March Book Review: Hip Hop Street Curriculum: Keeping It Real by Jawanza Kunjufu

Hip Hop Street Curriculum: Keeping It Real by  Jawanza Kunjufu

This book is used during our youth sessions at least two to three times a week. This book can be used for all ages although I’d limit which topics are covered by the different age group. This book discusses drugs, sex, advertising, fashion, and finances as it relates to Hip Hop and asks the reader questions that they probably would never think of such as ‘How can America find $30,000 per inmate but can’t find $10,000 for Headstart, Title I, Pell Grants, or job training?’

The book begins with mini bios about artists like Tupac Shakur, Queen Latifah, Kanye West, Jay Z, and Missy Elliott that includes follow up questions about each artist. I do not like however the section where the author speculates on whether or not Tupac was still alive. Out of respect for his family I don’t think that should be discussed but it is noted that there was a lot of past speculation in the Hip Hop community on whether or not Tupac was in fact still alive. I would agree that the author should look into updating a lot of the terms such as ‘gangsta rap’ as I think Rap music has evolved and in a lot of cases there is a ‘gangsta rap’ elements in the content of the artists. The Hip Hop Vocabulary list definitely needs updating. There is a Hip Hop History timeline that could have included a lot of other moments in Hip Hop history. The author also discusses videos such as ‘Tip Drill’ by Nelly which at that time was a major discussion in the Hip Hop community. I do not recommend discussing that particular video with students because obviously you’d have to have them watch the video in order to have a real discussion.

One of my favorite sections discusses the Rap Business itself and prompts the students to actually calculate how much an artist makes off of album sales which is always a great eye opener for the students. Then they give a list of Hip Hop Fashion with the clothing lines and Hip Hop Magazines that have come and gone in the past with some still in print. The book discusses the ‘N’ word and the ‘B’ word asking several follow up questions. I don’t agree with one of the follow up questions asking ‘What does it mean to run a train on a woman?’ that could have been left out with the section mentioning pimps. The discussion on advertising and civil rights v Hip Hop is something that could have been discussed in more depth to ingrain an understanding the importance on the subject matter. The section on drugs has follow up questions that require a little ‘homework’ but is definitely worth it. The author included the Willie Lynch Letter then gives a timeline on how African-Americans and former slaves were taught to hate each other which results in the current self-hatred black people have for their own race in this day and age. It continues into gang violence and transitions into the section about the Hip Hop Summit Action Network. This was followed by a writing campaign listing with the addresses to the DEA, various television networks, the major record distributors, and the Congressional Black Caucus asking the students to write to these companies to invoke change.

The section Hip Hop math asks random questions asking students to calculate various equations from how much Nike makes off shoes to calculating how much cigarettes would cost annually if you were a smoker. Next is the section discusses the prison system and asks 5 great follow up questions. It discusses racial profiling, dating, HIV/AIDS and other STDs, with another one of my favorite sections discussing economics and education. Then it moves on to school culture v black culture, peer pressure, what constitutes being an adult v being a child. The book would definitely not be complete without mentioning Black History complete with Q&A. Then the end of the book discusses the things that the youth have done in the movement for change in the past and the present. It asks questions about personal values, SAT scores, and gives test-taking techniques. The book needs to have a lot of the topics rearranged to the topics flow well. The section discussing sagging, snitching, and ‘freaking’ are prior to the mention of the Jena 6 with a culturally biased test for traditional educators at the end.

Overall this book is an excellent teaching resource in the Hip Hop curriculum. Just choose carefully which topics you cover with particular age groups. With some updates and content rearrangement this book is great for any teacher, educator, therapist, or social worker as well as parents!

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