Monthly Archives: May 2015

Rap Music and Street Consciousness

Rap Music Street Consciousness

Rap Music and Street Consciousness by Cheryl L. Keyes

I enjoy reading scholarly work on rap music and hip-hop culture. This is the second book I’ve read from this author. Her book, Black Noise is also a great read and I would recommend both.

I like how she addressed the constant criticism this music gets from people who truly don’t understand and don’t care to . . .

“During my study of rap music, I discovered that people who react negatively to this music are often unable to decode its lyrics, style, and message. Rap’s verbal style derives from a nonstandard dialect that thrives within African American street culture . . . For example, since the 1960s black street speakers have used the word “bad” to mean good or exceptional. To determine whether ‘bad’ means atrocious or ‘good,’ the listener relies of the speaker’s vocal inflections, verbal stress, and facial expression as well as the context. In the 1980s, rap artists replaced “bad” with “def,” “dope,” and “phat” to describe something good or exceptional.

I also love how she highlights the importance of the DJ. Hip-hop culture started with the DJ and several of the early pioneers would set up their gear outside to make it more accessible to people in the neighbourhood. She calls these DJs, “Mobile disc jockeys.”

“Mobile disc jockeys drew their inheritance from radio disc jockeys. A number of DJs and MCs interviewed stated that they took their initial inspiration from and patterned themselves after New York radio personalities such as Frankie Crocker, Gary Byrd, Hank Spann, and others.

In exploring the link between radio DJs and mobile DJs, it is apparent that the street DJs, similar to radio jockeys, speak to their audiences in a stylized manner and make an art of dovetailing one record into another. In the early days, street DJs also incorporated sound techniques popularized by radio jockeys, such as ‘talking through’ and ‘riding gain’ in performances.”

Radio DJs would talk over records at times. The street DJs did the same thing and this eventually evolved into what we know as rap music.

“Undoubtably the talk overs and the sound system concept had a direct impact on musical production throughout the West Indies and eventually the United States through West Indian immigrants. Thus it is not surprising that the three recognized innovators of rap music–Kool ‘DJ’ Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash–are of West Indian heritage.”

Rap music and hip-hop culture have a rich history that we need to acknowledge. I’m glad that books like this exist. It brings a legitimacy to an art form that is not always thought of as such; an art form that I will forever champion. What she has done in this book, I try my best to do on my radio show. Make sure you tune in!

My List of 2015 Reads – a detailed reading log continually updated all year long!

Social Media and Print Media Converge in CREATIV

Creativ Magazine

These are the first two issues of Creativ Magazine, an ambitious project to celebrate creativity in all its forms. In a day and age where many print publications are going belly up and others switching over to being completely digital, it’s a bold move.

The magazine highlights creative people in sports, music, painting, photography, film, and much more.

This is how the describe their mission in the inaugural issue . . .

“Now – more than ever – we need incredible creativity, innovation, and ideas to fuel inspiration and move us boldly forward in new ways. Our world is full of people doing incredible things every day. People who are advancing us forward, inspiring us, disrupting the status quo, and changing the perception of life as we know it.”

Creativ has a great website as well. They have established an online community prior to starting the magazine and want the two to work together.

I like the feature on the paper-cutting work of Maude White. Her images are so lifelike and three-dimensional. It is absolutely incredible to see such precise and delicate work being made out of paper.

Blake Brinker, the publisher and co-founder of Creativ says it best . . .


“Curiosity drives imagination, imagination sparks creativity, and creativity manifests solutions, inspiration, and wonder. Creativity is the realization of human potential.”

So let’s celebrate creativity in print and online. Let’s nourish it and develop it. And let’s look for this magazine on the book store shelf.

Updated – Free Method Book for Beginning Band

Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps: Conductor GuideMy favourite resource for teaching instrumental music is a long out-of-print book called Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps.

I absolutely love it. It is organized brilliantly, starts out students with pieces they can immediately have success on, and it introduces new notes and topics at a good pace.

I have tried out other method books and am often disappointed that they seem to rely on the same 5 notes for every song. They don’t introduce new concepts, and as such, don’t teach the kids much other than simply playing new pieces.

I digitized the individual books for each instrument about a year and a half ago. Since then, I have had people tell me how much they appreciate this resource as well. I have even had requests to add the Conductor Book to the post.

I’m sorry that it has taken this long, but I have finally digitized the Conductor Guide. You can download it for free as a PDF file, print it out. and put it in a binder to keep in your classroom.

Here are all of the resources from Band Fundamentals in Easy Steps: Book 1. You can check out the original post for some more information as well.

Book 1: Alto Saxophone
Book 1: Clarinet
Book 1: Drums
Book 1: Euphonium / Baritone
Book 1: Flute
Book 1: French Horn
Book 1: Tenor Saxophone
Book 1: Trombone
Book 1: Trumpet
Book 1: Tuba

Book 1: Conductor’s Guide

Original Silent Cacophony Post

Download, print off, and enjoy. And you might want to keep a PDF version on your computer too. This way, you can project the piece of music you are working on directly to your Smartboard. I do this all the time and find it very useful. I hope you will too.

Teaching Tip Archive – great tips, lessons, and resources every Tuesday

Chasing Content – May 2014

Chasing Content (1)Blog posts get buried in the archives so quickly. That is why once a month, I look back at the posts that were published exactly a year ago with a little feature called Chasing Content.

You can read all of the posts from last May,

or just these presonal favourites.

When Will I Ever Use This Stuff?

Learning can be its own reward and sometimes it is impossible to predict what things you might need to know in the future. Don’t you agree? This is a great post to read if your students have ever asked you this question.

The Big Payback

This is the book I wish I had written. It’s absolutely brilliant and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves hip-hop music and culture.

My Top 10 TV Shows of All-Time

I might need to tweak this list once again. I am currently watching Rita via Netflix and it is incredible. It may bump off the number 10 show as it stands right now. Still though, these show rock!

It’s Not Garbage, It’s Beautiful Music

Music is truly powerful and I believe everyone should have the chance to play. That is why it is so inspiring to see low cost instruments being made from garbage. I saw the band live last year at this time and was completely blown away. You will be too!

Thanks for Chasing Content with me!


WWW: Series Concludes with Wonder

WWW Book 3

Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer

Most science fiction tends to demonize any kind of intelligence that arises from a machine. I don’t know why but self-aware robots, intelligent computers, or artificial intelligence lifeforms always end up becoming evil in these stories. That’s not the case with this story, however.

This is the final chapter in a trilogy cleverly titled WWW. The first book “Wake” dealt with an emergent intelligence within the World Wide Web that was just becoming self aware. A teenage girl discovered it and helped it learn about humanity. As such, Webmind became a caring and nurturing being.

In the second book, the world became aware of Webmind and some people embraced his existence, while other people feared him. A government agency kept a close “Watch” on him.

I was afraid that Webmind would be shut down in this final chapter. I really couldn’t see this book ending any other way. I expected it to be sad.

I can get a little depressed when coming to the end of a great read. I enjoy the story so much that I don’t want it to come to an end. I identify with the characters and I don’t want anything bad to happen to them.

This series was so brilliantly written that I could never have predicted the ending. Not in a million years.

It just goes to show the power of nature versus nurture. An artificial intelligence need not be a scary thing. Such an intelligence could become a person, so to speak, and work with humanity instead of against it.

My List of 2015 Reads – updated with each new title I read over the course of the year

The Best Place to Teach

The Best Place to TeachIf you ask yourself, “Where is the best place on campus to deliver this lesson?” You might find that the answer is not your room. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. 

So where can you teach a lesson?


Some school grounds are now developing garden areas and outdoor classrooms. But even if your school doesn’t have such an area, you can still teach a lesson outdoors. Work with what you have!


I have delivered a lesson from the hallway before. The change of location helps to spark student interest and can even minimize distractions.


You can teach a lesson in the library on any topic. This is a great place in the school that doesn’t need to be limited to just doing book exchanges.

Another Classroom

Imagine doing a classroom swap for a lesson or a day. It could be a lot of fun.

Field Trips

These don’t always have to be expensive. Maybe you can take your class for a short walk down the block or somewhere interesting in the neighbourhood.

More Questions

Asking questions while doing your planning can help open up all sorts of ideas and possibilities.

For example, “How can I get my class outside for this lesson?” is better than “Is there a way…” because the latter allows for the mind to take the easy way out and just say, “No.” 

Even better might be to ask, “How many different ways can I  find to get my class outside for this lesson?” Now the question naturally leads towards receiving multiple solutions rather than being satisified with one. The ability to manipulate questions to make them even more effective is crucial to success in the creative process. 

Teaching Tip Tuesday Archive – free resources for classroom teachers every week!

Word is Bond Rap Radio – Forest City Represents!

London HHLondon, Ontario, Canada is known as The Forest City and it has a lot of talent when it comes to hip-hop.

I regularly feature local artists on my radio show. You can tune in live Monday nights / Tuesday mornings from 12:00 midnight to 2:00 a.m. on 94.9 CHRW

Like us on Facebook – Word is Bond Rap Radio

Use the hashtag #WIBRapRadio on Twitter

and explore the hashtag #WIBRapRadio on Instagram too!

Here all of the local artists who have appeared on the show so far  . . .

Bill Beamin , Branded Moore , Del Reze , DJ Hullewud , Dustin MooreEnder-One , Exit Only Lyrical Mind , Kid WiseKleneSlateMad Hattr , Mat Labatt , The Nicest , Ngajuana , O-Beast, Traffimatics 

Thanks for listening!

Please like, share, reblog, tweet, and mention that you listen to the show to all your friends in real life and on social media.

I appreciate the support!

Juliet Naked (Nothing Inappropriate Here)

Juliet Naked

Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby

Tucker Crowe crafted one of the most brilliant break-up albums of all time. It was titled “Juliet” and was a runway success back in the 1980s. Then, one night during a tour to support that album, Crowe quit the music scene completely and pretty much disappeared from society.

His dedicated fans continued to discuss the album online and pose all sorts of theories into what really happened to Crowe. Then, out of the blew, a new album showed up in the mail of one of those super-fans. It turned out to be an early demo of the “Juliet” record. Because of the stripped down versions of the songs, the record was referred to as “Juliet Naked.”

It actually caused a riff in the relationship between a couple who had been together for 15 years. And, of course, it brought Tucker Crowe out of his self-imposed exile.

Everything about this book is awesome. I love pacing of it. I love how it is crafted around a brilliant album. how the expectations of the fans contrast directly to that of the artist, and even the brilliant simplicity of the cover. Have you ever shared ear buds with someone?

There is an intimacy in sharing a passion for the same music, whether it be with a group of dedicated fans online, or just your significant other. And maybe there is that same intimacy in sharing good books with a blog audience too. What do you think?

My List of 2015 Reads – my detailed annual reading log


You Need a Good Plan, Not a Good Excuse!

No Excuses (1)I got a lot out of Barbara Coloroso’s book, Kids Are Worth It. I took pages and pages of notes when I read it. The book is now full of underlines and margin notes.

I never used to be able to write in my books. I didn’t want to mess them up. I wanted them to be in mint condition even after having read them. But having a nice looking book isn’t as important as having one that speaks to you and one you can interact with. So, I recommend making underline notes in pencil (you could always erase them later.)

Here are some of the notes I made and passages I highlighted as I read


  1. When you are upset or angry, say so in an upset or angry tone of voice
  2. Tell the other person about your feelings
  3. State your belief out loud but avoid killer statements
  4. Close the tip gap between the hurt and the expression of hurt. Give direct feedback
  5. State what you want from the other person
  6. Be open to the other person’s perspective on the situation.
  7. Negotiate an agreement you both can accept

It is important, that as teachers and parents we model working through problems the same way and take responsibility for our actions. These seven steps are quite handy and I am going to post them in my classroom.

Admit the Mistake and Take Responsibility

Coloroso uses the term “backbone parent” to show the contrast between two other parenting styles that are not effective. In the quote below she illustrates how backbone parents would handle making a mistake. It’s how I want my students to handle them to, so I altered the beginning a bit.

[A good person] admits that she made a mistake, takes full responsibility for making the mistake, avoids making excuses, figures out how to fix the problem created by making the mistake, recognizes if and how another person was affected, and figures out what to do the next time so it won’t happen again.

No Excuses

I want my children to understand that when they have a problem, what they need is a good plan, not a good excuse.

Here are another set of steps worth posting up.

6 Steps to Problem Solving

  1. Identify and define the problem
  2. List viable options for solving the problem
  3. Evaluate the options—explore the pluses and minuses for each option
  4. Choose one option
  5. Make a plan and DO IT
  6. Evaluate the problem and your solution. What brought it about? Could a similar problem be prevented in the future? How was the present problem solved?

Remember you are helping her learn how to think—not what to think.

The Game and The Sit

When two students have a problem with each other, there is no way a teacher can solve it. The problem often will spill out into the yard and become a fight or it will spark up again on the bus. Giving the students time to own the problem and figure it out is the best solution. I’ll admit that this particular method would be difficult in a classroom, but it is still worth considering.

Here are the basics (you can find out more in the book if interested)

“You both seem really angry. Come over here and sit together on the couch. You can both get up as soon as you give each other permission to get up. What is it you need to do?”

Asking this question is very important and good teaching practice before sending students off on any task.

“Don’t demand an apology. “I’m sorry” has to come from the heart, not the head. If you demand an apology, you’ll probably get one of two kinds: (a) whiny or (b) “I’m sorry” followed by the apologizer slugging the other kid again

Neither can move. They both have the power over the other, but that power is connected to the other person’s power. Kids begin to see that they are not dependent or independent but truly interdependent—not controlled or controlling but rather influencing and influenced. Soon one says,

“You can get up.”
“But I’m not going to let you get up.”
“You may both get up as soon as you give each other permission to get up”

Finally they get the message that together they have the power to control the situation. Notice that they haven’t been punished. The goal is not to punish them. It is to discipline them. 

I still have more notes I can share with you about this book. And I picked up another Coloroso book at a used book sale last week, so I’ll probably have even more tips from her next year in this series.

Teaching Tip Tuesday – weekly advice and inspiration for teachers (over 200 entries so far)

Women in Hip-Hop 5 (Complete Broadcast)

Welcome to our 5th Annual Women in Hip-Hop Spectacular.

5 hours of radio shining a spotlight on hip-hop’s better half.

We do this every single year on International Women’s Day to celebrate the female voices we have in hip-hop music and culture.

This year’s show featured some mixsets by yours truly, a radio panel discussion featuring Haviah Mighty, Skulastic, and Tiff the Gift, a Know Your History segment on the very first year rap music was recorded, interviews with Skulastic and Miss.She.Ill, and a special mixset by DJ Syductive.

Each segment is available as a free download or you can stream it with the player above.

Thanks for listening!

Steal Like an Artist

steal like an artist

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

This is a really quick read full of great advice for artists of any type. Musicians, painters, and writers can all learn from these short 150 pages.

Here are some of the things I picked up from the book.

Nurture Your Passions

“If you have two or three passions, don’t feel like you have to pick and choose between them. Don’t discard. Keep all your passions in your life. This is something I learned from the playwright Steven Tomlinson.”

Great advice! Keep your passions and devote time to all of them. We don’t need to give things up simply because we are getting old.

Do Good Work 

“Step one, ‘do good work,’ is incredibly hard. There are no shortcuts. Make stuff every day. Know you’re going to suck for a while. Fail. Get better.”

That is the first step of every artist. Create every day!

Share Your Work

Step two, ‘share it with people,’ was really hard up until about ten years ago or so. Now, it’s very simple: ‘Put your stuff on the Internet.'”

This one is hard, despite the ease of being able to release stuff to the world these days. I know from experience. I have work that I haven’t shipped, to use a phrase from Seth Godin. 

Give Yourself Space and Time

That is one of the main ingredients to be creative.

“All you need is a little space and a little time – a place to work, and some time to do it.”

The author talks about going for walks without bringing along his technology, for riding the bus to work even though it’s faster to drive, for going to a first-come, first-served barbershop, and for hanging out at the library.

“I always carry a book, a pen, and a notepad, and I always enjoy my solitude and temporary captivity.”

Write Fan Letters

I want to try this one. I have written and received a response from my favourite actress, but haven’t really taken the time to write anyone else,. I should!

“If you truly love somebody’s work, you shouldn’t need a response from them. . . So I recommend public fan letters. The Internet is really good for this . . . Maybe your hero will see your work, maybe he or she won’t. Maybe they’ll respond to you, maybe not. The important thing is that you show your appreciation without expecting anything in return, and that you get new work out of the appreciation.”

Keep a Log Book

“just a little book in which you list the things you do every day . . . It’s much easier than keeping a detailed diary, and you’d be amazed how helpful having  a daily record like this  can be, especially over several years. The small details will help you remember the big details.”

I journal, so I am not sure I need to do this one, but I really like the idea!

Embrace Limitations 

I know rap producers who feel they have learned how to make good music from the limitations of using old school gear with limited sampling time, from DJs using merely turntables and a mixer, to artists working within a certain medium.

“The way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself. It seems contradictory, but when it comes to creative work, limitations mean freedom. . . . The right constraints can lead to your very best work. Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat with only 236 different words, so his editor bet him he couldn’t write a book with only 50 different words. Dr. Seuss came back and won the bet with Green Eggs and Ham, one of the best-selling children’s books of all time.”

Limitations help foster art.

My 2015 Reading Log – continually updated with links to every title I read

It’s All About Engagement – Seamless Transitions

Seamless TransitionsFar too many times, teachers capture the attention and engagement of their class and then lose it by adding some unnecessary delay between the hook and the delivery of the content.

For example, they tell a powerful story that has the class in the palm of their hand. Then, upon finishing the story they have the students get a piece of paper out of their notebook before tying it all together with their lesson.

They knew that the piece of paper was going to be needed so they should have told the students to get it out before starting the damn story!

Be Prepared

Every time you allow or add an unnecessary delay in your presentation you create yet another time that you will have to regain the engagement and momentum you lost. Those two minutes spent putting in and cueing up the video clip matter. Something as simple as waiting for the projector to warm up can be responsible for losing a portion of your audience.

Have a Tech-Helper

There will invariable be a student in your class who is good with computers and would love the responsibility of cueing up videos, controlling the Smartboard, and making sure the projector is ready when needed.

Keep Them From Mentally Checking Out

It’s not that I’m overly concerned about lost minutes. Engagement is the real loss. Every time I lose my students’ focus to unnecessary delay is another time I must go to the hard work of hooking them yet again.

To keep your students from mentally checking out, try to get all administrative activities out of the way before beginning your presentation. If the students will need any materials (their books, paper, pens, etc.), have them get them out before you start.

Make it Seamless 

When you are forced to have a transition, try to make it as quick and seamless as possible.

Don’t ever let your lesson come to a complete halt.

When an interruption happens via the PA or a visitor, you can banter and interact in an entertaining way, or you can simply keep teaching.

Have a Runner / Messenger

I have a classroom job that I refer to as “messenger.” This is the person responsible for picking up any notices or doing office runs as need be. This is another job that students seem to enjoy doing. I rotate this responsibility often.

Hope that helps, that’s what this series is all about!

Teaching Tip Tuesday – great tips, tricks, lessons, and inspiration every week.


Today is Free Comic Book Day

FCBDToday is Free Comic Book Day!

And just like it sounds, you can get free comic books just for visiting your local shop.

Most comic book stores offer all sorts of sales, discounts, special events, contests, and author signings too. It’s always a great day out!

Here are two of the titles, I plan on picking up today . . .

Three Doctors

Doctor Who: Three Doctors

I love all three of these Doctors and it’s great to see them together in one book!

Hip-Hop Family Tree

Hip-Hop Family Tree

This book is amazing and I’ve been meaning to pick up the collected edition for some time now. It retells important moments in hip-hop history in a old school Sunday morning comic strip format. It’s brilliant!

You can find all the free titles at the Free Comic Book Day website.

Hope to see you at the shops today!