So I recently embarked upon a unit of work with my year 8s on the general theme of London, exploring a range of texts and authors throughout history, connected to this great city in which I live.
The unit came immediately after a scheme of work on World War 1 ‘conflict poetry, during which, among other things, we explored some pretty compelling links between Wilfred Owen and Eminem.
As a bridge into the London unit (from the Conflict unit), one of the things we did in class was explore the concept of being at conflict with London. Naturally, based in East London, I thought it would be a good idea to start with one of London’s most successful exports, Dylan Mills – aka Dizzee Rascal
We started by listening to the first track off ‘Boy in da Corner’, entitled ‘Sittin Here’, in which Dizzee reflects on life growing up in a hostile city. It was great fun to let the kids take over on vocabulary-busting duties. They ALL knew all the slang terms, even those that I thought might be slightly outdated in 2014 (11 years after Dizzee released the album). Goes to show, offer ownership to students and they’ll meet it on their own terms.
Anyway, let me get to the interesting bit.
After analysing Dizzee’s lyrics and debating the extent to which he was at conflict with London, I offered up a selection of creative and analytical tasks, ranging from self-generated essays to creative writing challenges based on Dizzee’s lyrics.
pic of tasks
(Note: offering choice is an invitation to engagement. Give the kids one thing to do, and there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll back out of it. Give a selection of tasks and they might actually opt in out of choice. Wise words.)
(Note: worth also mentioning that each task came with individual prompt sheets for the students to work through at their own pace, in a Project-Based style. More on this in future posts… )
One of the tasks was to write a remix of ‘Sittin Here’ from the perspective of Wilfred Owen, riffing on themes we explored in the Conflict unit. Now, this may seem like a tenuous link, but check this out.
Impressed? No? Let me explain. Above are two recently unearthed examples of #hiphoped in action, hence this blog post. You can’t read it, but these two students took all the learning from the Wilfred Owen poems we studied and synthesised them into original reworkings of Dizzee’s lyrics.
I find this electrifying.
I have written in the past on the potency of sample culture, but it never ceases to amaze me just how powerful hiphop pedagogy can be, in practical application. Unprompted, these students poured their appreciation of Owen’s poetry, their understanding of modern, urban London and their appreciation of hiphop lyricism into a creative exercise rooted in academic rigour.
Below are transcripts of the remixed texts. Look out for cleverly interwoven WW1 references. And click the ‘Sittin Here’ instrumental to sing along, if you’d like.
Student B I’m just sitting here, I’m not saying much I just think I don’t know anyone, my thoughts just sink I’m sitting here, this journey is too long I look around this train, while I’m writing this song And I’m just sitting here, I’m not saying much I just gaze I look around the train, everyone has a different face Faces from black to white, but I’m excited to go to this mysterious place This train is going in a maze, as the train’s about to stop I start tying my lace (But I should’ve known, this is war, not fun) Because it’s the same old story: Guns, trenches, tanks and fences And it’s the same old story: Horses, armour and literally a disaster And it’s the same old story: Blood, death and funerals Yeah it’s the same old story: this war shows your fate, why don’t you say that to my best friend’s face. I’m just sitting here, I ain’t saying much, I just watch Watch, as people get shot by gunshots I watch all around, I watch every detail I watch so hard that my eyes are watering. I’m just sitting here, I ain’t saying much, I just cry And the only reason I’m here is cuz of that stupid Old Lie This week I have a break, today I live, today they die
That’s it for now. Exploration in hiphoped continue apace. Soon, I’ll be tidying these resources up and making them available for teachers.