Hip-Hop for Youth

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.

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