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Hip Hop Pedagogy

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This presentation came about from the application of a theory outlined in Jeff Rice's *Rhetoric of the Cool*, which I used to discuss issues of hermeneutics, citation and invention with composition …

This presentation came about from the application of a theory outlined in Jeff Rice's *Rhetoric of the Cool*, which I used to discuss issues of hermeneutics, citation and invention with composition students.

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  • The idea behind this practical use of a Hip-Hop pedagogy originates with Jeff Rice's book Rhetoric of the Cool in which he describes making writing a more inventive process, focusing in particular on the idea of juxtaposing writing in a similar way to how hypertext is read (although I find that format of writing to be much more non-linear, keeping with Rice's terms). Regardless, this project seeks to provide an applicable example of Hip-Hop pedagogy that makes use of the five areas of composition studies that Rice addresses. As someone who has grown up in this new media age (born in 1979), I find Rice's ideas interesting for their ability to use pop culture as a point of departure, and conceptualizing composition in terms with which younger writers are more familiar. I take this a step further, using Hip-Hop songs from 2007 & 2008 to demonstrate & un-pack what Rice posits as a Hip-Hop pedagogy.
  • The concept of Chora is the more academic commutation, symbol-switching of Jeff Rice's "cool." In teaching students what "good" writing is, we often refer to symbols of good writing: Shakespeare, Faulkner, Hemingway, Kerouac... It helps to tell students that good writing is similar to what the Supreme Court ruled with regard to Pornography: they know what is when they see it. Students know what "good" writing is, yet, it possesses an inescapable quality that we can not define in a single word. Chora is "cool" writing in the sense that it's what we sometimes call "flow" or a "distinctive voice" in writing classrooms, but these sometimes come off to students as simply more symbols to attempt to describe the underscribable.   Chora in good writing is something that is difficult to pin down, even in a single sentence, but is the overall feeling from a given text. Do your essays possess chora? On a side note, I begin with "cool" imagery that Jeff Rice discounts as the somewhat frivolous understanding of cool in the public consciousness by saying what he teaches isn't what these images represent, but refers back to these same images to strengthen his points.
  •   In simplest terms, we may refer to appropriation as the quotes/illustrations we use in essays to strengthen our points/topic sentences. Although appropriation may refer to entire theories & concepts that we use in order to discuss & evaluate texts, it is the acknowledgment that taking some idea or snippet of writing from another writer takes our writing to the next level, piggy backing off of the ethos, authority and credibility of that writer.   Late in 2007, MIA's "Paper Planes" garnered success from its use in the movie Pineapple Express . In "Paper Planes," MIA uses the phrase "no one on the corner has swagger like us" (1:40-1:43) in describing the group of people with whom she associates. The sound effect of gunshots is juxtaposed to MIA's melodic voice, evoking chora that has its roots in DUB and reggatone/dance hall music that depict violence. The seemingly innocuous verse "no one on the corner has swagger like us", when abstracted & appropriated, inspires & propells an entirely new track, TI's collaboration "Swagger Like Us." By using this sample, TI also appropriates the symbols in "Paper Planes", making his track echo the theme of street credibility from the opening bars.     In composition terms, MIA's "swagger like us refrain" functions as something of a thesis, topic sentence, and conclusion, reiterating what each of the indivudal rappers express, changing the symbol of swagger to mean something that relates to their interpretation.
  • All essays aren't the same: some argue, some seek to discover something through an exploratory discussion and some evaluate without positioning differences as either right or wrong.  "Swagger Like Us" is a collaborative song, so TI comes in at the end to provide a link between the different rappers, explaining their role, taking us from a more lighthearted Mick Jagger comparison to slavery, class issues, God-complexes, and grounding the song in autobiography. TI provides a conclusion similar to that found in an exploratory essay, in which all of the points that are addressed through the discussion in the essay are tied together in a cohesive explanation/realization.
  • For the purposes of essay writing, juxtaposition takes on many forms: Change of voice : by using quotes that argue against your point, you are able to address & hopefully debunk the opposition. By juxtaposing sentence structure , writing sounds less repetitive and stale. Juxtaposing might refer to the kinds of sources one may use in research, using different voices from different mediums.  Juxtaposition serves to provide a variety that isn't present in the voice of a singular author, writing from an uninformed perspective, and discussing a singular argument without any counterargument.
  • In essay writing, we sometimes think that when arguing on a particular theme, we have to use the same subject. The rappers don't repeat: "I have swagger because the way I walk"--they switch symbols that have the same meaning (commutation) so that we understand what they're arguing (swagger), but they're not repetitive.    
  • In essay writing, we sometimes think that when arguing on a particular theme, we have to use the same subject. The rappers don't repeat: "I have swagger because the way I walk"--they switch symbols that have the same meaning (commutation) so that we understand what they're arguing (swagger), but they're not repetitive.   For Kanye, Swagger is the Recognition of legendary status.   For Wayne, Swagger symbolizes his feeling of lyrical dominance ,      For Jay-Z, Swagger refers to a lifestyle that his rapping has afforded him     While for TI, Swagger remains something that is tied to his street credibility    
  • Using this framework in composition has proved useful in peer editing exercises in which students feel empowered with tongue-in-cheek discussions of chora, trying to make their writing have swagger. Using popular culture as both a point of departure and metaphor for writing (new media DJ), students feel academic writing is more accessible, and they feel the authority to engage with it.  Another discussion that I may enter into at a later date may be whether Rice's terms function in entering into reading literature. My instinct is that it doesn't, but I'd like to prove myself wrong.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Pedagogy Praxis of Rhetoric of the Cool
    • 2. Chora: "Good" Writing
      • What's "Cool"?
    • 3. Appropriation: "Quotes" Improve Your Writing
      •   MIA's "Paper Planes"
      • TI "Swagger Like Us"
    • 4. Non-linearity: Why TI is the last to rhyme
      • On "Swagger Like Us", MIA is the first and last heard on the track, even though it's technically not her track.
      •    
      • TI comes in last, but acknowledges the other rappers--pointing out their roles
    • 5. Juxtaposition: different voices
      • Jay-Z, Kanye West, TI, Lil Wayne--the sounds of their voice & the different ideas that they express on the same theme.
      •  
      • Kanye: " My swagger is Mick Jagger...'Cause I'm slaved my whole life/Now I'm the master " (Legendary stature)
      • Jay-Z: " But I can't teach you my swag/You can pay for school, but you can't buy class " (Refinement through wealth)
      •  
      • Lil Wayne: " No One Has Swagger Like These Four Gods!/And when if comes to styles, I got several " (Lyrical Dominance)
      •  
      • TI: " No exaggeration necessary/Living revolutionary, nothing less than legendary...with extraordinary swag " (Street Credit)
    • 6. Imagery
    • 7. Commutation : the many meanings of " Swagger "
      •  
    • 8. Conclusion : An Essay with Chora + Swagger =
      • A publishable piece!