Monday, February 25, 2013

Gettin' Jiggy Wit It by Will Smith

“That’s not really rap music. It doesn’t have any swearing.”

-8th grade student
My students seem to have the most misconceptions about the music they like the best. One of those genres that many of my students talk about with some authority is rap music. When I teach about rap music I usually open up the conversation to get some ideas about what kids think about rap music. Some common misconceptions they tell me are that rap artists are only men, all rap music is about being a" gangsta" and that all rap needs utlizes explicit language.

I dispute all of these things and use The Beastie Boys to teach about rap (which I talk about in this post ). The thing that astounded me this year was that some of my students argued that The Beastie Boys were not actually performing rap music. I patiently explained to them the The Beastie Boys were in fact one of the most important and influential rap groups of all time, though I’m not sure they believed me.

I wonder what they would say if I told them about how Will Smith used to be the Fresh Prince and how he still rocks the mic with mad skills (while keeping it clean).

When teaching about rap music, I often consider using some of Will Smith’s works, but the problem is that he work is too complex. Unlike “Intergalactic,” Smith places his rhymes of different beats, changes rhymes schemes quickly and adjusts phrase lengths within verses. One great example of this is with his 1998 smash “Gettin' Jiggy wit It.”

He immediately his the first verse with a clever phrase with rhymes almost every other word.: “Let’s go, dance floor pro, I know, you know, I go psy-cho.” He throws the accents on the off beat and come out of this pattern as easily as he get into.

The beginning of the second stanza is just a slick:
Everybody lookin' at me,
Glancin' the kid,
wishin' they was dancin' a jig
Here with this handsome kid
Instead of creating pauses when he hits a rhyme, he goes straight into the next line rapping between the phrases as opposed to simply landing on them. When you analyze the different ways he places rhymes on beats, it’s dizzying.

 It’s amazing how well Will Smith performs. He’s moving around the stage with so much energy and personality. Smith is a rapper that makes what he does seem so easy, but when you try to do it just like him, you might fall trying to do what he did.

I grew up watching Will Smith on television and listening to him as a rap artist. I respect his success as a film actor, but I can’t wait for him to pick up the mic and return as rap’s most important royalty.

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