Hip hop education 6- another twist to encourage reading

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Down to his last 2 million…

This session used lyrics from rapper Young Jeezy’s “Soul Survivor” to drive home some comprehension lessons. The kids responded to this well. Whatever works.. Er, some lyrics had to be “cleaned up” for educational consumption.. :)

“Soul Survivor” Young Jeezy feat Akon

[Verse 1 (Young Jeezy):]

(Let’s get it) Tonight I can’t sleep–we livin’ in Hell

First they, give us the work then they throw us in jail

Road Trip ya–I’m merchandising in the white

Please Lord don’t let me go to jail tonight (Yeah)

Who Me?? I’m a Soul Survivor

Ask about ‘em in the street, the boy Jeez a rida (Jeez a rida)

A hundred grand on my wrist, yeah life sucks

Duck the club, dawg, I rather count a million bucks



[Verse 2 (Young Jeezy):]

Another day, another dolla (dolla)-same block, same people, same part, same green

I guess we got the same dreams (Ayy)

Or is it the same nightmares (nightmares)

We let the doves do it for us — we don’t cry tears (That’s right)

Real gangsters don’t budge

When Mail Man got his time he shot birds at the judge

I’m knee deep in the game

So when it’s time to re-up, I’m knee deep in the cane

Real talk, Look, I’m tellin’ you Wayne (tellin’ you Wayne)

If you get jammed up don’t mention my name

Forgive me Lord–I know I aint livin’ right

Gotta feed the block, people starving, they got appetites)

And this is er’day, it never gets old (Old)

Thought I was a juvenile stuck to the G-Code (Yeah)

This aint a rap song, people this is my life (this is my life)

And if the hood was a battlefield then I’d earn stripes

Girl power- Cultural production and collaboration in writing

The assignment was for “Kiki” to write a 12 line poem.. She made a good structure then spontaneously consulted with other students to improve her product technically and stylistically. 

Lines were trimmed, words substituted or changed and pacing adjusted- leading to a tighter result. This is an example of “cultural production.” There is a lot of scope for this in communities to engage youth in positive activities rather than relying on a bureaucracy someplace to do it.


Enhancing reading engagement using hip hop lyrics – Eminem 1

Some of Eminem’s stuff has a range of vocabulary and concepts that makes it useful.

First, the lyrics are examined for useful content and the profanities purged.
Second, useful vocabulary words are underlined and used for later teaching
Third, the student is asked to think about, interpret and connect lyrics to message, mood, etc



Try these “sanitized” lyrics and vocabulary tie-inswith your next project:


“Like Toy Soldiers” – Eminem – PART 1



Step by step, heart to heart, left right left

We all fall down like toy soldiers
Bit by bit, torn apart, we never win
But the battle wages on for toy soldiers


[Verse 1]
I’m supposed to be the soldier who never blows his composure

Even though I hold the weight of the whole world on my shoulders

I ain’t never supposed to show it, my crew ain’t supposed to know it
Even if it means goin’ toe to toe with a Benzino it don’t matter


I’d never drag them in battles that I can handle unless I absolutely have to

I’m supposed to set an example

I need to be the leader, my crew looks for me to guide ‘em
If some bit ever does pop off, I’m supposed to be beside ‘em


That Ja thing I tried to squash it, it was too late to stop it

There’s a certain line you just don’t cross and he crossed it

I heard him say Hailie’s name on a song and I just lost it
It was crazy, this stuff went way beyond some Jay-z and Nas bit


And even though the battle was won, I feel like we lost it

I spent too much energy on it, honestly I’m exhausted

And I’m so caught in it I almost feel I’m the one who caused it
This ain’t what I’m in hip-hop for, it’s not why I got in it


That was never my object for someone to get killed

Why would I wanna destroysomething I help build

It wasn’t my intentions, my intentionswas good
I went through my whole career without ever mentionin’ Suge


And that was just out of respect for not runnin’ my mouth

And talkin’ about something that I knew nothing about

Plus Dre told me stay out, this just wasn’t my beef
So I did, I just fell back, watched and gritted my teeth


While he’s all over t.v. down talkin’ a man who literally saved my life

Like click it I understand this is business

And this bit just isn’t none of my business
But still knowin’ this bit could pop off at any minute cause


What is the song all about?
Soldier –
Composure –
Crew –
Benzino –
Absolute –
Squash –
Exhausted –
Object –
Destroy –
Intentions –
Respect –
Gritted –

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Promoting reading engagement – Lil Wayne’s "Mirror" 1

While many of Lil Wayne’s lyrics are (for our purposes) simplistic, full of profanity, and thus unsuitable – a number of songs suggest deeper concepts at work that can be used to engage more in reading, reflection and analysis. Does the mirror reflect back a true or false picture? Does the reflection bring comfort and peace or turmoil for the anxious soul?

In our earlier experiments though, some of the reading seemed timid. Below Bruce Lee is applied to get participants to put some “feeling” into it. Kids afterwards seemed to gain more confidence.

First, the lyrics are examined for useful content and the profanities purged.
Second, useful vocabulary words are underlined and used for later teaching
Third, the student is asked to think about, interpret and connect lyrics to message, mood, etc

Try the “sanitized” lyrics and vocabulary below as tie-ins with your next project.  What hip hop artist lyrics would you recommend that will build reading concepts and vocabulary?

With everything happening today
You don’t know whether you’re coming or going
But you think that you’re on your way
Life lined up on the mirror don’t blow it
Look at me when I’m talking to you
You looking at me but I’m looking through you
I see the blood in your eyes
I see the love in disguise
I see the pain hidden in your pride
I see you’re not satisfied
And I don’t see nobody else
I see myself I’m looking at the
Uh, I see the truth in your lies
I see nobody by your side
But I’m with you when you are all alone
And you correct me when I’m looking wrong
I see the guilt beneath the shame
I see your soul through your window pane
I see the scars that remain
I see you Wayne, I’m looking at the…
Looking at me now I can see my past
Damn I look just like my balding dad
Light it up, that’s smoke in mirrors
I even look good in the broken mirror
I see my momma smile that’s a blessing
I see the change, I see the message
And no message could’ve been any clearer
So I’m startin’ with the man in the…
Mirror on the wall,
MJ taught me that.
Here we are again
Through my rise and fall
You’ve been my only friend
You told me that they can understand the man I am
So why are we talkin’ to each other again?
Mirror on the wall, here we are again yeah)
Through my rise and fall
You’ve been my only friend Any questions?)
You told me that they can –  I come to you) understand the man I am — You always have the answer)
So why are we here talkin’ to each other again?
What Is The Mirror On The Wall supposed to be saying? Why is Wayne singing about it?
Why is he looking through the mirror?
Disguise –
Pride –
Satisfied –
Truth –
Shame –
Scars –
Blessing –
Why is the mirror a friend?
Why has the mirror been with him?
What does he mean rise and fall?
Why does the mirror have the answer, or a mocking reply?
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