I’m young. While I’m an adult with adult problems and perspectives, my media interests are much more in line with my students’ than my fellow teachers’ (although some teachers have remarkably cool tastes).
I try to use these interests to my teaching advantage. If I can assess my students’ understanding of conflicts through Rob & Big, by golly, I’m going to do it. When we watched To Kill a Mockingbird, I used a few Kanye West lyrics to relate to the themes of poverty and racism. We listened to Rilo Riley and Ludacris to go over the role of a speaker in a poem. Sometimes, the extra effort I put into these lessons catches a gleam in a student’s eye or gets everyone’s attention for thirty minutes, and I feel rewarded. The fact is, though, they’re still in school. Thinking about Lupe Fiasco lyrics is still thinking, and it hurts them.
At 26, I’m starting to see the distance between my students’ tastes and mine already, though. Pretty soon, my cute little lessons with contemporary media will seem ancient (my Ludacris song already met its death blow: “This song old as hell.”) compared to what my students like, and I’ll be like all of the other adults in their lives, complaining that music and movies were better however many years ago.
My first realization of this came with Lil Wayne.
Lil Wayne did a guest vocal on the last Kanye West CD, so I’m only vaguely familiar with him, and it’s terrible. It’s only a verse long, but it lacks the wit and verbal acuity that draws me to the little rap I listen to. But this guy is HUGE with my students. They adore him. His very recent release, The Carter III, sold more than a million copies in a week, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in 3 years. That’s a lot of teenagers.
The problem: he’s kind of an idiot. Reviews have confirmed what I’ve heard from friends: Lil Wayne is half brilliant, half terrible, only I haven’t heard any of the brilliant stuff yet. My main issue is that his style illustrates exactly the type of ignorant, barely-educated dumbassery that I urgently try to get my students away from. Never mind the man’s well-documented penchant for drugs and guns, his egregious abuse of the English language is what’s really destroying our kids’ futures. Let’s take a look at some lyrics:
They don’t make em like me nomore
matter fact they never made em like me b4
im rare like mr clean wit hair
no brake lighs on my car rear
i never had lice and i never had fear
i rap like i done died and gone to heaven i swear
and yere ima bear
like black and white hair
so im polar
and they cant get on my syster cuz my system is the solar
i am so far from the odar im an other
i can eat them for super get in my spaceship and hover
What the hell is that? How can I possibly stress the importance of using English well when their hero writes like a toddler? This isn’t a 13 year-old’s attempt to transcribe the man’s lyrics; I got this from his official website, misspellings and typos all. It looks like he writes all of his lyrics through AOL Instant Messenger. And they don’t make much sense. There’s no richness to Lil Wayne’s lyrics–it’s all stream of consciousness, it seems. Which is fine, in its own way, I guess, but it leaves me with a very difficult reality to battle: Just make up stuff as you go along, don’t bother revising or spelling anything correctly. It works great for Lil Wayne.