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Student Reflections on Hip Hop

Written by Chad Harper
June 24, 2013

Students walk away from our program with many thoughts. In the instances referenced above,  students mention what they believe Hip Hop is and does for them, alongside dissatisfaction with negative media messages that promote killing, objectifying women, and other unhealthy ideas.  “This doesn’t speak to kids”, the young person at the end of the video tells us. He mentions instead how NAS‘s message in “I Can”  “really spoke to me”.  This reflection resonates with the larger purpose and intent of Hip Hop, a force that is positive and uplifting, not dehumanizing and oppressive.  Many students, before participating in our program, are not given the opportunity to speak in a critical way about media or texts around them, nor are they provided with opportunities to see Hip Hop in all of its positive dimensions.  We find that many students express a deep connection to the roots of the Hip Hop after completing our program, feeling as though they understand the significance of its movement in their lives. This, for us, is powerful testimony to the work. Walking away with a new understanding of its original purpose, students express excitement to be a part of it.  On the flip side, they also express disgust for the current state of Hip Hop that is in front of them, sharing their desire to be a part of creating something different. We hope that work like ours helps provide them with the necessary tools to construct the alternative, and that their voice can sit at the center of that work.  

Engaging with Hip Hop in this participatory and collaborative way appears to lift these young people’s spirits. Participation in the program also changes the way some young people see themselves as writers and communicators, while also opening the door to alternative trajectories. The kid who fights every day or wishes to join a gang now sees that the narratives that paint those paths are not in line with Hip Hop. They also understand that what they write can be transformative and be powerful.