I’m a White girl who eats, breathes and sleeps hip-hop. So if I say something off, you’ll just have to excuse me…I’m White. But to me, my Hip-Hop education has been more valuable in many ways than my formal education. And here are 10 reasons why:
- Hip-Hop tells the story of the streets.
You can read as much as you want about how life is in a poverty-stricken neighborhood but no facet tells the story of the streets like an autobiographical account from someone who has actually lived it. As someone who promotes human rights, I find these stories to be more informative and encapsulating first person reports of life in the hood than any university reading could ever be.
- Hip-Hop gets political.
There is something free about hip-hop that you don’t see in other forms of music. Maybe it’s rooted in the magic behind what freestyling really is, but I personally feel like hip-hop is the most honest form of art we’ve got. Many in the hip-hop community are genuinely trying to uplift their communities and do so in a very direct manner. Often this is the most dangerous thing you can do in a society that is satisfied with a complacency in it’s population. But rappers aren’t afraid to call out political figures and check them on what’s right and wrong. And not only will an MC call someone out, but they’ll do it with a finesse that no university professor can ever match.
- Hip-Hop is aspirational.
Hip-Hop embodies the law of attraction notion that what you put out into the universe you attract towards you. A lot of people look at rappers talking on stacks of money on Instagram and shake their heads, and I used to be one of them, but another side of me thinks “fuck yes” that guy had all of the cards stacked against him and now he’s talking on stacks of money. Why the fuck not?
- Hip-Hop is originally a Black form of music.
Much Black History is hidden from mainstream view. I find access to information key to uplifting any society and let’s face facts, if you’re interested in an honest account of history, you have to do the work yourself to find Black history. In the internet age this is easier than it has been in the past, but Hip-Hop tells the story in a way that has you bobbing your head on the subway and educating yourself at the same time. What university class can do that?
- Hip-Hop identifies the system.
If you’ve ever had legal issues that have led to your institutional confinement, you’ll know that Hip-Hop gives support when you’re navigating these tricky waters. The police killings of members of the Black community illustrate the systemic targeting of Black civilians in America. This type of systemic behavior is cause for alarm which is exactly what is going on with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Hip-Hop highlights systemic issues in a way that no news broadcast can, and no university professor can because it’s art, a direct expression of the right to express oneself. And art comes from the heart and in that way it can capture your heart. A lecture can’t do that, but raw beats, and powerful lyrics can get the point across in a way that keeps on giving with each new listen of your favorite song.
- Hip-Hop pushes boundaries.
Rappers are notorious for pushing boundaries in the same sense that comedy does, and they’re lyrical about it at the same time. They play with words and push buttons on subject matters that are often off limits or taboo. A university course definitely has the potential to challenge you, but it’s within the confines of a school, and therefore an institutional setting. Plato’s Republic may make you think, but he can’t make you ponder and at the same time laugh like Hov can on 99 Problems.
- Hip-Hop connects people.
Along with being a form of music, hip-hop is also a community. This community is inclusive of people from all walks of life. When you connect with someone on a musical level, often you find that you can connect with that person on other levels that are important to you as well. You can make friends at university, and some of those might even stay your friends throughout the rest of your life, but when you find someone that’s down with hip-hop, and especially the artists that you like, shit there’s no telling where that relationship can go.
- Hip-Hop is contemporary.
Hip-Hop delivers information that is current, as new songs are being produced daily, while university courses tend to be crammed with readings from authors that had that opinion 20 years ago. You want to know what’s going on in the world now? Take your pick of a 20-something rapper’s latest album and you’re bound to find gems identifying what the world actually looks like in 2015.
- Hip-Hop is prophetic.
If you’ve ever listened to Pac, you know exactly what I’m saying. Hip-hop, unlike other forms of music I have listened to in the past, has a way of foreseeing the future. I can’t explain this phenomena to you entirely, but I can say that I see the same in my artwork and poetry. Human beings are channels, and we receive inspiration from all around us, including up above. Call it what you want, but a teacher can hypothesize what the future might look like based on data, but an MC will do it off of feeling. And when it comes to prophecies, no academic environment can come close to competing with an art form as free as rhyming.
- Hip-Hop is 24/7.
Unlike your classroom, hip-hop never stops. It never sleeps. Someone somewhere is always creating a beat, writing a rhyme or blasting a rap song into their ear canals through Beats headphones. Hip-Hop is there seeping into your subconscious while you’re studying, and it’s available to you once your studying is done. Before you start your degree, while you’re in the throws of it, and once you’re done, hip-hop is there no matter what. Like I said before, access to information is key, and unlike those university library portals that allow you to search whatever you want on JSTOR, no one is going to take N.W.A. away from you once you finish your bid at a four-year college.
Now I am not saying to spend your entire university tuition on creating the world’s largest Hip-Hop library (though in some ways I wish I could), and I am not saying that a university degree is not valuable. It most definitely is. What I am saying is after spending years seeking truth in school settings, I have come to learn that my greatest education has come from the hip-hop genre. But that’s just me. What I am also saying is keep your ears open the next time you listen to your favorite rapper and consider the meaning behind that story he tells about slinging before he made it, or how it felt to lose that close family member to gang violence, or how he feels knowing that his brother is locked up. To some they may just be stories, but to me they’re glimpses into the lives of people who are willing to share their truths, and for that I am grateful.
To the college kids getting ready for this new semester, don’t be discouraged by this article. Higher education is definitely a path to a better life, and chances are you’re doing the right thing getting that degree. All I’m saying is consider complimenting your formal degree with an education in hip-hop at the same time.
– Arielle London
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty