Hip-Hop for Youth

Print More

Curtis Watkins
Truancy Coordinator
Philadelphia Department of Human Services
Philadelphia, PA

I agree with your overall contention that hip-hop is an unwieldy genre, too important to ignore, too irresponsible to allow to be unbridled in the classroom. (“Using Hip-Hop in Youth Programs,” Andrew Hahn, March.) I, too, struggle with ways to include hip-hop in my life without damaging or negatively influencing the many children that I regularly come into contact with. There is so much that is valuable there.

One of the first things I noticed when I began working with children was how strongly the media, particularly pop music and videos, influence them. I also noticed a correlation between the rise in youth violence and the deterioration of standards of popular music lyrics and videos, particularly rap/hip-hop.

However, as a lifelong fan of the genre and a member of the generation that created and shaped it, I couldn’t bring myself to condemn the entire art form. I wanted to show kids that they should learn to appreciate and expect something challenging and uplifting.

That’s why I became involved with my good friend who started Conscious Hip-Hop.com. (Stop by the site to find what’s positive in the genre.)

For kids, I’d like to recommend one of my favorites, a group called A Tribe Called Quest. In their day (early ’90s) this group offered the most consistently thought-provoking and positive lyrics of any group I have ever heard. Normally, groups with these kinds of messages are shunned, but what made Tribe work was that its music was just as progressive.

Youth Today welcomes comments by mail or e-mail. All letters must include the author’s name, job description or other connection to the youth work field, and phone number or e-mail address. Please send to: Letters to Editor, Youth Today, 1200 17th St. NW, 4th Fl., Washington, DC 20036 or info@youthtoday.org.