Nude Album Covers: Do They Belong in Stores?

In this lesson, students will discuss the popularity of nude album artwork and its relevance on online stores and local retailers. They will also learn how to pick a stance in a persuasive writing assignment and defend their point of view.

Album covers play an important role when it comes to selling music. They are what partially attracts the buyer to the product. On the cover of their latest musical projects, pop artists Rihanna and Christina Aguilera are nude. This can be a problem because not all of the consumers are of age. Should this type of expression be completely censored from the eyes of the public or should a different alternative be proposed?

Hip-Hop Vocabulary Development

The goal of this lesson is for students to develop their vocabulary by identifying words they do not know in Hip-Hop songs, finding the words’ definitions, and demonstrating their understanding of the words by writing their own rap verses that incorporate the new vocabulary.


The Art of Fresh: Fashion and Philanthropy

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.” ~ Paul Robeson

According to the late Paul Robeson, artists have the opportunity to use their platforms to make significant changes in society. However, some would argue that artists have no obligation to address certain issues. Although they may have a point, when I think of artists who have become icons in popular culture, I think of those who have used their voices to raise awareness, especially as it pertains to social and political issues. Artists, such as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, John Lennon, Fela Kuti, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, have all taken a stand against the injustices of the world. In retrospect, they have become bigger than their artistry. They have been philanthropists, humanists, revolutionaries, and activists. They have been individuals who have lived their lives beyond just fortune and fame.

Issues, such as poverty, gun violence, police brutality, gangs, and racism continue to persist. But there is a new wave of artists who are carrying the torch. These artists are not only using their music, but also fashion to make social and political statements. For instance, in the 2004 presidential election, P. Diddy (founder of Bad Boy Records), Sean John, and Citizen Change launched a campaign to encourage more young people between the ages of 18 and 30 to vote. This helped change the face of the U.S. political landscape by encouraging the youth to “Vote or Die”, using celebrities as his support system.

The campaign was meant to show that the right to vote is a matter of life or death. This notion may not be too far-fetched, as people have literally fought and died for this freedom. I believe this resonated with young people, not only because of the celebrities involved, but also because of its simple, yet powerful position in politics. This campaign was not only successful in 2004, but also in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected.

Jay-Z, Hip-Hop artist and co-founder of Rocawear, also attempted to use fashion as a statement. Although it was short-lived, he released a new line of t-shirts, which were meant to support the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. This movement served as a protest against social and economic disparities between corporations and the American people. The shirt “tweaks the phrase ‘Occupy Wall Street’ by crossing out the ‘W’ and adding an ‘S’ to make it read ‘Occupy All Streets’.”

Unfortunately, this effort led to a little bit of controversy, primarily because he never intended on sharing his profits to the actual protestors. The Business Insider states, “A Rocawear spokesperson sent us a statement confirming there’s no plan to distribute any of the profits, which will surely pour in from shirt sales, to Occupy Wall Street.” According the spokesperson, “The ‘Occupy All Streets’ T shirt was created in support of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. ‘Occupy All Streets’ is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement.”

This leads to questionable motives of certain artists. There seems to be a thin line between legitimacy and sincerity from the public’s point of view, especially in this day and age where there are many cultural capitalists. In my opinion, there needs to be a clear alignment between the art and actions of the individuals, which leads me to Kendrick Lamar’s recently released, “Ventilators 2” by Reebok.

Throughout his career, Lamar has repeatedly shed light on his upbringing in Compton, California, where gang culture seems to dominate the living conditions of his immediate environment. Having been heavily influenced by this reality, he has always mentioned it in both his music and interviews. With songs, such as: “Little Johnny”, “M.A.A.D. City (featuring MC Eight), and “I”, he continues to provide a voice for his constituents by emphasizing social, political, and economic discrepancies that are woven into the American fabric. His response to these discrepancies and pervasiveness of gang culture are the Ventilators 2. Complex mentions, “These Ventilators, which were previewed by, are set against an off-white suede base with alternating blue and red accents on each shoe. The gang references are apparent, and each tongue tag is inscribed with ‘Neutral,’ echoing a sentiment Kendrick has been pushing strongly during his career.”

Other artists, such as Usher and John Legend (pictured below), aren’t necessarily known for making social and political commentary in their music, but they have also been recently seen using fashion to make a statement.

As we continue to face adversities in our lives, it is important to have the opportunity to express ourselves constructively. It may not necessarily be directly based on certain social, economic, or political issues; however, we are undeniably affected by these issues in one way or another. In that regard, we should continue to find creative ways to address these issues for the betterment of mankind.

Understanding Thesis Statements with Pop Music

In this lesson, students gain an understanding of thesis statements by identifying them in popular songs. Then, they use a thesis statement they’ve identified in a popular song of their choosing to inspire an essay of their own. The goal of this lesson is for students to understand how broad a thesis statement can be while utilizing the the persuasive writing skills necessary to write a general thesis of their own.

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Hamilton: Does Lin-Manuel Miranda Give us True History or just His-Story?




What’s a Historian to do with Kim Kardashian?

In this lesson, we’ll take a look at what it means to be a historical thinker and discover how to look at the past the way historians do. Today, there are so many historical digital documents: tweets, youtube videos, last night’s embarrassing selfie that somehow found its way onto Instagram… There’s a lot of information being generated, but who is going to sort through all of it and decide what is most meaningful. Who knows, maybe in the future there will be historians that focus entirely on the legacy of Instagram selfies of Kim Kardashian.


Where Did History Start?

History is an interpretation of what happened in the past. Society has been keeping track of history since time unknown. In Western culture, Greece is often pointed to as one of the first countries to strongly value keeping and telling history. Around 400 B.C., Thucydides produced the work History of the Peloponnesian War. This was significant because it details the fall of Athens in a way that doesn’t look towards gods or mythology. Instead, Thucydides just related the events that happened and what the human motivations were. Some claim he was one of the first historians.



What Counts As History?

History has been related in many ways: oral histories, hieroglyphics, cave art, sculptural representations of important figures, books, and photographs. It wasn’t until the 19th and 20th centuries that history as a social science really developed. Historians placed much importance on combining history with geography, economics, psychology and anthropology. Combining these disciplines has helped historians be more accurate. But, even though historians may try to be accurate, history is always an interpretation, never a complete truth.



So, Does Hamilton Count As History?

In this lesson, we’ll bring a critical eye to the big blockbuster history lesson everyone is captivated by, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musical Hamilton. Does Miranda’s play shed light on an overlooked historical figure and give America a different way to appreciate its founding history? Or does it just provide entertainment and overlook all of the uncool things these old white men did and represented? By sidestepping the forefather’s involvement in slavery and Native American genocide, can Hamilton be viewed as a historically accurate document of our past? Is that important when a work of art can generate so much interest in the past? Dig in deep to this history and make your own decision about how we should be viewing Hamilton.



YOLO: A Defining Moment in the English Language

In this lesson students will discuss YOLO’s recent inclusion into the Oxford English Dictionary and also create their own suggestions for the next slang or tech term to be added.

This year the Oxford English Dictionary added the term “YOLO”. YOLO was popularized by its use in the hip-hop song The Motto by Drake. It is defined as You Only Live Once; typically used as rationale or endorsement for impulsive or irresponsible behavior. Some consider this phrase as the present day version of “Carpe Diem”.

This lesson will also allow students to conduct a dialogue on the process of creating a new word for the dictionary.