Vocabulary. Fluency. Close reading.
Not usually things you’d associate with rap or hip hop. However, there are songs and artists who are perfect for teaching just those skills.
This is a ranking of rappers by the number of unique vocabulary words they have used within their first 35,000 lyrics. A cat who goes by MF’in Daniels wrote all about it here.
The dude alllllll the way to the right is Aesop Rock, one of my favorite artists. He clocks in at 7,392 unique words. I’ve used his song No Regrets in the classroom because it tells a great story with a great theme. Also, vocabulary is a strong indicator of success for students in the future. The more words you know the more you can read and understand, the more concepts you can connect, you get where I’m going with this.
There’s another song of his I really like that I can’t use in the classroom (at least not all of it) on account of I used to teach elementary school and there are a couple curse words (which can also be insightful for learning about vocabulary acquisition but that’s another post). Still, it illustrates all the aforementioned points. Rap and hip hop are great for teaching close reading, vocabulary, and fluency.
I’ve made the case for vocabulary and close reading will be clear in the video below. Fluency: Have you ever tried to learn the words to a song? You listen to it over and over and over (repeated reading) and the faster and more complex the words, the more challenging it is to become fluent at it. People don’t naturally do repeated readings except for theatre and music. See: Let It Go. As a teacher, that’s something to note and take advantage of when trying to increase the fluency of your students.
Here’s a link to my ThingLink of the first page of lyrics.