Adam Bradley on hip-hop

In a previous blog posting I talked about Adam Bradley’s “Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip-Hop” as a source for teachers to understand and connect curriculum to popular culture. I have since learned that Adam Bradley has edited an entire anthology on rap that can be reviewed here.

Following is a letter Bradley wrote to me in response to my post:

“Someone forwarded your recent blog entry to me in which you write about the importance of multicultural education – and the possibility of hip-hop playing a role in facilitating it. I appreciate that you mention my book because in writing it I was quite conscious of underscoring the continuities between canonical works of literature and this relatively recent cultural development of rap.

“I wrote ‘Book of Rhymes’ not to suggest that we should stop teaching Shakespeare or Fitzgerald or Faulkner but to assert that the skills we want students to master when they read the works of these authors (close reading, analytical thought, and so forth) can ALSO be gained by looking at rap lyrics. Last year, I edited an entire anthology intended to foster just that.

“I’m not sure if you’ve followed the recent drama over Michael Eric Dyson’s course on Jay-Z at Georgetown (he assigned ‘Book of Rhymes,’ by the way), but it demonstrates that even at the post-secondary level many are still hesitant to apply the same critical scrutiny and aesthetic gaze to popular culture. There are many reasons to do so at the high school level in particular, as your article suggests. Directing serious academic attention to rap can offer a gateway to achieving many educational objectives and it can, in fact, bring students back to the ‘classics’ with a passion and an interest perhaps unachievable by other means. I’ve seen it happen in my own classroom and in classrooms—both college, high school, and even younger – across the country when I speak.”

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