Hopsin and New Hip Hop

Last year it was Lil Weezy, this year it’s this Hopsin dude that these kids love. He seems to be a semi-good role model since the meaning of this song supposedly communicates the evils of drug and alcohol abuse. The contacts are weird and I’m assuming it’s for effect, but he sure looks like he’s on drugs. Regardless, I really dig his rhymes, the Dr. Dre style G Funk production and the positive message. Also, I like the statement about Obama, well thought-out Mr. Hopsin.

Life is incredibly busy right now. The first days of school have turned to the second week and besides a serious case of the Mondays yesterday, things are progressing at school. The nature of our program and students is that things will ebb and flow, good days and bad days will happen all at once sometimes and that’s just the way it is. One student, notorious for various offenses at the old school of a very serious legal nature, has warmed up to me after I spent some time wondering what type of rap he likes. I shared how I love Wu Tang, Biggy, Tupac, and  am getting into A Tribe Called Quest as of late. Although he also likes songs by these “old” rappers, he’s told me about all these newer rappers so I will share my thoughts on them as well as a suggestion I got from the 8th grade GT teacher.

1. Jelly Roll, “Ridin all Alone”

I first thought of Jelly Roll Morton, the famous jazz pianist, when I saw this name and heard this song. I probably couldn’t be further from the truth. This sounds like a Bone Thugs and Harmony sample and I say that in a positive way. It sounds like the 90’s and could have some straight out of MTV Jams. I don’t love the image of this overweight white man rapping, but this song has an underlying message of the loneliness and alienation of the thug life as well as a desire to be a better father. It reminds me also of “Suicidal Thoughts” by Biggy, but not as ill. It is catchy though and I like it a lot more than most of Wiz Khalifa’s stuff.

2. Rich Homie Quan, “Type of Way”

Strange Name. It took me multiple attempts of asking my thug type of student to even be able to positively Google this guy.

I don’t love this song lyrically or even the style of rapping because it sounds like the high pitched stuff Lil Wayne does. The beats are kind of cool and certainly riffing on the popularity of clubby sounding music and the evil onslaught of dub step. I mean it’s not terrible, but this far in the list, it’s certainly my least favorite. It makes me think of a shitty Ja Rule song with a bad guest rapper doing most of the MCing.

3. Vampire Weekend, “Step”

The Elder J and The Other J have mentioned this band before and although not my favorite, I do enjoy some of their songs and think their addition of Afro style rhythms is original for Indie rock as well as sounding mad cool. 

Step remix

This song must be super rare because I could not find it in YouTube and had to include the Pitchfork.com address where I found it from a link my former classroom neighbor and 8th grade Gifted and Talented  teacher sent me last night. As cool as it is to have my own program I developed and to be in our own newly renovated spacious digs, I miss a lot of my colleagues and he is near the top of the list of people I miss. We had a lot of highly intellectual conversations that annoyed my co-teacher and some real laughs on subjects from lethargic genius level students to his idea of us quitting teaching to join a fast food chain to see who would rise up the chain fastest. We also had a game of putting pink pieces of paper in each other’s mailbox to feign being fired which never ceased to make me laugh. His love and knowledge of underground hip-hop also has been something that continually impresses me. This jam is awesome and I have got to get into some more Danny Brown.

4. Tech N9ne, “Ima Tell”

I really enjoy when people spell their music names all weird like this, it really strikes my fancy.

This is close to my favorite of the songs my student told me to listen to, mostly because I think Tech sounds like Ludacris and I loved me some Luda back in the day. They call him Tech N9ne because of his rapid fire style which is what the 9mm submachine pistol Tec-9 is  known for besides being used by the trench coat kids at Columbine. I am not sure what he means by clowns, maybe the Insane Clown Posse or like clowns as in stupid people? I know this guy likes to get high and get paid and thats ok. Lastly, you gotta respect a gangsta rapper who samples “Mambo Itailiano” for a hook. Shit, only Jay- Z could get away with that when he sampled “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from the musical Annie.

5. Struggle ft Yelawolf and Waylon Jennings, “Outlaw Shit”

Well searching for one of the other jams, I saw two rappers along side Waylon’s name and I had to check it out. Everyone knows I love honky tonk and this melding of that with hip hop would be good to me even if it wasn’t.

I typically don’t like white rappers and it’s probably some type of reverse racism. I can’t even really stomach Eminem, but I digress. I love this song and it’s my favorite of the bunch. The production is amazing, like I can’t get enough of these beats from the steel guitar to the lush orchestration. I know nothing about Struggle except that he is in fact Waylon Jennings’ grandson! That tattoo on his back is for real and I guess seven of the nine tracks on his recent album include samples of Grandpa’s music. I read some trash talking on the Net about this but I see it as an incredibly cool thing. If he only ever makes tracks with those samples, well then, God speed.

Speaking of outlaw shit, the same student who told me to check out these rappers made a very poor decision in our bathroom today and is suspended indefinitely. I had no choice but to include our administrators and eventually the police and I feel bad about it even if I did what I had to do. My biggest personal weakness in my chosen field of education is that I feel bad when I have to get kids in trouble and even more so with this kid because he’s already on probation and in the 8th grade. His reputation is generally negative, however, I’ve found him to be a basically good kid who makes poor decisions.  It’s not my fault he does this, but I still will have this negative feeling in my brain for a few days. So to end this post, I will leave you with another Struggle song and the hopes that what went down with my student will not be the “Black Curtains” for him in my class.

A sample of a Cream cover by Waylon Jennings? So sweet!

First Days of School fo Real

People think I’m crazy for teaching Middle School. They don’t know any better and I feel pretty fearless about it. Give me three weeks.

After almost half a year of planning and gradually working more and more with identified students, my co-teacher and I have moved into our own space away from the mainstream middle school. It’s as exciting as it is scary with all of our curriculum and research now needing to be turned into action. As you can imagine, I’m running at a high-speed wobble. I’m actually writing this while my students do their daily journal writing because I intend to keep my promise of writing more while my brother’s life gets a little crazier.

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They Fly Solo with Wiz

My students played this song a lot, especially while we played basketball. It was one of the few I really liked that they played and I can’t stop thinking about how they will turn out next year. Lastly, when the one student refused to jump out of a tree while we were at a ropes course the second to last week of school, I totally yelled up “Fly solo Dude!” Ultimately, I also had to jump out of the tree to set an example and the video displayed me looking like a fish on a hook, but I got my point across.

School is out and I am back in the city landscaping. I keep cruising the channels of my FM radio to find this song but it is never on. I finally Googled the lyrics and really saw how much the kids actually identified with this song because of them. It seems to be mostly about a failed relationships but, like any good song, it could mean whatever you want. Wiz is one of the few rappers who has a truly unique voice in today’s hip hop and seems to be a generally good guy beyond the whole constant references to his rampant marijuana use. He was an Army Rat kid who moved a lot so didn’t have a lot of friends, like my students, and then really made his way in the city of Pittsburgh. I digress. The song above hits me.

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