During the second semester of last year, the icon of Hip Hop, Ice-T, taught a group of seventh and eighth graders at York Prep as a program for VH1. Titled “Ice-T’s Rap School,” the experience proved to be far more than learning how to rap. The “course” was an opportunity to learn first-hand, from the artists themselves, about the cultural and historical significance of this uniquely American music genre. The bigger lessons, of course, were about allowing oneself to take on a new and exciting challenge and about looking at the world from a different perspective. Despite Ice-T’s tough-guy reputation, students found him to be a serious but exciting and compassionate teacher with a huge heart and a real gift for teaching.
Over a three-month period, the lessons were videotaped (with everyone’s permission) and condensed into six episodes for VH1. Students had the opportunity to interact with and learn about the roots of Hip Hop from the pioneers and artists who helped create the genre. Class field trips included a visit to the South Bronx, the birthplace of Hip Hop, to learn about the many dimensions of the Hip Hop culture. They worked with Tats Cru, Inc., a group of Bronx-based professional muralists, to learn about the evolution of graffiti, originally a form of recognition, to a respected art form. The students composed their own rap songs, making comparisons to more traditional studies. The “final exam” was to perform live as the opening group for Public Enemy at B.B. King’s Club in New York.
Hip Hop, like jazz, is a distinctively American type of music that has proven itself to be an enduring music form worldwide. The week that taping began, Ice-T was one of four artists recognized at the opening of the Smithsonian’s Hip Hop collection.
After premiering on October 17, the show aired in six half-hour installments on VH1 on Friday nights at 9:00 p.m.
“Ice-T’s Rap School” reviews: