Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Smart Music Presents Lesson One
First attempt at teaching middle school age children history through song:
“Mr. Penfold, why are you wearing that ridiculous wig? And why are you wearing what appears to be a frilly long sleeved shirt that is at least two sizes too big for you along with some ancient looking flood pants and tights?”
“Excellent questions Billy! I’m wearing clothing similar to what was fashionable back when Christopher Columbus set out to reach the East Indies.”
“What’s with the weird looking piano?”
“This isn’t a piano Chris. It’s a harpsichord. I’m going to play a song on it that will help you remember what we’re learning today.”
Subsequent Test Results – 64% Pass, 46% Fail
Second attempt at teaching middle school age children history through song:
“Mr. Penfold, why are you wearing frayed overalls and a straw hat?”
“Well Patrick, today we are going to learn about America’s transition away from agriculture during the industrial revolution. I’m going to play you all a song on my friend ‘Mr. Banjo’ here that I think you’ll find quite memorable.”
Subsequent Test Results – 37% Pass, 53% Fail
Third attempt at teaching middle school age children history through song:
“May I ask what is so funny Ms. Jones?”
“You look ridiculous!”
“I’ll have you know that tie-dye shirts and bell bottom jeans were extremely popular in the late 1960s, the period of US history we are discussing today. I’m going to play a flower-power classic on my guitar that should convey all the information you need to learn today.”
Subsequent Test Results – 55% Pass, 45% Fail
“Okay class. I give up. My thinking was that I could use music as an effective teaching tool. Your test scores however tell a much different story. Do you all even like music?”
“Of course we like music Mr. Penfold. But that music you’ve been playing for us is totally lame.”
“Lame, huh? All right then. What kind of music do you like then?”
“Ah, I see.”
A few days later:
“Class, I’d like for you to welcome a special guest who has joined us today. His name is Lak and he is here to bust rhymes and teach you some history.”
Subsequent Test Results – 100% Pass
Waveriders it has been quite a while since I was last inside a public school classroom. Years have gone by, but the passage of time has not changed two important facts. First off, history was my favorite subject. I love reading up on history! Second, with the notable exception of a song used to remember the names and capital cities of Central and South American countries, the majority of educational music I’ve been subjected to has been terrible. Okay maybe the word terrible is a bit harsh, but this music is definitely not geared for anyone over the age of eight.
With that in mind, perhaps you can understand my reluctance to listen to what is openly billed as an educational hip hop album. In my mind I pictured a couple of guys dressed up in labcoats rapping poorly with high pitched voices about the alphabet and basic math. Thankfully, my journalistic integrity got the best of me and I decided to give Lesson One a shot. It’s my sworn duty as a Ripple Effect writer to stay open minded after all. I hit play on my CD player and the first song, appropriately titled “Intro” began. The music sounded solid from the start and then the first lyrical content hit my ears.
SmartMusic entertainment / Dis da movement / We aim to elevate your mindstate through music / We want to teach and inspire you to learn more / We know the classroom for some is a straight bore / We know the hood’s at the bottom of the money list / We know the block’s full of negative influences / We know some teachers care / We know some teachers don’t / We know some families provide strength when others won’t / We know it’s never fair / Some parents never there / We know some show love then act like they never cared / The world’s cold in the middle of the summer / And if you don’t elevate your mind you never come up / We make it easier to grasp your potential and get you to understand the battle you’re fighting is mental / It’s nothing when you think about it and give it attention / And you get it poppin’ while memorizin’ the lesson / You can steer your life in a whole different direction / You can put yourself where you want to be, no question / If you can comprehend what I’m saying you can do anything / This is Smart Music, we teach and entertain.
Okay then. That was NOT what I was expecting! I could get behind that sentiment one hundred percent! Time for a little research. Smart Music Entertainment is the brainchild of Larry ‘Lak’ Henderson. Lak has been involved in making hip hop music for several years, but Lesson One is a new venture. He surveyed the educational music landscape and saw the same thing I had. Most of this music was completely childish or just plain bad. Believing that hip hop music can be a very effective teaching tool, he took it upon himself to right the wrong and made this album. The beauty of this music is that it will appeal to adult hip hop heads just as much as its teenage target market.
Lesson One is made up of ten songs and two bonus tracks. These songs can be broken down into three different categories. Songs like “First 25 Presidents” and “50 States” are purely informational. “Cash Flow”, “It’s A War”, and “Drugs” reflect on issues currently facing the youth of America. The other songs all deal with African American history. “Slavery” features an emcee named Nyce who together with Lak lays out the vile institutions history in an aggressive, hard hitting manner. “Kings & Queens” and “Moors” together provide a fleshed out genealogy that will prevent any African American child from feeling inferior to anyone else. “Invent” and “Congress Women” each offer compelling examples of African American accomplishments that should provide plenty of motivation for kids striving to achieve greatness.
The bottom line here waveriders is that this album is good. Very good! If you like your hip hop to have a positive or meaningful message look no further than Smart Music’s Lesson One. This is a solid album that you can buy for your child with full confidence in the lyrical content contained within. If you don’t tell them it is an educational album, they’ll never know its true purpose! They’ll just call it ‘dope’. If that term is not cool anymore I apologize. I am far from hip. Worst case scenario, they don’t like the album and you get to keep it yourself!