Back to Music

Hip-hop workshop teaches more than beats

Kids explore creativity, a way out

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

Hip-hop in the 1980s, 90s and 2000s is the big bad wolf that parents, politicians and powers-that-be demonize much like the adults of the 1950s and 60s did with rock n' roll. These days they point to hip-hop as the cause for anything that goes wrong in the inner city. Shooting at a nightclub? Gang activity in schools? Drug use? Drug selling? Blame it on hip-hop - which in a lot ways is the equivalent of blaming a school for a kid not graduating. It's not the school's fault. The school is merely a concrete structure where the students, teachers and influences that have attributed to that child not graduating congregate.

Hip-hop- like school - is a vehicle to learning, expression and personal growth. When examined closely, hip-hop may be the genre of music that exercises the very principle this country was built on: Freedom to be who you are. Like the immigrants that sailed into Ellis Island, N.Y., the only requirement in hip-hop is that you bring your dreams and yourself to hip-hop.

A few months back, the Downtown Tacoma Public Library branch gave me the liberty to host a teen hip-hop workshop at the StoryLab; a program funded by a Paul Allen Family grant that awarded the library with top-of-the-line computers, software and other hardware that allowed kids to explore their creativity. While I did the best I could to educate the 10 to 20 kids who attended about the art of hip- hop, how to record your own music and even covered hip-hop theory and business, there was something bigger at play. These kids weren't here just for the hell of it. This wasn't a hobby or something for them to do after school. These teenagers saw hip-hop as a way out.

One of these kids was a 19-year-old named Teeler. Teeler has been rapping for about six years and as he put it, "As I grew older, hip-hop went from a hobby to a career choice." Teeler grew up living poor and bounced around the state's foster care system.

"Hip Hop was always a way to escape the madness of reality," he said. "Even after leaving the system, life is still crazy and hip-hop is my go to."

After the workshop was done, I helped Teeler shoot a music video at the library to a song he wrote called "Own the Night," which he won a national contest for. He states the biggest thing he took from the workshop was learning the business, and that influenced Teeler to enroll in business management classes.

Hip-hop, for all it's worth, is the voice of several generations and a positive catalyst in Tacoma. Now, if only the powers that be, politicians and parents are able to understand enough to embrace like TPL did instead of trying to diminish it.

Read next close


Olympia rap duo release debut album

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search