop historian and writer Kevin Powel had this to say about how women have been portrayed in rap videos.
That’s a great quote about balance. We need to see women portrayed in a positive light in this music. And truthfully we do see that in rap. Unfortunately these messages are few and far between nowadays.
Let’s close off the show today with a song from 2Pac, but let’s not close the dialogue. We need to redefine what it means to be a man, and hip-hop has a great deal of power to help make it a reality.
We’ll be right back. This is 2Pac “Keep Ya Head Up.” And this is Chase March for DOPEfm.
That was 2Pac “Keep Ya Head Up.” Take those lyrics with you. Take them out into the world.
Let’s challenge the notion of what it truly means to be a man.
Let’s stop associating anything we don’t like, or anything we see as inferior, with language associated with the feminine. Let’s be to true to women and real to ourselves as men.
In response to my original article on this topic, Muriel Richards wrote a piece about it on her blog. A Fresh Start. She writes, “We need more people writing about negative and damaging masculinities, and we need people to look at the media they take for granted with open eyes.
She does have one criticism of the article however and before she pointed it out to me, I wasn’t even aware that I was using possessive language. I mentioned “our women” just as 2Pac did in the song we just heard. Muriel writes,”if you’re trying to break the problem of women being seen as the sexual property of men, don’t use possessives such as “our women.”
I want to play one more passage from Tony Porter’s Ted Talk, “So quickly, I’d like to just say, this is the love of my life, my daughter Jay. The world I envision for her, how do I want men to be acting and behaving? I need you on board. I need you with me. I need you working with me and me working with you on how we raise our sons and teach them to be men — that it’s okay to not be dominating, that it’s okay to have feelings and emotions, that it’s okay to promote equality, that it’s okay to have women who are just friends and that’s it, that it’s okay to be whole, that my liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.”
Very powerful words right there. Tony Porter is calling us all to action.
Kevin Powell did the same thing in the documentary Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, “How many of us are willing to step to the plate and say, ‘You know what, this definition of manhood might not been the way to go anymore. We need something different, something new.’
It’s time for hip-hop to redefine what it means to be a man. That responsibility falls to us men.
I hope that my article has inspired you to think about these issues. The next time you hear a rapper call a women a bitch or a ho, you could start a conversation about it instead of silently accepting that this is a part of our culture, because it doesn’t have to be.
Bobby McFerrin takes an audience that was there to simply watch a panel discussion and he has them signing in unison with very little instruction.
I can see how this sort of thing could be useful in the classroom or at a school assembly.
He doesn’t have to explain what he is doing. The audience buys into it and they create some music together.
I like how it involves movement and a simple way of conducting. Just by jumping from the left to the right, Bobby McFerrin is playing a virtual xylophone or keyboard. The audience members respond and actually produce the notes he is hitting on the invisible instrument.
Think of how this could be used in a the classroom.
A student could lead the class for the vocal warm-up activity in music.
Use it for ear training and have the students move to illustrate whether the notes you play are moving up or down the scale.
Play a memory challenge game using music and movement.
Split the students into groups of 5 and have them create a simple song pattern by jumping back and forth to sound their specific notes
And to think, I discovered this video by seemingly wasting time on Google+
Click on the link above and check out my profile there. I post lots of teaching related links and will be dropping about half a dozen throughout the day as an extension to the Teaching Tip Tuesday series I run every week here.
As a society, we are overly obsessed with time. In fact, certain employers have started accusing their workers of “stealing” time.
I think the idea of stealing time is ridiculous. As far as I am concerned there are only two ways to steal time at work. The first one has to do with the time clock, which itself is becoming outdated. Nevertheless, if you are required to clock in and out at work. You need to physically be there to do it. You cannot have someone else punch the clock on your behalf. That is stealing time.
The second way to steal time is by not completing your work. You are there to do a job. If you do not complete your work for the day, and you get paid for basically doing nothing, I think there is a case to be made that you have stolen time.
I think we really need to look at the ways we compensate workers for the amount of work they do. I don’t think time should be the most important factor. I think the quality of work should speak for itself. As such, I think it is time we threw away the time clock.
Of course, as teachers, we can’t really do that. We need to be at school and on the job before the students arrive, all day while they are there, and a few moments afterwards to complete the daily tasks. We are pretty much on the job at all times.
There are several other jobs I can think of that fall into the same category. Jobs where you need to be there to do the work.
That being said, I don’t physically need to work every minute of the day. I can take a ten minute break while the students are outside at recess to check my email and Twitter. I can go online during my lunch as well. That is not stealing time.
I always put in a good effort at work. In the past, I have done some jobs where the measure of a job well done was a number. I needed to make a certain number of parts, write a specific report, load an entire aisle of merchandise. And oftentimes I would get this work done so quickly and efficiently that the employer had to drum up new stuff for me to do.
My question was always, why?
If I finished the work, couldn’t I just get paid for it and go home? Why did I have to sit around waiting for another assignment or for the clock to hit a certain hour? It didn’t seem right.
If we change our perceptions about what work is, and the true value behind it, then we can throw out the time clocks and we will no longer worry about stolen time.
Now’s your turn.
What do you have to say on the topic of stealing time?
Every school seems to have its own rules, procedures, and routines. There are subtle differences among the schools but they pretty much all have the same things in common.
We expect our students to keep their hands to themselves and to be respectful.
Some schools will spell these rules out and have them posted in the front hall. In other schools the rules are implied and each classroom has its own set of rules posted.
I expect my students to behave in a certain way, so I don’t have a set of rules posted in my room. I have a list of expectations. These expectations are clear and succinct and read as follows . . .
“In this class, we. . .
Respect – each other, property, rules
Do Our Work!
Do Our Best!”
I like how those rules are simple to understand and remember. They pretty much cover every action and move beyond the hands off, be respectful policy seen in most schools. They illustrate the need to cooperate, put it a solid effort, and to get the work done in the classroom.
I have seen school rules written in complete sentences before such as this brief list. . .
“Our rules are fair and reasonable. We ALL have to follow them. They are posted for all to see.
We will use respectful actions and words.
We will keep our hands to ourselves and respect the property, belongings, and feelings of others.
We will be responsible participants at school.
Our rules are supported by the principal, vice-principal, staff, and students.”
Once again, another great set of rules. I like how this one has a rule that pretty much shows bullying is not to be tolerated.
Some schools are now developing what they call “The Big Five” and drafting these new rules with help from the students. I really don’t think this is a good idea, and I’ll tell you why.
You don’t get to choose the rules anywhere else in life. I can’t make up my own rules when I’m driving on the highway. I have to accept the rules when I step on the soccer field and play in a house league. I can think of many other examples to illustrate this point.
Educators know what rules should be enforced and ultimately have the best interests of the children in mind.
Our students are well aware of how they should behave in school but they might not be the best ones to draft up the rules. We could end up with something as extreme as Lord of the Flies or we could end up with a list of privileges and entitlements that allow our students to engage in activities that take away from the reason they are there – to learn.
Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to open up a discussion about rules, their importance, and why each schools needs their own set of rules.
Just leave the final drafting of those rules to the teachers and the principal.
What are your thoughts?
Does your school have a “Big Five?”
Does it work?
What would you change?
Please leave a comment below and add to the discussion.
“I sometimes feel bad for criticizing hip-hop. But, I guess, what I’m trying to do is get us men, to just take a hard look at ourselves.” – Byron Hurt
“The definition of manhood might not been the way to go anymore. We need something different, something new.” – Kevin Powell
From childhood we are socialized to believe in a binary gender system, men and women. Each with attached expectations for dress, behaviour and sexuality. For example, men are taught that visible emotions are not acceptable. We are told not to cry, even if we legitimately hurt ourselves. Male role models such as parents, teachers, or coaches will tell us to shake it off, get up and move on. We get the message that we need to be tough and that showing weakness is a bad thing.
These behaviors are often reinforced with verbal taunts. You throw like a girl. You run like a girl. You scream like a girl.
Those phrases that paint the feminine as something undesirable are doing a lot more than simply teasing young boys.
As babies, we are often adorned in blue as opposed to pink which is reserved only for females. We use language to describe things as feminine or masculine.
We don’t think much about what it means to be identified by our gender. Oftentimes we don’t think at all about this. Some people can go their whole lives without ever thinking about their gender role.
J.L. Austin, a Brittish philosopher, believed that language was not passive, that it could actually shape our reality. Thus, in some situations, we are not just saying something, we are performing a specific action.
Judith Butler, a feminist theorist and author, looks at how we talk, act, and dress. Her theories of performativity illustrates how “gender is thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis, the tacit collective agreement to perform, produce, and sustain discrete and polar genders as culture fictions.
In other words, we behave in certain ways and continue to act in those ways to reinforce this unwritten definition of our genders. What it means to be a man is agreed upon by most of us who carry out this fiction of manhood in all that we say and do.
This fiction of manhood sets up an “artificial binary relation between the sexes.” And hip-hop reinforces this binary with its over the top imagery. We show ourselves to be tough with our lyrical content, or style of dress, and the way we present ourselves as gangsta or thug.
I was influenced by the golden era of hip-hop. Most rap groups or artists in the early to mid 1990s did not dance or even smile to make themselves look tougher. To this day, I do the same thing.
It’s almost as if we create this good vs evil universe where anything even remotely considered to be feminine is bad.
For the next half hour, we will be taking a close look at ourselves – men in hip-hop music and culture. We will look at the roles we play as men in this music and how they are flawed and ultimately harmful. It’s time for us to take up arms and redefine what it means to be a man.
Let’s start off with a quotation from Ted Porter. He gave a very inspirational Ted Talk that I encourage all of you to go and watch. It’s well worth ten minutes of your time. This is a little portion of what he had to say . . .
“Now I also want to say, without a doubt, there are some wonderful, wonderful, absolutely wonderful things about being a man. But at the same time, there’s some stuff that’s just straight up twisted. And we really need to begin to challenge, look at it, and really get in the process of deconstructing, redefining, what we come to know as manhood.”
That’s right. We have it twisted. Things aren’t right with the way we portray ourselves in this culture. And if we look at what our performance really does, we can see that it reinforces traditional conceptions of gender.
Byron Hurt illustrated this tendency in hip-hop with this brilliant metaphor, “We’re like in this box. And in order to be in that box, you have to be strong. you have to be tough, and you have to have a lot of girls. You gotta have money, you gotta be a player or a pimp, you gotta be in control. You have to dominate other men, ya know, other people.
Ya know, if you’re not any of those things, people call you soft or weak, or a pussy, or a chump, or a faggot. And nobody wants to be any of those things. So everybody stays inside the box.”
That is a great way to define performativity. We want to show that we are tough, that we are real men. Anything outside of that prison scares us. So we stay within it and we don’t even think about how we are performing this fiction of manhood. A fiction that has us displaying our heterosexuality in more blatant.
It might be easier to see this in rap songs since the rapper is usually male and usually reciting rhymes from the point of view of a stereotypical male. This can probably be traced back to the very roots of this music.
Hip-hop started with the DJ. The DJ would play records to get people dancing and sometimes would get on the microphone to say a quick rhyme to hype up the crowd. These rhymes were often an exercise in bragging and it was all in fun. At least that was the context and it still is for a lot of people.
I have often heard the kids calling anything they don’t like as gay. This is once again a reinforcement of the compulsory heterosexuality that we as a society seem very quick to uphold and defend. But not all of us feel this way. We can stand up and say something when we hear the gay insult.
In fact, MC Lars did just that with his track “Everyone’s a Little Bit Gay.” I’d like to play that song for you right now. We’ll be back to continue looking critically at what it means to be a man in this society and in hip-hop culture. Stay tuned.
MC Lars had a lot to say in that song. He said things that you don’t normally hear in hip-hop. You’d be hard pressed to hear another rapper defending homo-sexuality on a track. In fact, most rappers are so scared of saying anything even remotely considered to homosexual. They want to make sure their image is on par with that of the hyper-masculine tough guy.
But MC Lars let us know that staying inside the box isn’t a good thing. He raps, “they ban gay marriage they say it’s weird /
But tradition comes from habit and tradition comes from fear.”
So, if this hyper-masculine posturing that we so often participate in is simply a habit, then it is a habit that we can break. We first need to see it though. We need to see how it is harmful, and how we can help change it.
I do that by speaking up whenever I hear a gay slur in the classroom or on the playground. Sometimes speaking up is not enough. A conversation has to follow.
It’s easier to see the problem behind gay slurs if you replace the word gay in those slurs with another word. Just for effect, I will sometimes repeat the offensive phrase with the name of the person who said it. “That would be me like saying, ‘That’s so Michael’ for everything I thought was stupid. That usually does this trick.
The words we use have power. We often don’t stop to consider that. We let words fly without thinking about what they really mean, and how they might be offensive to others.
We need to stop using language that divides us. We cannot continue to villainize everything outside of the hyper-masculine identity we’re accustomed to in hip-hop.
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson put it this way, “The greatest insult that a man might imagine for another man is to assume that he’s less than a man and to assign him the very derogatory terms that one usually associates with women.
The insult is double. It’s both an assault on women, but it’s also a reinforcement of a negative and malicious form of masculine identity.”
I never thought much about my masculine identity before. I don’t think that is something we often do. It’s definitely not something we do often in hip-hop music. In fact, other than the MC Lars song we just played, I can only think of one other song off the top of my head that deals with how we use language to construct and reinforce what we think it means to be a man.
Think of how many times you’ve heard a derogatory term being aimed at a woman in this music. We are quick to call them bitches or hos in our lyrics. This shows an inherent disrepect for women that we shouldn’t stand for any more.
It’s high time that we stop dividing the genders and can come together in unity.
That was Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y.” She starts off by saying, “Instinct leads me to another flow / every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a hoe / Trying to make a sister feel low / You know all of that gots to go.”
That song came out in 1994 and I remember being shocked to hear the word “bitch” not being censored out. It made me take notice of the video and the message.
So, we can see that rappers do call attention to our use of language and the construction of gender. Unfortunately that is not the dominant message we get with this culture we call hip-hop.
When I interviewed Eternia, she put it this way, “I do think that in general there’s really only one or two voices in hip-hop, two dominate kind of narratives. And I think that hip-hop should represent every slice of life, every slice of culture, and every slice of the world globally, not just America. So I think that’s one thing in which my culture, hip-hop, lacks, is having a voice for everybody not just for certain demographics.”
That dominate voice is a masculine one that purports a compulsory heterosexuality. A male dominated form of music that pushes aside anything other than the tough, powerful male figure.
Most rap fans will be able to name their Top 20 MCs. Go ahead and ask a rap fan next chance you get. I bet that they will not include one female artist in that list. If that’s the case, ask them to name their Top 5 female rappers. I’ll bet some will be hard pressed to name 5. And if they do name 5, they will probably just name the handful of female artists who have managed to make any sort of mark in hip-hop culture, names like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill, Salt N Pepa, and most recently Nicki Minaj.
Why is it so hard for female artists to break through?
It’s partly due to the artificial binary we often see in Western culture. No matter how far we have come in the past hundred years or so, women are still seen as inferior or less than men.
Eternia has been making quality music for nearly 15 years. She still has to prove herself daily to the hip-hop audience in order to be taken seriously.
“It would be much easier to hit the game being faceless and genderless and let people listen to the music and all of a sudden become fans, and then an album in be like, ‘Ha-ha, I’m a chick and you didn’t know. I tricked you! ‘cause I bet they’d listen to it and like it.’ That’s all I have to say.”
Is that even possible?
Well, first we’d have to get past the language we use on a daily basis that places masculine on the side of right and feminine on the side of wrong. Women are identified with their gender and their sexualized features. They are often treated as objects in music videos, song lyrics, and in real life situations.
We have a lot of power in this culture and I think we don’t take that seriously enough. We have the power to make music videos such as Shad’s “Keep Shining,” videos that show women are important and valued.
That was Shad. He has a lot to say in that song, and it just goes to show the power we have in this culture. He actually criticizes the dominant narrative we see in rap music. He suggests that we can show a different side by honouring and respecting women. We shouldn’t be ashamed of showing our feelings and to put it in our lyrics.
He says, “It’s funny how words like, ‘consciousness’ and ‘positive music’ can somehow start to feel hollow, it’s become synonymous with polishing soft collagen lips.”
That lyric illustrates how we how we use language to maintain the artificial binary between the genders. We do it all the time without even thinking about it. Hip-hop is especially guilty of using feminine terms or language to describe things we see as undesirable. We really need to stop doing that as a culture.
Shad also tackles the lack of female artists within hip-hop. He says,
And I’ve been known to talk about women
on a track or two
I talk to women, I just can’t talk for women
That’s for you
We need women for that
More women in rap
Even tracks like Kwali’s Four Women
That’s still only half the view of the world
There’s no girls rappin’ so we’re only hearin’ half the truth
What we have to lose? Too much
Half our youth aren’t represented, the better halves of dudes”
I love that verse. He readily admits that things need to change within this music. That we need to hear from women more frequently in this music. I whole heartedly agree. I listen to female rappers a lot. We play female MCs every week here on DOPEfm. I am regularly bumping music in my car or my MP3 player by Eternia, Kadyelle, Dessa, Kool Kyrs, and Nilla, among others.
We will continue this discussion in next episode of Know Your History. We’ve only just scratched the surface here. It really is time to redefine what it means to be a man in hip-hop music and culture. And that responsibility falls to us men.
I hope this show has inspired you to think about these issues. The next time you hear a rapper call a women a bitch or a ho, you could start a conversation about it instead of silently accepting that this is a part of our culture, because it doesn’t have to be.
Let’s change the perception of masculinity in hip-hop. Let’s do it by sharing this episode, by sharing the original article I contributed toThe Word is Bond dot com, by having discussions about it on our radio shows, or blogs, classrooms, street corners, and everywhere people talk about rap music or hip-hop culture.
Here’s a Teaching Tip that can really help supply teachers out. It’s tough going into a new classroom or a new school all the time. Sometimes, having a little reward for the students can really help to keep them on task and the classroom under control.
In the past, I have used YouTube as an online DJ. It’s easy to find songs and you can play pretty much anything you’d like to hear. The problem with doing this in the classroom is that some of the videos are not appropriate for school. You also have to deal with intrusive ads, and the fact that many students simply cannot turn themselves away from the screen. They will watch the videos simply because they are on. They will also argue about what songs to play next.
Grooveshark is an online music streaming service that is completely free. It lets you build and save playlists and I have found that this is a great way to give every student in your class the chance to hear something they like.
These playlists give the students the opportunity to program a virtual radio station. Once they have constructed the setlist, they can click play and walk away. The students don’t have to worry about what song comes on next, there is no distracting video on the screen, they can then get back to work.
You can see the setlist on the screen and the songs that are in queue at the bottom of the screen.
Regular classroom teachers could make this a weekly classroom job. You could have one student be the DJ of the week. I would have a request list where students could write down songs they’d like to hear. The DJ would have to play some requests but would have the flexibility to build the setlist however they saw fit. I would also caution then to only include songs that were appropriate for school (no swearing or offensive lyrics)
If you started this DJ job off at the start of the year, you would have enough time for every student in the class to be the DJ of the week.
You could also challenge them to create themed setlists. For example, you could have them make a mix about rainy days. They could include songs like “Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette, “Only Happy When it Rains” by Garbage, and “Singing in the Rain” by Gene Kelly.
So try out Grooveshark, play some music for your class, and get them involved in the music selection process.
I am a huge Star Trek fan. I have been ever since my dad introduced me to it when I was a kid. There was just something about the show that spoke to me.
There really is a magical quality to Star Trek, which is how it has remained alive for close to 50 years now.
I must say that I have always preferred the original series over any of the other incarnations of the show. There was just something about ship itself and its bridge crew. They had a natural chemistry that made you look forward to each and every new episode.
Of course, I wasn’t around for the original airing of this remarkable series. But I was there for the reruns on the weekend. My dad and I would sit down and watch those shows. Me, for the first time, my dad for the twentieth. And somehow, it never got old. It still hasn’t.
As a teenager, I loved the films. They couldn’t come out fast enough for me. I needed new Star Trek adventures and turned towards novels and comic books for my fix.
I have read quite a few Star Trek adventures over the last twenty years and I must say that I am really enjoying this new series from IDW that effectively tells the fourth year of the Enterprise’s five year mission.
As many of you know, Star Trek only survived for three seasons in its original run. That leaves the writers with two seasons of Star Trek to tell. Plus, knowing how the movies advanced the storyline of the Star Trek Universe, how further television shows such as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, and Enterprise all contributed to Star Trek lore, gives the writers of this comic book a pretty good blueprint for where the story may have gone had Star Trek had a fourth season on television.
I love how this comic book series has focused on the cold war between the Federation and the Romulans. It has also fleshed out the story of the Klingon Empire and given us sequels to some of the great episodes from Seasons 2 and 3.
If you are a fan of the original series, you will love what is being done with the comics right now. That is why I am adding it to my Recommended Reads section of this blog.
So go out there and explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldy go where no one has gone before.
I came across this blog post from Dan Wineman and thought that it was a pretty interesting observation.
I then saw the film Cop Out and it dealt with this very issue. (Spoiler Alert)
There’s an interrogation scene in the film that is absoultely hilarious.
Tracey Morgan plays a police officer with a flair for the dramatic. He clearly doesn’t know how to interrogate a suspect and just spouts dialogue from movies and television shows that he has seen.
From behind the one way mirror, his partner, played by Bruce Willis, looks on at the spectacle. He quickly identifies every movie Morgan quotes from during the interrogation. He names close to a dozen different movies. He gets stumped when Morgan quotes a famous line from Die Hard.
Bruce Willis then says, “I’ve never seen that movie.”
So in the fictional universe that is Cop Out, the Die Hard movie franchise exists. And this particluar police officer, who seems to know every single police movie, hasn’t seen it.
As Dan wrote in the above post, “So either Bruce Willis doesn’t exist in the world the movie takes place in, or he does exist but he looks like someone else?”
But if Bruce Willis looks like someone else in this movie, how come he hasn’t seen Die Hard? Who hasn’t seen that movie. It’s awesome!
Know Your History: Season 1 – It’s hard to believe that this year I will be launching the third season of this monthly radio show. If you missed the podcasts of Season 1, you can download them all here in one easy zipped folder.
A Proud Goofy Foot – As a kid, I taught myself how to skateboard and it felt more natural for me to ride goofy foot. I’m not the best skater in the world, but I enjoy it, and am proud to be a goofy foot rider.
The Promise – I believe in soulmates. I wrote about it after watching (500) Days of Summer last year. It was refreshing to reread just now. I just wonder about when you can actually “know” that you’ve found “the one.” Does it have to be immediate? Or can it take a lot longer than that?
To Call or Not to Call – I was driving to work last winter and I noticed a car in the ditch. I thought about calling the police or the radio station to report it, but I didn’t. I wasn’t sure that was the right decision. What do you think?
I don’t like using the start of the calendar year to make resolutions. I never have. That is why I won’t be making any New Year’s Resolutions.
Unlike Calvin in the comic strip here, I don’t think I’m perfect. There are a few things that I could improve upon. That is why I’ve decided to set some New Year’s Goals instead.
By writing these goals down and sharing them with you here, I am committed to making these things happen. I also have you to help keep my accountable. It’s a little extra motivation and I thank you for your support.
So here we go. In 2012, I will . . .
1) Release Know Your History episodes on time
I tag my show “your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge” and this year I want to make sure that I don’t fall behind on that promise. The episodes usually make it to air in the month they were intended but I often don’t get the transcript up for the blog in a timely manner. And sometimes I do get a little behind on the show.
This year, I resolve to change that. I plan on having the episodes ready for the 1st Saturday of the month. That is when you can expect to hear them on DOPEfm. I will have the podcast and transcripts up on the blog by the 15th.
2) Do an artist interview every month
This year, I am joining the team over at The Word is Bond and will be launching their brand new podcast. This will be done in conjunction with DOPEfm. I’m very excited to be on board and start this new partnership between our radio show and their excellent hip-hop website. I’ve committed to doing two half-hour podcasts each month. The first Saturday of each month will feature the Know Your History episode and the third Saturday of every month will see an artist interview or discussion. These segments will run on DOPEfm and then will be podcasted the following day.
3) Polish and Perfect my YA Novel and try to get it published
My original goal when starting this blog was to become a published author by 2012. I finally feel that I am ready to start the query process. I will need to sharpen up my novel and work on writing the query letter. I might not get published this year but I will start the journey.
4) Write a novel
I would like to write another novel this year. Perhaps as part of NaNoWriMo again.
5) Write a screenplay
Script Frenzy in April is always a lot of fun. I actually enjoy it more than NaNoWriMo so I plan on participating again this April.
6) Monthly Mixtapes
I really enjoyed all the mixtapes I made last year. You didn’t get to hear all of them. I made one as a wedding present and it was quite personal. I also made a few for my girlfriend that I decided not to share. But the ones I did post were pretty well received. Making a new mixtape every month might be too ambitious though. Perhaps I could make one every other month.
7) Keep Fit
I will start trail running again in the spring and I plan on finding new places to bring my camera for the Photographic Tour section of this blog. I will continue to skateboard as well.
8) Write an eBook
I’ve been thinking about this one for a while. I think it would be a good idea to write one for teachers. Hopefully I could make a few bucks in the process and finally pay off my student loans. Wouldn’t that be nice?
9) Read a lot
I want to create a digital bookshelf of every thing I read this year. I get a lot of material from the library so I don’t have a bookshelf to display what I’ve read anywhere. When a book really strikes a chord with me, I write about it and include it in the Recommended Reads section. But I think it would be really cool to keep a record of everything I read this year, good, bad, or mediocre.
It sounds like a lot, doesn’t it. I know there are probably a few other things that will come up as well.
So far, I’ve been doing interviews and extra segments for DOPEfm whenever I’ve had the opportunity. Committing to doing a bi-weekly podcast will be a lot more work but I am up for the challenge and think the schedule might actually help.
I have a lot that I’d like to accomplish this year.
What about you?
Resolutions? Goals? Or Both?
Or do you want to tell me I’m crazy for trying to do so much this year?
Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.