St. Louis Rap Artists Teach Kids the Components of Hip-Hop at ‘Lyrics and Lit’
I broke up with depression / Now I’m dating my blessings.
Rap artists Bo Dean (Jeffrey Dean) and C-Sharp (Cedric Redmon) could teach lessons on how to make a name in the music world. Instead, the two St. Louisans channel their passion for hip-hop and education into programs for young teens, including a course this summer called “Lyrics and Lit.”
“Lyrics and Lit” teaches kids the four components of hip-hop—identity, message, listening and expression—and how they correlate with communication and literature. Dean, an English teacher for St. Louis Public Schools, created the curriculum several years ago after Redmon, Youth Ambassador for the city of St. Louis, approached him with the idea. “Music is my passion,” Dean says. “I said yes automatically. I always wanted to teach hip-hop in the classroom.”
The course combines whiteboard presentations, videos and word games with hands-on, individual lessons like how to hold a mic—with an emphasis on students’ own writing. Dean and Redmon also share their own songs, often with a running commentary on the decision-making process they used when choosing everything from the beats to their wardrobe for videos.
For example, during one lesson, Dean plays a track about his father’s 2017 death (included on his ep “the Blu Fro Project”) and describes why he included a recording of his father’s voice. “Hip-hop is self-therapy,” Dean says later. Even though art itself is subjective, he adds, “Other people may be going through the same things.”
The two rap artists have the easy camaraderie and mutual respect of longtime friends. “I’m a little flashier,” Redmon admits with a laugh, pointing out his music lyric tattoos and gold chains. “Bo is more conservative and crafty. Bo freestyles. I write a lot. We’re like the base and the acid. We each attract a different type of child.”
Their openness about their own identities and experiences gives “Lyrics and Lit” a sense of intimacy—and it embodies the lessons Dean and Redmon want to impart to their students: awareness of who they are as individuals (identity); attentiveness to detail (listening); proper interpretation of the context of what they read and create (message); and the ability to deliver their message in a way that will captivate (expression).
The intimacy is no accident. Redmon remembers the importance of being close to rap artists during his own youth: “Once I was able to touch it, I felt like I could do it,” he says. “Music is what put me in the club. Without it, I’d have been at home. I had a life because I had to go pursue a dream.”
To sign up for “Lyrics and Lit” next week at the University City High School library from 9 a.m.-noon, send a direct message through Bo Dean’s artist page.
Featured image courtesy of Bo Dean.