Why I Dropped Everything And Started Teaching Kendrick Lamar’s New Album

When Kendrick Lamar released his sophomore album, To Pimp A Butterfly (2015), I was in the middle of teaching a unit on Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye (1970). My freshmen students were grappling with some big ideas and some really complex language. Framing the unit as an “Anti-Oppression” study, we took special efforts to define and explore the kinds of institutional and internalized racism that manifest in the lives of Morrison’s African-American characters, particularly the 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove and her mother, Pauline. We posed questions about oppression and the media – and after looking at the Dick & Jane primers that serve as precursors to each chapter, considered the influence of a “master narrative” that always privileges whiteness.

Set in the 1940s, the Breedlove family lives in poverty. Their only escape is the silver screen, a place where they idolize the glamorous stars of the film industry. Given the historical context of the novel, we can assume these actors are white. On the rare occasion that a person of color was cast in a feature film during this time period, they would surely occupy a subservient role – perhaps a butler or maid. So what happens when the collective voice of society perpetuates whiteness as the standard? What happens when children never see themselves as the superhero? the boss? the damsel in distress? the star? The master narrative tells us that white is good, pure, and clean. Perhaps most destructive of all though, it says white is beautiful.


Butterflies are beautiful, too – and they are full of color. Butterflies are so beautiful, they can’t be made any more so. They can’t be manipulated, exploited, controlled, or confined. So why does America keep trying to do these same things to people of color? Why does America keep trying to pimp the butterfly? Surely we must know by now, the Civil Rights Movement was a metamorphoses from which we emerged into a colorblind, post-racial springtime, shedding the cocoon of Jim Crow, right?

It’s 2015 and Kendrick Lamar doesn’t think so. His album continues the conversation that Toni Morrison started in 1970. Inspired by the Black Is Beautiful cultural movement of the previous decade, Morrison offers a devastating critique of white supremacy. The Bluest Eye is arguably one of the most powerful novels about racism ever written. It critiques the media’s obsession with stars like Shirley Temple and Greta Garbo, revealing the psycho-social madness that results when a little girl becomes the victim of oppression directed inwards. She prays for blue eyes – her only wish – thinking it will make her beautiful. Why wouldn’t she? Morrison reminds us this message is everywhere, including “shops, magazines, newspapers, window signs,” and that, “all the world had agreed a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned doll was what every girl child treasured” (Morrison 19).

Pecola Breedlove is the butterfly, still being pimped in 2015, and behind decades of mass incarceration, urban renewal, white flight, and gentrification, she’s now a middle-aged woman, hoping for change, hoping for springtime. Luckily, she has a soundtrack in TPAB.

While it’s problematic to cast Kendrick as a savior for hip hop and black America, it’s equally as dangerous to dismiss him. He offers a new brand of hope for the hip hop generation – one that is rooted in traditions of resistance and struggle. With pain and anger in his voice on “The Blacker the Berry,” Kendrick describes weeping, “when Trayvon Martin was in the street.” It’s easy to become devastated by the stagnation of race relations in America. But Kendrick is careful to balance the chaos with a clear and purposeful sense of direction – even when shining the light on his own hypocrIMG_1840itical double consciousness. So how do we help our students find hope amidst such chaos and contradiction?

My freshmen students were devastated when Pecola was raped and impregnated by her own father. Many school districts ban the novel for the graphic images depicting this scene. However, I’m willing to feel uncomfortable with my students if it means we can reimagine alternative realities for Pecola.

What would have happened if Pecola listened to Kendrick’s hit single, “i” which celebrates, “I love myself” in a world that tells black people not to? Would the outcome of the story, Pecola’s schizophrenic break with reality, have played out differently if she heard Rapsody’s stand-out verse on “Complexion (A Zulu Love),” where she raps about self-love. I’m not arguing that music could have prevented Pecola’s rape, or that we should assign blame to people who don’t know how to love themselves, but maybe Pecola’s blackness could have taken on new meaning and new beauty if she had influences like Kendrick or Rapsody. Perhaps she could have responded more critically to the cacophony of oppressive voices that enforce the master narrative and lead to internalized oppression for too many people. Morrison writes that the marigolds didn’t grow that spring. Nothing grew. The soil of that land was polluted, corrupted. It’s likely there were no butterflies that year.

When I asked my freshmen students if they saw any hope in the novel, their response was somewhat problematic. Most saw none. And I don’t blame them. The language is beautiful, but the narrative is bleak, dark, and depressing. But it’s what we do with our critical reading of the text that matters. It’s the honest conversations, reflections, and revised understandings that extend our reading onto the world around us. That’s where the promise of hope lives. One of my students, in a commentary response on my class blog, articulated this idea in a powerful way for all of us:

The novel represents hope because it is somebody taking notice and writing about all this oppression and racism. It brings attention to these serious problems and when people are aware, action follows. Even though Pecola’s story ends sadly, more hope is represented in Claudia [the narrator], for she does not totally succumb to the oppression. She pulls apart the [white baby] doll, questioning why it is so beautiful, [and] she has the strength to…pray for Pecola when Pecola is pregnant, planting the marigolds to help, and not judging like the rest of the town.

This is the kind of extended thinking that we want to illicit from our students. As Linda Christensen says, we want to teach for joy and justice, finding the hope in our critical readings and extending those understandings to the world around us. When I think about critical media literacy and Paulo Freire, I think about my students looking twice at an advertisement on their newsfeed – asking themselves questions like these:

  • Who made this image?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is their agenda?
  • Who does this image include? Who does it not include?
  • Who has the power in this image? Who doesn’t?
  • What beliefs, values, or ideologies does this image promote?

Our 21st century students are great consumers. They are saturated with information, media, and layers of subtext. If we don’t ask them to critique different kinds of media, to “read” the world through a critical lens, we aren’t teaching literacy at all. They must become producers of new knowledge and new understandings, new texts and new meanings.

If I pedagogically ignored Kendrick’s album release at a time when my students were reading Toni Morrison alongside articles about Mike Brown, Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter – and considering the disposability of black bodies in an America that constructs a standard of beauty based solely on whiteness – I would have missed an opportunity to engage them in a pivotal conversation about race, hope, and justice. I would have missed an opportunity to speak to their hip-hop sensibilities – their hip-hop ways of being and knowing. I would have missed a chance to develop a set of profound connections to a popular culture text that is part of their lives. So here’s the first thing I did:

As students concluded their reading of the novel, I assigned a “Critical Lens Essay” that asks them to “look deeply at the text, think for yourself, and consider the kinds of oppression that are experienced by the characters in Morrison’s novel.” My initial essay prompt looked like this:

  • What kinds of oppression do black people experience when the collective voice of society tells them they must adhere to white standards of beauty?

After listening to Pimp A Butterfly and noticing connections to the unit in every song, we studied some of the tracks, (which I’ll discuss later) and I created a second, optional prompt to choose from:

  • How is the influence of the “Black Is Beautiful” cultural movement of the 1960s visible in both Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye (1970) and Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)? Consider how both authors comment on how oppression manifests itself as internalized racism.

More than half my students opted for the second prompt, even though it requires more work. They must quote from both Morrison’s novel and Kendrick’s album as evidence – and discuss that evidence at length, demonstrating how it proves a carefully constructed thesis statement. I made a pedagogical decision to provide the “edited” or “clean” lyrics to a select group of songs on the album and I even posted a link to the “edited” version on iTunes. I know most students have access to the “explicit” version, and I would have no objections if they quote from these versions, but since these students are freshmen, some of whom might have parents that object to profanity, even when it’s being used for a noble, just, and artistic cause, I decided to give them access to a version without profanity. I find it problematic to call an album like this, “dirty.” Often times, with some of my older students, and in my after-school “Hip-Hop Lit” extracurricular class, I use the unedited versions of songs to maintain their artistic integrity – or to highlight their blatant violence, misogyny, or sexism.

The politics of hip hop education are complex. Students are assigned Vonnegut for summer reading, complete with multiple uses of the word “fuck” and a voyeuristic sexual scene that makes many adults uncomfortable, but we allow this, and in fact require it, because Vonnegut is white. He’s been accepted into the literary canon, and thus, his writing is considered “high art.” Hip hop is still the subject of intense, misdirected hatred and discrimination in schools. We aren’t protecting students from vulgarity when we forbid hip hop in the classroom. We are protecting ourselves from our fears about race – while simultaneously robbing our students of authentic opportunities to think critically about the media they consume. Literacy in the 21st century means bringing all different kinds of “text” into the classroom – especially hip hop.IMG_1842

Before I assigned the second writing prompt, we did some close-listening to several songs on TPAB, specifically looking for Kendrick’s commentary on the kinds of oppression we learned about while reading The Bluest Eye. The levels of oppression that we focused on most were “internalized.” and “institutional” (there’s actually a TPAB track entitled “Institutionalized”).

The song with the most visible connections to Morrison’s novel is the track previously mentioned, titled, “Complexion (A Zulu Love),” where female MC Rapsody confesses that like Pecola, she was,”12 years of age, thinkin’ [her] shade too dark” and asks the listener, “when did you stop loving the color of your skin, color of your eyes?” In some ways, she’s speaking directly to the Pecola Breedloves of 2015, the butterflies who have been pimped into hating themselves.

Rhapsody goes on to declare, like Kendrick, “I love myself,” and encourages young black women to, “keep your head up,” because, “light don’t mean you smart, bein’ dark don’t make you stupid.”

Students pointed out that “Complexion” is about loving your skin tone, which reminded them of a video we watched in the beginning of the unit where young woman talked about bleaching her skin to appear more white. Students asked questions about the Zulus and became fascinated with the Zulu resistance to British colonialism, highlighting the counter-narrative that this song offers in response to institutional oppression.

When students listened to “King Kunta,” I showed them a clip from Roots, where 18th century slave, Kunta Kinte, who became a symbol for, “the struggle of all ethnic groups to preserve their cultural heritage,” refuses to adopt the white name of “Toby” – assigned by his white slave-master. I asked students, “why do you think he’s refusing to take the new name?” One student explained that, “Kunta” represents his identity – his African identity – it’s like what makes him who he is – and to give that up, is to give up his identity.”

After we listened to the track titled, “Institutionalized,” one of my students pointed out that her skin was like “an institution” keeping her trapped in a predetermined future, much like a correctional facility, hospital, or ghetto. She pointed to textual evidence in the song that suggests Kendrick is really talking about Compton, his hometown, as an institution, that keeps people trapped inside it, even after they’ve left. This led to a discussion about poverty as an institutional construct, rather than just a personal responsibility.

The last song we analyzed was “u.” Students noticed that Kendrick, or the speaker, seems to be talking to himself in the mirror, or at least to his inner demons, contemplating suicide. I asked them how Kendrick’s demons are similar and different to Pecola Breedlove’s demons. We considered the references to mental illness, stress, suicide, anxiety, and PTSD that surface throughout the album. These same kinds of deep, visceral responses to trauma can be seen in Morrison’s novel, as well.

My students are working on their essays now, pulling evidence from multiple sources, doing research, and looking at the relationship between two classic pieces of literature. One over 40 years old – and the other just 2 weeks young. Perhaps The Bluest Eye is like a parent to TPAB – Morrison ,a living moral ancestor to Kendrick. Educators can learn a lot from this album and its relationship to the young people in our classrooms.

[Note: To view some of the writing produced by students in this unit, read my follow-up post by clicking here]

Comments 370

  1. William Garcia

    great article. Totally agree. Although I think the same can be made with Kanye’s College Dropout even though he’s allegedly in the Dark Side now. The Kendrick-Tupac nexus is interesting although those nexuses can be made between other artists.

    1. Brian Mooney

      Thanks William! I’m totally with you regarding Kanye’s College Dropout. Even just the interludes on that album are worthy of study ! I appreciate you reading my work.

  2. Phil Freedom

    Thats fantastic. So much of the youth find little connection to the cultural artifacts of the recent past. Tying it to the present, while exploring complex themes, and how they are consistent with the expressions of the past, is commendable. You could modify this article slightly, call it a lesson plan, and share it for others. Much respect.

  3. Portal Opens

    So you’re seriously teaching a class on a mainstream pop-rap album…

    Holy shit. You could choose any other ‘modern’ album from any one of many experimental musical scenes. That might actually warrant some analysis. (For example, any of Current 93 pr Ulver’s work is much more deserving of a class taught about it than TPAB.)

    1. Jenny Death

      Obviously he could choose to study any album you dolt but he chose To Pimp a Butterfly for it’s popularity and similar topics of racism, inner beauty, self esteem, and hope. Name another modern album that has this great of scope in topics so important to the 21st Century.

      1. Portal Opens

        Right, it’s certainly popular and to an extent culturally ubiquitous, but in terms of actual compositional or thematic analysis, there are hundreds of other, more nuanced albums to choose from. Drudkh’s Forgotten Legends and King Krule’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon are two that immediately spring to mind

        TPAB is essentially just a hollow commercial op album with an artsy facade to fool posers who can’t tell the difference. Don’t let any Pitchfork bnm tell you different.

      2. raphael

        Clearly you guys need to go back to reading comprehension. Please explain how the albums you listed parallel to “The Bluest Eye”? The point of choosing a popular album that all the kids in class probably already own (1) is to parallel the stories told by each, not just highlight music that addresses societal woes. The fact that y’all find something wrong with his choice shows your close-mindedness (its easy to teach what you’re comfortable with & what you like & like to relate to) & y’all need to take y’all blue eyes to the front of the class & turn the Kendrick up. Or just find something better to do than invent tangents to complain about.

      3. Cirsova

        Frank Zappa’s Thing-Fish – covers women’s lib movement, the Tuskegee experiments, the AIDS epidemic, gay bath-house culture, deconstruction of Broadway culture, white appropriation of black culture and the possible hope that a future generation would not just appropriate but appreciate.

    2. Jamesgeedub

      You could not sound any more pretentious, and if there is an actual point in there somewhere, you’ve made sure that nobody will see it.

    3. Isabella

      just saying, I’m 18 and I go to the school he teaches at. I know what kids my age listen to and can relate to, and sorry it isn’t either of the artists you just suggested as an alternative. I’m not saying they aren’t great artists, I’m just saying that kids my age or younger probably haven’t heard of them or wouldn’t be as engaged in the lesson if Kendrick was replaced by one of them for this class. Think about the audience he’s trying to reach: Teenagers who are influenced by pop-rap like Kendrick’s music.

  4. Based God

    You should check out Lil B’s song and video “No Black Person Is Ugly.” It picks up on a lot of what you’re talking about.

  5. raphael

    As a fellow educator, an elementary music teacher, I appreciate & admire your dedication to educating, not just indoctrinating!

  6. Matt Houston

    Great job on this piece! I thoroughly enjoy exclamation, your passion for blood culture, and your ability to educate your students, tying in the great literary work with a great artistic album. I just lecture at the University of Oklahoma on Hale-Bopp and how it exploits black culture. Keep up the great work!

  7. Darryl

    I too love the album. I think its a powerful and entertaining commentary. My issue with people who are in power, white people, who share and enjoy collective privilege is that they find shelter in the strength of those who find beauty despite their oppression. Rarely, very rarely does a person of privilege take on the ugliness of their privilege. They would rather hope in the mere strength of the oppressed. Talk about the beauty of your privilege and why it is hard to let go. The white man’s burden isn’t to reteach the oppressed how to find their freedom but to let go of their collective privilege so the the oppressed can too experience privilege. I love that you are making an effort to tackle the subject of race, but don’t do it on the backs of the oppressed. I continue to be amazed, all that power, all that privilege and no courage. Take a mirror to class next time, you and a student stand in the mirror and then ask the real question, what is wrong with this picture. That’s is how you pimp a butterfly

    1. Brian Mooney

      Darryl, I really appreciate your comments – and I’m definitely open to criticism. Your response is thoughtful and honest – and it makes me think deeply about my own privilege, something I try to do often. We are all privileged in some ways, and oppressed in others. I might be privileged as a white man, but I grew up in a working class home, many years living below the poverty line, so I was oppressed by the nature of my socioeconomic status. If you are a male, then you have male privilege, regardless of race. My point is that I own my privilege, and I try to do good with it. I absolutely, in no way, take “shelter” in the suffering of others, especially my students. If you somehow came to that conclusion after reading my piece, I strongly suggest reading it again. I’ve never seen my role as an educator as “reteaching the oppressed” how to find their freedom. I’m trying to find my own freedom alongside them. I don’t believe race is a subject that can be “tackled” and I don’t attempt to check it off some list of topics that I’ve conquered. It’s a lifelong effort of seeking to understand others – instead of trying to be understood. It’s about empathy. How many white teachers will never write about race in a country whose classrooms are becoming increasingly filled with students of color? Don’t give me a badge of honor, but don’t call me a coward.

      1. Ms. J

        I think it’s even more powerful that you are white. I teach in a low income area and I think that the other white teachers are too afraid or ill equipped and chose silence. You’re amazing! Please share lesson plans!!

  8. Evette

    This is excellent. I’m an eighth grade public school teacher, and I teach an ethnic studies class that will soon be eliminated. Your piece gives me hope, and also pushes my pedagogy to be more radical. Keep up the great work!

  9. Tasha

    As much as I agree with the author and find his approach fascinating, I find his comments about Vonnegut’s writing – and a-catch-22-so- racist. “The politics of hip hop education are complex. Students are assigned Vonnegut for summer reading, complete with multiple uses of the word “fuck” and a voyeuristic sexual scene that makes many adults uncomfortable, but we allow this, and in fact require it, because Vonnegut is white.”

    Vonnegut’s work is studied and admired, or criticized not because he is just white. But rather because he is a brilliant author, who’s shared his incredibly human experiences, his vulnerabilities in such a raw, visceral way. He is universal in his subtle preaching against violence and he is about acceptance of humanity in all its forms.

    Also, it is a common practice, and is understandably so, when studying any piece of art work, that its age is taken into consideration. Something that has been created few decades ago allow some perspective that a 2 week old piece lacks. Fresh art also has some advantages – such as urgency, immediate actuality. But time tries it all.


    1. Murph

      But he is right though. With the vulgarity is his writing if he wasn’t white it wouldn’t be praised like it is. Maya Angelou and Mark Twain for example, Mark Twain’s novels which are racist and full of grammatical errors are considered masterpieces and REQUIRED readings for students still, while Maya Angelou’s work isn’t as good because her grammar is bad. Don’t be so easily offended by the truth.

      1. tabbyrenelle

        Hey… Murph,
        Mark Twain wasn’t really racist… unless you mean to the degree everyone one is and also a product of his time… he wrote about racism and classism and the privileged as well as impoverished of his time. Perhaps you misunderstood his satirical works. And Maya Angelou doesn’t have bad grammar. Perhaps you don’t comprehend poetry. A masterpiece has so little to do with punctuation… or vulgarity no matter the usage or lack thereof… A masterpiece withstands time and speaks to every generation willing to learn the language and symbols of it’s day for correct comprehension… The truth is not one thing… so why are you telling people not to be offended?

    2. Crystal L Kelley

      @ Tasha–thank you for pointing out the integrity of Vonnegut’s work. He is about “acceptance of humanity in all its forms”. While I love this article, too, I agree with your sentiments here.

  10. Trey

    Thank you for posting. This article needs to be on the front page of every newspaper in the nation. The importance of incorporating contemporary literature (TPAB) in the conversation of race is clear. Kendrick showcases the depressing reality that things haven’t changed. The oppression is on the news, in the history books, and in the music. What else does “mainstream America” need to understand their privilege?

    Looking forward to reading passages to these essays.

  11. Pingback: A blog making the interweb rounds: A unit on Kendrick Lamar and Toni Morrison | Critical Race Theory Intersectionality

  12. The Alchemist

    It wrong to center the voice of Kendrick Lamar, a black man, when the Bluest Eye deals with the abuse of a dark skinned black girl by other black people (including her black male father). You sidelined the voices of Toni Morrison and Precola to center a black man on the issue of anti-black gender colorism?

    1. tabbyrenelle

      Hi alechemist… maybe before you think this teacher is sidelining people you should just offer a syllabus of reading you’d like included? I don’t know his classroom style but I think teaching through music is crucial to contemporary learning… I like that he took Kendrick on and your argument is a good one to bring up in class… but without presuming the teacher has some agenda against you…

  13. monkeysennin

    Aspiring teacher here. I wanted to let you know this post inspired me a great deal and that I appreciate what you’re doing in the classroom.

    Call me an idealist, but we need more teachers like this in the states. Specifically, teachers who are willing to use popular culture and alternative media as tools to assist them in their lessons.

    One specific quote from this blog entry stood out to me: “Our 21st century students are great consumers. They are saturated with information, media, and layers of subtext. If we don’t ask them to critique different kinds of media, to ‘read’ the world through a critical lens, we aren’t teaching literacy at all. They must become producers of new knowledge and new understandings, new texts and new meanings.”

    I agree with this one hundred percent. Because students have to mold and adapt their lives to 21st century issues, teachers need to challenge them to be critical thinkers and study 21st century issues. It will not always be easy, and it may not even apply to what you’re teaching at the moment (e.g. teaching to the test), but, when applicable, I think it’s always worth a shot. Timing and effort are key.

    As a former public school student, I was always eager to go to English or history class because I enjoyed reading novels or learning about historical events and figures, respectively. However, I understand not every student will emulate my curiosity. Sometimes, students need to be able to personally relate to the material that they’re learning. In this sense, every individual is different and every student will have his or her particular academic needs. Sometimes, if students are not being responsive, a teacher needs to think outside the box to reach out to the students.

    Kudos to Brian Mooney; you da real mvp.

  14. Laura

    What an awesome post. This showed up on my FB feed and I’m so glad. I’m reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man right now and in one of my classes we’re watching the amazing film “The Color of Fear”, so this is all what I’ve been delving into the last few weeks. Power stuff, man. I’m so proud of my ethnicity, brown is beatiful af!

  15. Dexter

    I really enjoyed reading this. It’s the kind of education that needs to occur more often in America. I believe that your choice for the album is impeccable given that Kendrick’s album has just dropped and you all have been studying The Bluest Eye. I have not had a chance to really dig into the new kendrick lamar album just yet. But all of his work deals with similar ideas and themes with section .80 and Good Kid M.A.A.D City as well. I think a bit of the discussion was missed though (at least in the article, I may have misread and you may have had this come up in class). But the appropriation of “black culture” without the appropriation of “blackness” has to come up in discussion at some point.

    Artists like macklemore, iggy, Adele, Joss Stone, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, etc. benefit by appropriating a sect of american culture where not a lot of people “look” like them. And they see more success than practically all of their peers in terms of number 1 songs grammys etc. They are talented, but i also see a lot more freedom in what these artists do within their musical careers, and their music is much more accepted in “mainstream” america. Conversely minorities have tons of trouble attempting to “assimilate” to the american ideal where not a lot of people look like them. This juxtaposition is at least worth mentioning given the issues and themes that are being dealt with. There was a similar transition with jazz culture back in the early 20th century. I’m not in your classroom, but it sounds like it’s worth mentioning that white men and women see much more opportunity and freedom when entering a minority dominated field whereas, when reversed, the same is in large part not the case.

  16. Crystal L Kelley

    There’s so much I’d like to say in response and on so many levels. What a beautiful post that continues a necessary conversation. My love for writing, Toni Morrison and teaching are all intertwined. I strive everyday to bring real and profound connections to literature for my students. Fantastic job! Thank you for sharing this.

  17. Geraldine

    I love what you’re doing here! Awareness! Im currently dissecting TPAB and writing about it (and other hip hop) for my thesis paper. I might be citing you in it:)

  18. danie266

    I truly appreciate your ability to incoperatre critical pedagody into your work as an educator. I am originally from Lorain, Ohio (same hometown of Toni Morrison) and I think her Novel that you assigned students to read is a great representation of the enviroment most young people within similar communities experience. As a graduate student, I attempt to incorperate learning more about using a critical lens as an educator and helping students to develop their own critical lenses as learners. I believe that your approach of paralleling Kendrick’s album, To Pimp a Butterfly, is a beautiful representation of Sandlin, Wright and Clark’s (2013) concept of public pedagogy being intertwined into a classroom setting to help students understand how their consumption of media can perpetuate systems of oppression. Drennon (2003) also discussed a very similar attempt to bring about issues of power, race and class into her educational enviroment.

    These are just a few resources that may be useful in future explorations of using popular/current media in your pedagogical practices.

    P.S. I agree with your point of not missing the opportunity to use a resource in TPAB with everything going on in our society regarding race relations, police brutality and continued dominant groups perpetuation systems of oppression through other avanues of popular media. Kendrick’s album does a brilliant job of challenging self-shamming, mental health stigmas, community relations and many more social systemic ideas.

    Job Well Done sir!

  19. S.H.

    I wish just one of my English classes had looked like this. Toni Morrison AND Kendrick Lamar? My English teachers seemed to thing my presence was enough blackness for the room 🙁 Its a beautiful novel, and now I think I’ll have to go give the album a listen.

    Sounds like an interesting class and a great teacher. Hope your students are enjoying!

  20. justkane

    This post is inspiring, as a person and an aspiring professor. I wish more teachers today were as thoughtful about the long term effects they will have on their students. Teaching for the future, informing about the now and educating about the past. Thank you, truly, for your willingness to share.

  21. Ken Gray

    Last name of Gray must be a person of color.This makes me feel very gay or should l say happy. This world full of labels has drifted from what once was considered sound doctrine that stated judge lest be judged. No one should apoligise for whom the Creator has made them. Isn’t that what this is ? A discovery of what that is to the fullest extent. Then enjoying the diversity. Just one point, what is yours?….Ken

  22. jen

    I love that you have an after school Hip Hop Lit class. You’re connecting on a level that will keep your students engaged and will make a lasting impact on their lives. Thank you for being an outside the box thinking teacher.

  23. Symone Shinton

    You are the sort of teacher that gives me hope that this system is not all bad. Thank you for your open mind and fresh insight in an educational atmosphere that has become so politically correct and inhibitive of intellectual growth. Keep up the good work. You have some powerful, insightful young adults. Thank you for taking their education and wellbeing seriously.

  24. Isabella

    As a student who attends the school that Mr. Mooney (the author of this article) teaches at, I was so amazed to read this. Unfortunately I’m graduating in a few months and have never taken his class, but I’m so glad that reading this was like taking a little class from him. although my parents are Hispanic, not African, my skin is still very dark just like my eyes and my curly hair. I want years thinking I was less beautiful than all of my white friends who were constantly getting more attention than me.
    This article was really inspirational and to anyone who knocks down Mr. Mooney’s choice of Kendrick’s album and thinks he should have chosen from on the other 100s of hip hop albums, I think you are missing the point entirely. As an 18 year old I can testify that most kids my age are fans of Kendrick, have listened to his album, and would be very excited if any teacher would incorporate his music into learning in class. Choosing any other artist from a different time period would have defeated a large part of the purpose of Mr. Mooney’s choice. like, get out lol.
    mooney, you’re great! I only hear great things from all of your students and I wish I had the chance to experience your class.
    keep doing what you do, unfortunately a lot of kids my age don’t know anything about what you just wrote. You’re honestly changing lives.

  25. Pingback: Kendrick Lamar Review Royale: To Pimp a Butterfly | Little by Listen

  26. Jordan Allen

    Mr. Mooney!!!
    I’m Jordan sophomore class.
    English teacher Mr.Gutmann
    This is amazing, what a great article! This is perfect you are truly so insightful although I love Mr. Gutmann I would love to be in your class to discuss these racial topics and issues. Your truly one of the best teachers ever!

    P.S. Props to you for creating Word Up I refuse to miss even one! Your an inspiration!

  27. Dr.Passport_P

    Such an incredible article. I hope you reach the masses. I wish we could partner up in some way. I’m a clinical psychologist but hip-hop is my first love.

  28. Sean

    Thank you, Brian. This is incredibly inspiring! I teach in a very racially diverse school and attempt to tackle the issues you are grappling with so beautifully. I am especially inspired by your message of turning the tough, dark stuff into hope. THANK YOU! In solidarity.

  29. Ben Garrison

    Absolutely disgusting article. How dare the author claim whiteness is not beautiful than advocates “black” is beautiful. This entire body of text is all about how whites are lesser than blacks. The truth is, the European culture is superior. Why? When Europeans first came to Africa, they saw the blacks as barbarians in how they conducted their activities. They saw the slavery and perpetual tribalistic war that went on, so they conquered and brought order. They allocated the resources to build magnificent civilizations. When the blacks became in control of their own land again, they ran it into the ground, into the horrid place we know as Africa today. Furthermore, it is perposterous to use this ghetto “hip hop” rap in a place of education. That music supports hedonism, self destruction, harm, and more, it is amazing how this teacher thinks it’s a positive influence for youth. I also believe that, if whites are “so bad”, the author should refuse to use anything made by a white man and live like the traditional and “superior” black. Black people aren’t all bad, some can become respectable with the correct sociocultural environment. However, thanks to the media propogating the “thug” stereotype most blacks become criminals.

    1. Laura

      No one is really saying that “black is more beautiful”. It’s showing us that in our society being white is seen as being beautiful rather than just loving who you are. We live in a society where they even show you, on tv, social media and what not, that being white is more beautiful and more powerful.
      This article is about the inequality that is still very present and the struggle that black people have to go through everyday to make them feel good about themselves and confident with all the standards telling them not to (working with the album TPAB).
      If you find this article “disgusting” then you lack of compassion. He is trying to teach their students to think critically and that black is as beautiful as white, nothing else. And don’t say anything about history because THAT is disgusting.

    2. Nigel

      This person really does not know history. You said that Africa is full of savages and uncivilized people and the europeans were all that then how can you explain the pyramids in Egypt ? the great civilizations and not even high educated scholars can fully explain all this? Africa is full of savages? Like Damien Marley said ” Some of the smartes dummies cant even explain the language of Egyptian mummies”!

    3. dalia

      you’re obviously racist and incredibly stupid in the head. and probably religious.
      this is coming from a white person btw.

    4. USCMarathoner28

      I found your comment rather entertaining. I got a great idea to help you! Put yourself in the place of the people you are making fun of and reread what you wrote. Then see how you feel after reading it. Chances are you feel nothing because you are an inconsiderate a-hole. So what other civilization/race are you going to bash on next?

  30. Gen Barrison

    Yet another dose of liberal white guilt from the cultural marxists that are parroting slogans and phrases their jewish community college professors indoctrinated them with.


  31. Vino

    I think this is a wonderful thing you’re doing. And I personally think TPAB can teach us ( humans not just blacks) a lot. I’ve listened yo it maybe 20 times or more and still haven’t fully digested it.

  32. Charity Sapphire

    What an amazing read. I absolutely love Toni Morrison and Kendrick Lamar and would have loved to do a comparative analysis of these two works when I was in AP English. How lucky of your students to have a professor who is so keenly in touch with the past and the present and how to make these connections in a way that actually makes students LEARN the lessons and not just the material. Very well done and I applaud your mind and love for scholarship!

  33. jenmarie25

    I absolutely love this blog!!! This is what more schools should be teaching. The media plays such a big part of our culture and its nice to see you taking it and relating it to the history of our culture. Helping kids see in context the troubles of the past are still here. To hopefully start making positive changes for the future! Applause to you!!!!

  34. jbmoragne

    Yes Yes Yes !!! Now this is a class that we need more now than ever! Great job! I really commend you for opening your students eyes and exploring something different !

  35. zoralola

    I love this connection. Wow. I’m going to go re read The Bluest Eye and listen to HTPB. I am not going to answer the questions. Well maybe I will as an exercise, lol. I love this conversation. Great job. Your students are so lucky.

  36. vnp1210

    Very very interesting! You sound like a fantastic teacher with fantastic students. I read a few of Morrison’s novels when I was young, but I fear I may have been too young to truly appreciate them and want to re-read them. Great post, thanks!

  37. Esther.

    This is awesome. So many people listen to the music and not so much the lyrics. Although a lot of hip hop today does not contain much substance, there are still a few artists that never fail to deliver REAL music. Kendrick is certainly one. Music that makes you think, opens your mind, and contains a certain level of depth. Kudos to you for making the connection and making it an amazing learning experience. We need more teachers such as yourself today.

  38. l.e.s.8.7.6

    Really great post. Oh how I would love to be apart of your classes. Im a communication arts student and I just finished a course called Studies in Culture and just reading your post, was better than the 4months I sat in that studies in culture class room for lol. Thumbs up

  39. pjwmia

    I sincerely appreciate what you are saying and trying to do as an educator. As someone who lived through the civil rights movement, Black Power, Black Is Beautiful and the various activities, music and the 60’s and 70’s actions, I will say there have been changes for the better as a society. However the 80’s and beyond have in some ways stopped progress and even reversed it. Ferguson, Cleveland, New York, Florida are not the exceptions but too often the accepted action. These may be incidents involving police but the attitude is not unique to them. Their actions generate outrage because of the physical violence. Many of our elected officials including as you referenced the U.S. Supreme Court believe that racism is over or at least want to make that claim to justify their own beliefs. After a long winded preface I don’t think that quality literature and Hip Hop are timely enough. These attitudes are ingrained long before college. I praise what you are doing. These students need to understand the extent of Racism and how pervasive it can be and not just out of the barrel of a gun. Their beliefs need to change and they need to take that attitude and message with them from your class. They need to formulate beliefs that work to end Racism and then speak it, yell it, fight for it and vote for people who agree.

  40. davebarclay1954

    Reblogged this on barclaydave and commented:
    Racism is still flourishing in America? Surely this has to be stopped sooner people. History teaches us that “white” is bland, nature shows that we need colour in our lives. Speak out against injustice whenever and wherever we find it!

  41. QueenOfWTLGL

    You are an extremely bright individual and I think that your story deserves so much attention. I don’t know how many times I rant and rave about the school system not teaching our kids anything valuable anymore and finally, here you are, a teacher who applies current situations that prodimenantly still haunt our history in the past. Its time to revolutionize the way we teach history and stop being so text book. I found your article to be very refreshing and enlightening and you are right. WHAT IF she had inspirational words like Kendrick Lamar’s I or other inspiring words and examples that we have today. What if Mr. Luther King could have heard the Glory song from Glory. That is why I constantly try and inspire children of the new millennium to take advantage of the information that we have now as well as the steps that we as a nation have stepped forward. We aren’t where we should be but with Teachers like you, we will be. This is a beautiful thing. I would love to guest blog your story!! Your lesson deserves to be shared and heard and even set as an example. We need to start teaching life and that’s exactly what your doing. God bless you!! If your interested please let me know. Either way, your amazing.

  42. theresacaveat

    It’s wildly important that students understand concepts such as the ones you discuss in your post. Letting students, such as myself, develop their own pov is what will help them find their identity and learn to appreciate. Great post

  43. Jannah As My Goal

    An admirable approach to education… I really like comparative literature as a means to explore complex issues and love how you have engaged your students; making the text relatable and facilitating their independent responses… teaching them ‘how’ not ‘what’ to think-refreshing and very nicely written.

  44. Mariama

    “Our 21st century students are great consumers. They are saturated with information, media, and layers of subtext. If we don’t ask them to critique different kinds of media, to “read” the world through a critical lens, we aren’t teaching literacy at all. They must become producers of new knowledge and new understandings, new texts and new meanings.” Beautifully said. Thank you for this great article.

  45. Pingback: weekly wrap-up: vol. 3 | melissa in d.c.

  46. Ashley

    Amazing!! Truly inspiring, grasping the attention of students with modern day connections- I love the history remaking itself in other avenues thank u

  47. ntokozoblaze

    Brian. All the way from South Africa, i say Thank you for regarding hip hop as literature which most ‘intelligent’ people overlook. There should be more teachers like you, the world would be a better place. Students would actually be interested in learning… In hip hop terms… Much respect

  48. Maitreya Buddha

    If only rap as an art form would actually reach to the beautiful hights of Sir Mix A Lot I would be a listener and not always have to use the delete button. As a graffit artist wrote, “Art is not a crime”, an intelligent person added “but poor grafitti is”. It is sadly the same with rap most of the time.

  49. katherinejlegry

    Here’s a link to a really interesting essay written by a teacher that seems to be doing the same thing… and besides talking about Kendrick Lamar his essay is littered with a substantial book list that black students recommended but most white curriculums do not include or have not heard of. It talks about rap as poetry and how if we overlook how many kids are excited to be writing via rap lyrics we are missing the most important poets of our time…

    I’m glad you are a Teacher! 🙂

  50. 8 Arms & Counting

    Reblogged this on 8 Arms & Counting and commented:
    A great way an educator took a spin on current events relating it to history. I loved how he was able to grasp the the thoughts of young people on a level that they understand and enjoy. Thinking outside of the box is the way to go. Developing new ways to educate is the way to go.

  51. Dozie

    Reblogged this on RO's BLOG and commented:
    Good day guys,
    I’m not one to reblog posts but I want you all to take out time and read this. It’s lengthy I know, but I think it’s worth your time.
    In the love for hip hop,
    Your very own
    Ro the rapper.

  52. mellyramirez

    If I had a class like this and a professor with such insight such as yourself I would like to think that I would be more willing and understanding of the race issues that plague our society. I have a broad generalized idea of everything and have experienced first hand everything you touch on, but to put it so eloquently into words is sure to make someone passionate about a cause. Great post sir, and I will be picking up a copy of The Bluest Eye, for you have piqued my interest. Thank you for my daily dose of eye opening words. 🙂

          1. mellyramirez

            No, I would listen to someone teach a subject which they are passionate about if it was a very real issue. Perhaps you missed the point but it wasn’t about the rapper, but his message and the message of others. Perhaps I interpreted something different, perhaps I have a different perspective, perhaps its my choice to have my opinions despite yours. What upset you so much you that you felt the need to attempt and belittle me?

          2. Wilson

            Well i didnt mean to belittle you personally but i can be passionate about silly putty but that doesnt make it a topic worth intellectual study.

          3. Wilson

            Well i dont know? Since were shifting to the Socratic method why are you passionate about a class that you know is dumb but wont admit?

          4. mellyramirez

            Your POV. I don’t know it’s “dumb”, never took it, merely expressed interest, I don’t see why that bothers you. I’m comfortable with my opinions, yes, mine. Did it ever cross your mind that for a second my personal life experiences influenced my own personal thoughts and beliefs? That these words spoke to something you would never in a million years comprehend? I don’t have whatever intellect you claim, I’m not some self proclaimed expert on intellectual matters, just a reader, who enjoys reading and sharing, and listening. I don’t intend to push my thoughts or beliefs on others and this includes you. Believe and feel however you want sir, the fact still is that I enjoyed this, and I would love to hear a passionate person teach a positive subject, Whoever that may turn out to be, a rapper, a professor, a child, an old man, you learn from everyone.

    1. tabbyrenelle

      Hi Melly Ramirez, I’m really sorry to introduce myself to you this way, but I feel like I should, for your own personal protection. Wilson is a known rape-culture troll and he is “mocking” you… You handled him just fine in a totally civilized manner, but I thought you might want to know about his past online abuses towards women.

      this is just one article where within the comment sections you’ll see how he purposefully attacks women:

      Anyhow, I thought this was a good teacher (Brian Mooney) and his article about hip hop in the classroom too… so peace.

  53. runinourshoes

    As a student, we don’t always fully grasp impacted ideas until they are presented in subjects and topics we can apply to our modern world. This is a great way to apply music and literature to have a student think more openly!

  54. Pingback: Why I Dropped Everything And Started Teaching Kendrick Lamar’s New Album | Righting Wrongful Sentencing of Juveniles

  55. sixteendreams

    It is so refreshing to see this. TPAB preaches so many truths about societal tendencies and cultural oppressions, as well as the beauty of humans (but also our faults). Sometimes it’s hard to sit in a classroom that has no relation to or discussion about the realities of the world, but you have brought those events inside of your classroom and have made learning for your students tangible. As a student, thank you!

  56. ketaninkorea

    Nice post!! I enjoyed it! It was insightful and asked many well-thought critical questions for students to answer. I have always wanted to use music in my classroom like this, but I struggle to find time or lesson when I can. Keep up the good work!

  57. DQ

    I’m a hispanic college student who grew up on hip-hop and till this day there’s not a lot I understand about where the culture of hip-hop originates from. When Kendrick Lamar’s album it took a while for me to find the concept of the album itself because I simply didn’t understand. So I sat down and researched it for hours! I came to the conclusion that hip-hop was formed by pain from people who were just trying to express themselves. Fighting for what we believe in and it correlates exactly with the civil rights movement. I’m glad you’ve showed your students this because most of the time we never get the right information in school to become better people. Thank you for the insight!

  58. inidna

    Reading this made me wish that I had a class like yours and a teacher like you when I was attending school. You sound like the brilliant teacher that all students love because you’re fun and engaging and allow them to really express themselves through forms that are ‘modern’ – at least, that’s what I’m taking away from this post. This was a really fantastic and eye-opening post and it makes me want to go out and read that book and listen to that album. Thanks for sharing!

  59. Pingback: Great Blog with potential Hip Hop kendrick-lamars-new-album links to Discovery AoS narrative ideas… | daretodiscover2015

  60. novieblendz845

    Reblogged this on Novie Blendz and commented:
    Great Piece and Analogy brought up in Kendrick Lamars’ Album “To Pimp A Butterfly”. This Proves Yet again how very Powerful and influential music truly is. With That Said, check out this piece by Brian Mooney and you will definitely learn Something!

  61. smthnbeautiful

    Interesting piece! I’m glad you were able to challenge the students in a way to help them see the hidden meanings behind the mass definition of beauty and the destruction it can create at the same time.

  62. aknleon

    There’s a saying, “When a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world.”

    There are more than 15000 species of butterfly, which ones do we know exist? Which butterfly flutter in your mind?

    I think of human trafficking/slavery when I hear “pimp a butterfly”. Targeting the most delicate and vulnerable…

    Slavery can be dated back as early as 3000 BC. Women, children and men (the “blind ones”) who were at the very bottom of the hierarchy were sold. Butterflies are delicate and yet, a monarch butterfly for example, can travel as far as 2800 miles. If we look at the ones that are in the hands of human trafficking at a glimpse, what do we see? It takes real strength and adaptation to survive the circumstances they are in. Butterflies indeed.

    Butterfly= spirituality

    The message I got from Lamar’s album is to not sell yourself short to anyone or for anything.

  63. Victoria

    Wow, amazing. How inspiring that you’re able to bridge two seemingly different texts together – I’m glad there are teachers like you out there. I’m excited that many of your students chose the second prompt. Keep it up!

  64. Andrew

    We need more teachers like you in this world. My highschool career would have been far better if I was taught by someone like you. Someone who is in touch with current and relevant content/topics that our generation can closely relate to, as well as history. You hit the nail on the head with this. amazing!

    1. katherinejlegry

      Howdy Wilson… Long time no “see”. I know you don’t understand rap… from your comments… and so teaching it with other authors seems “not worth the money” but I also know you like James Baldwin… so you have a wee bit intellectual curiosity… so take this essay on… and find out why it’s legit. You don’t have to like the music. But to be fair, give this essay a chance and then decide:

      Peace Wilson. KJ

      1. tabbyrenelle

        Hey… kj… That Wilson person isn’t going to listen in any real way about the topic… he’s too busy flirting and with younger girls than him. Remember? He told you once he was an “old frat boy” and so he’s just testing “pretty girls” (which he told you were the only ones he bothers to talk to) on this site to see if they have an “opinion” that they can defend. He likes messing with heads. Not in a “serious harm kind of way” he’ll say, but always taking a jab. So, I mean who the F**K cares if he “likes” her after she defended this blog author? He’s just “fishing” so don’t bother with him any more. Seriously. Not worth your time. Just a thought. 🙂 seee ya.

        1. katherinejlegry

          Hi TRE, uh… yeah well Wilson is just the beginning of why I stopped blogging actually. He does have the ability to troll when he wants and my PTSD triggered during my first encounters with his casual his comments about serious topics, but I always felt he had potential to grow… he was honest about that frat mentality and about getting caught up in it and not considering it’s effect.

          What he doesn’t get about rap is that the whole hip hop culture talks from a reference of post traumatic stress. And he can’t go into other people’s trauma… at least not easily, so he “mocks” it or belittles it. And he can do this because he’s really operating from a more privileged space. So “of course” he doesn’t think he wants this author/teacher making money on “empathy” as if teachers make a bunch of money anyhow…

          But regardless, and not to bad mouth Wilson behind his back… he placed himself in this forum and in some way gave himself a chance to learn about rather than preach to them about adversity, hip hop, black people, students, teens, women, etc. (or not… )and the link I provided is an excellent one. I like to give Wilson the benefit of the doubt because he has potential.

          But thanks for your protectiveness.

          1. tabbyrenelle

            I dunno… after all the videos of the frat boys recently singing racist songs

            and after Wilson was badgering women on the site about the frat-rape-Rollingstone reporting

            and after Wilson flirted with a black woman who was talking about body image, and began a competition between “skinny” and “shapely” and had to remark on his “preferences”

            and after Wilson went after a women who had been through domestic violence

            I KINDA think he’s a red flag for women and people of color and not at all interested in growing or learning… and his potential is stunted by his own choice.

            So… fair warning to all and to Wilson…

        1. katherinejlegry

          I didn’t block you, Wilson…I called you out on a post where you were going after a writer for interpreting the feelings of a rape victim. And the rape survivors mother had to tell you to be sensitive too. As well as you were hounding women on a domestic violence site. As wel as you were going after women on a site about body image…. You finally admitted you took it too far “sometimes” because of being an old frat boy. You NEVER apologize for harming people’s feelings, you say to “lighten up” or that you never meant to…

          Now you’re here harassing a young woman whom you are too old for… you shouldn’t be going to sites purposely to attack women, Wilson. You’re a predator and it’s nothing to LOL about. You’re always the one making jokes about rape and minimizing violence against women.

          I’m not the only ONE who has called you out.

          And YOU know nothing about teaching or hip hop.

          I’m not going to talk to you anymore like you are a normal human. From now on… I will spot your dumb-ass and tell the authors you’re a troll who wants to undermine women.

          1. Wilson

            Im sure you will but what you dont realize is that i dont care. You can lash out like an irrational child all you want. You view disagreement as harrassment which is your problem not mine. The unfortunate thing is there is a dedicated echo chamber that you sound off in and that will never allow to understand how dumb you sound.

          2. tabbyrenelle

            Wilson, she’s not lashing out at you. You have actively sought out sites to harass women. I’ve read your words all over the place and you’re not contributing to any of the discussions. You go where you already disagree and harbor prejudices to tell the authors that they are stupid or shouldn’t teach or to make fun of people or whatever, but you have never once lent anything smart to your discussions. So Katherine’s right, you are a predator and your behavior is inappropriate on this site for and with young girls. This is a high school teacher’s blog. Students and teachers need to be aware of what you are and how you perpetuate online abuses. That you have been so obvious about laughing at rape and that you don’t care if you disturb women regarding RAPE demonstrates you are the one lashing out. We just want you to stop harassing women all over the blog-o-sphere, Wilson. It’s really not to much to ask.

          3. tabbyrenelle

            You should not think. You’re not good at it.

            You should not speak freely, Wilson. You should not feel free.

            You try to take away freedom wherever you troll against women.

            You have no reverence. You have no humility. You have no respect.

            You have nothing to contribute.

            I’m serious. You’d know if I was joking.

          4. tabbyrenelle

            The teacher/author of the blog wrote: “My freshmen students were devastated when Pecola was raped and impregnated by her own father. Many school districts ban the novel for the graphic images depicting this scene.”

            I’m pretty sure people care there is a rape-culture troll like you among them. But now I’m done responding to you. This is good enough to let them know.

    2. katherinejlegry

      Common Behaviors and Characteristics of Sexual Offenders

      Most sexual offenders think about their crimes ahead of time. Sexual assault is rarely an impulsive act although sometimes sex offenders take advantage of opportunity to offend. Offenders most often know their victims and use these relationships to set up situations in which a chosen victim can be sexually assaulted. Sexual assaults can involve physical violence, threats, or overpower- ing. In other cases victims go along with the assaults because they are afraid to resist or to try to get away.

      Planning and manipulating relationships over time to commit sexual offenses is called grooming. In these situations victims may come to believe that they are responsible for what happened even though this is never true. After the assaults, offenders often threaten, pressure or use guilt to keep victims from telling anyone.

      How Offenders Justify Their Behavior

      Offenders may justify their behavior in several ways:

      Denial is used by offenders to avoid facing the consequences of their actions. Denial means that offenders refuse to admit to others or sometimes even to themselves that they have committed sexual assaults. They may say, “It’s a lie. I never did it,” or “That wasn’t really rape, she agreed to it.”

      Rationalizing involves blaming the victim, other people or circumstances. Typical thoughts are, “It wasn’t my fault, she led me on”, “he didn’t fight back” or “I didn’t know what I was doing, I had too much alcohol…” These are ways of placing responsibility on someone or something else.

      Minimizing is used by offenders to deny the seriousness of the acts or the harm done to the victims. “It wasn’t that bad – he liked it,” or “I didn’t really hurt her.” By minimizing their actions, offenders try to make it seem as though what they did was not such a big deal.

      Common Conditions Which Contribute to Sexual Offending

      Several conditions can contribute to the likelihood of sexual offending. Typically a case involves a combination of factors and circumstances. It is important to understand that sex offenders always make a choice when they commit sexual offenses no matter what the reasons are that go into why they did it. They decide to act even though they know it is wrong. Nothing a victim does can make a person commit a sexual offense.

      Feeling Motivated –Offenders often have abnormal or unusual sexual interests. They may be sexually attracted to children or young teenagers. It does not bother them to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to.

      Antisocial Attitudes – Some offenders believe it is acceptable to take advantage of other people or break the law. They may not understand or care about the feelings of others and put what they want first.

      Background of Offender – Some people who have been abused, mistreated or neglected develop negative feelings and beliefs about themselves and others. They may try to gain control over their lives or relieve emotional pain through abusive sexual behavior towards others.

      Lack of External Controls –Offenders create situations that give them the opportunity to offend and where there is little chance of being caught. In the case of child molesters, they may put themselves in situations where they are alone with and have control over children. Rapists will often get victims away from friends or in isolated situations.

      Vulnerable Victims – Although the responsibility for sexual offending is always with offenders, rapists and child molesters may look for vulnerable people to victimize. Victims can be vulnerable because they are young, have a disability or are impaired in some way. People can be victimized because they are alone in an isolated area, asleep, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering from emotional problems. Offenders want victims who cannot protect themselves.

  65. Pingback: 21st Century Literacy Album by Kendrick Lamar | NEW MUSIC

  66. Pingback: Wilson Said: “Lol. Yeah long time. Weren’t you the one who blocked me for being a potential rapist?” | Tabby Ren Elle

  67. Pingback: Part 2: High School Students Write Essays on Kendrick Lamar’s album, To Pimp A Butterfly | Brian Mooney

  68. tendrilwise

    Two things that resonated most:

    “If we don’t ask them to critique different kinds of media, to “read” the world through a critical lens, we aren’t teaching literacy at all.”

    “We aren’t protecting students from vulgarity when we forbid hip hop in the classroom. We are protecting ourselves from our fears about race.”


  69. holisticgenesis

    Reblogged this on Holistic Genesis and commented:
    “Butterflies are so beautiful, they can’t be made any more so. They can’t be manipulated, exploited, controlled, or confined. So why does America keep trying to do these same things to people of color? Why does America keep trying to pimp the butterfly? Surely we must know by now, the Civil Rights Movement was a metamorphoses from which we emerged into a colorblind, post-racial springtime, shedding the cocoon of Jim Crow, right?”

  70. skaybae

    Awesome post!
    I’ve been listening to TPAB nonstop since its release and was able to make some more connections to it through reading this. Also, really innovative of you to incorporate the album into your classroom teachings – I only wish that more teachers would think critically like this. Hip-hop culture is huge with my generation and there should be someone to teach them how to listen and understand what the artist is saying. Especially now.

  71. Pingback: Kendrick Lamar’s Album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ Is Being Taught In The Classroom | Helen Success

  72. Pingback: Kendrick Lamar’s Album ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ Is Being Taught In The Classroom | Helen Success

  73. whiterabt

    The world is a better place because you are in it. Thank you for approaching one of the most tense and impossible conflicts with courage and equal vibrato to anyone else contributing to the ever-evolving issue of racism in America.

    I believe racism is no less prevalent or relevant now than it was when Kunta lost his leg or Blue Eyes lost her mind. It just looks different now. Technology has made it much harder for marginalization and oppression to occur in a vacuum by exposing it without prejudice to anyone that has an internet connection. We have more power to turn racism on its head than ever before because it’s visible to everyone. People that can change history and publicly articulate how they’ve been personally affected by social injustices are their numbers are growing exponentially. Those who are deaf, dumb or blind are willfully ignorant.

    Everyone experiences marginalization at some point in their lives, and we’re wasting time getting hung up on things we already know to be given. Racism is alive and kicking, and bigotry exists on all sides of the issue.

    Why are people wasting time tearing this very insightful and timely allegory apart with criticism of irrelevant details? Perhaps because your privilege is getting in the way of seeing how insignificant your personal feelings about hip hop as a valid art form or misrepresentation of Vonnegut as an author are?

    You’re. Missing. The. Point. And it’s totally expected of you. It wouldn’t be privilege if you didn’t have the right to inappropriately assume higher moral ground about something and spend your days defending that right all over the internet. The cool thing about privilege though, is that enough of you have a choice to turn apathy into curiosity and join the conversation about how you impact or are you personally affected by any and all aspects of the issue. You also have the right to just listen. Use your privilege to change your mind, and help others do the same. Knowingly using your privilege any other way is to acknowledge that you either don’t care that people are suffering, or even worse, that you enjoy causing others pain.

    Cheers to you friend, for giving the gift of knowledge to our youth with a vessel they can relate to powerfully enough to create change instead of just desiring it. Kendrick Lamar is a brilliant mind and musician. He may be among fleeting popular culture for some, but he represents things that are good and true and timeless both at face value and translated a dozen times over. Be good to yourself and each other. Everyone has to have a voice in this thing to make forward strides.


    The definition of genius, as argued by scholars, needs redefining to include women and people of color. In fact there are more geniuses than science has predicted living within our population. RAP artists have always described their music as being a report intended to expose those outside the Hip Hop culture, to harsh realities of the society we live in. Thank you for sharing such thought provoking content. @Ab2Create

  75. armenia4ever

    “Our 21st century students are great consumers. They are saturated with information, media, and layers of subtext. If we don’t ask them to critique different kinds of media, to “read” the world through a critical lens, we aren’t teaching literacy at all. They must become producers of new knowledge and new understandings, new texts and new meanings.”

    That’s a very good point, but also an observation we should find problematic, considering the critical lens you are providing them with holds a specific narrative.

    Granted all types of “education” are form of indoctrination – some which are publicly funded – why on advancing a curriculum infused with this kind of worldview that is taught to high-school students? (Education can never be neutral.) Now, I actually had to read “Beloved” for an American Literature course, but that was in college.

    Disclosure – I’m opposed to most “social justice” theory, but I’m more curious as to why you think this is a beneficial approach to education, rather then why I personally believe it to be a bad idea.

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  80. Jonathan

    I am a teacher (of English as a Foreign Language), and I’d stay I work hard to find texts that stimulate my students and lead to wider appreciations than that of merely the language I am teaching; but your work is simply outstanding. Not just for the issues of injustice that it raises quite excellently, but for sheer imagination, passion, and engagement… superb teaching. Superb. The world needs more teachers like you.

  81. Pingback: Why Schools Should Include Hip-Hop In The Curriculum | Brian Mooney

  82. elizalilysmiles

    Reblogged this on elizalilysmiles and commented:
    This made my day and it didn’t. To see the enlightenment in modern students is whelming. To see that their minds aren’t clouded like many. However, seeing that most saw no hope or change is just, well it’s heartbreaking. Everyone must read this.

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  84. katherinejlegry

    Since you are a teacher and also complicit as a blog author when men harass women and laugh at rape I thought you and the young women and the rape culture bi standers need this info. Toni Morrison talks about rape right? And it made your students uncomfortable… well it’s not enough to talk about it in books. As a teacher you need a higher code. You need some reaction skills. And to teach them…

    SAR Understanding Predatory Nature Sexual Violence

    by David Lisak

    The following link is for the full/original article that contains the information (edited) below.

    …Terms such as “acquaintance rape” and “date rape” emerged and took hold.

    Unfortunately, these new terms have created a new mythology about sexual assault. The term “date rape,” which has become woven into the fabric of public discourse about sexual violence, carries with it the connotation of “rape lite.” Victims of”date rape” are typically viewed as less harmed than victims of “stranger rape”; and “date rapists” are typically viewed as less serious offenders, and frankly less culpable than stranger rapists. Date rape is often viewed more in traditionally civil than in traditionally criminal terms; that is, as an unfortunate encounter in which the two parties share culpability because of too much alcohol and too little clear communication. When jurors in a criminal case adopt this view, they are likely to apportion blame to both parties, and are thereby less likely to find the defendant guilty (Estrich, 1987).

    This gap began to close with research that began in the mid-1980s and focused on non-incarcerated rapists. Researchers discovered that it was possible to gather accurate data from these men because they did not view themselves as rapists. They shared the very widespread beliefthat rapists were knife-wielding men in ski masks who attacked strangers; since they did not fit that description, they were not rapists and their behavior was not rape. This has allowed researchers to study the motivations, behaviors, and background characteristics o f these so-called “undetected rapists.”

    Motivations and Characteristics. Many of the motivational factors that were identified in incarcerated rapists have been shown to apply equally to undetected rapists. When compared to men who do not commit sexual assault, these undetected rapists are measurably more angry at women, more motivated by the need to dominate and control women, more impulsive and disinhibited in their behavior, more hyper-masculine in their beliefs and attitudes, less empathic, and more antisocial (Lisak & Ivan, 1995; Lisak & Roth, 1988, 1990; Malamuth, 1986: Malamuth et al., 1991; Ouimette & Riggs, 1998).

    In the course o f 20 years of interviewing these undetected rapists, in both research and forensic settings, it has been possible for me to distill some of the common characteristics of the modus operandi of these sex offenders. These undetected rapists:

    • Are extremely adept at identifying “likely” victims, and testing prospective victims’ boundaries;

    • Plan and premeditate their attacks, using sophisticated strategies to groom their victims for attack, and to isolate them physically;

    • Use “instrumental” not gratuitous violence; and they exhibit strong impulse control and use only as much violence as is needed to terrify and coerce their victims into submission;

    • Use psychological weapons power, control, manipulation, and threats backed up by physical force, and almost never resort to weapons such as knives or guns;

    • Use alcohol deliberately to render victims more vulnerable to attack, or completely unconscious.

    Serial and Crossover Offending.

    The data most emphatically contradicts the mythology about date rapists, namely, the misconception that they are somehow less serious offenders than their counterparts who attack strangers. In fact, the findings from recent studies indicate that these men are as likely to be serial and multifaceted offenders as are incarcerated rapists.

    To illustrate, in a study of 1,882 university men conducted in the Boston area, 120 rapists were identified. These 120 undetected rapists were responsible for 483 rapes. Of the 120 rapists, 44 had committed a single rape, while 76 (63% of them) were serial rapists who accounted for 439 of the 483 rapes, averaging six rapes each. These 76 serial rapists had also committed more than 1,000 other crimes of violence, from non-penetrating acts of sexual assault, to physical and sexual abuse of children, to battery of domestic partners. None of these undetected rapists had ever been prosecuted for these crimes (Lisak & Miller, 2002).

    A recent study of US Navy recruits replicated these findings. Of 1,146 men assessed, 13% acknowledged having committed rapes. Of these rapists, 71% were serial offenders who committed an average of six sexual assaults (MeWhorter et al., 2009).

    Implications for University Communities

    The implications of the research on undetected rapists research that has largely focused on men in college environments point to the similarity of these offenders to incarcerated rapists. They share the same motivational matrix of hostility, anger, dominance, hyper-masculinity, impulsiveness, and antisocial attitudes. They have many of the same developmental antecedents. They tend to be serial offenders, and most of them commit a variety of different interpersonal offenses. These data indicate that they are accurately and appropriately labeled as predators.

    This picture conflicts sharply with the widely-held view that sexual assaults com- mitted on university campuses are typically the result of a basically “decent” youngman who, were it not for too much alcohol and too little communication, would never do such a thing. While some campus sexual assaults do fit this more benign view, the evidence points to a far more sinister reality, in which the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by serial, violent predators.

    This reality has potentially significant implications for how universities deal with sexual violence within their communities. Prevention efforts geared toward persuading men not to commit sexual assault are very unlikely to be effective. Lessons can be drawn from many decades of experience in sex offender treatment, which have demonstrated that it is extremely difficult to change the behavior of a serial predator even when you incarcerate him and subject him to an intensive, multiyear treatment program. Rather than focusing prevention efforts on the rapists, it would seem far more effective to focus those efforts on the far more numerous bystanders men and women who are part ofthe social and cultural milieu in which rapes are spawned and who can be mobilized to identify perpetrators and intervene in high-risk situations.

    The more sinister reality of sexual violence in the university setting also carries implications for university judicial processes. A judicial board would hardly seem the appropriate venue to deal with a sexual predator. Further, cases of non- stranger sexual assault are extremely difficult to properly investigate and prosecute; they are in fact far more complex than the majority o f stranger sexual assaults. A proper investigation requires skilled and specially trained investigators working closely with specially trained prosecutors. Absent a proper investigation, almost every non-stranger sexual assault case quickly devolves into the proverbial “he-said-she-said” conundrum, and judicial board members are left helpless to discern what actually may have occurred. This situation increases the likelihood of inadequately or even poorly handled cases, thereby increasing the harm done both to the victim and to the larger community.

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  86. David Irelan

    Thanks for this post! Kendrick’s new album has left such an impression on me. He is a giant and i feel like he’s carrying on the tradition of turning the African experience in America into high level art in the same way Coltrane or Tupac did. I teach music at a high school and its so refreshing that there is finally some new music out that the kids and adults can both get behind. I would almost go so far as to say that Kendrick is helping save music by introducing these kids raised on gangster rap to jazz, funk, soul and old school r&b – it’s all in there, so many layers, so deep – TPAB is a classic!

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  96. conqueringanthropophobia

    Reblogged this on Ramblings of a College Introvert and commented:
    “Butterflies are beautiful, too – and they are full of color. Butterflies are so beautiful, they can’t be made any more so. They can’t be manipulated, exploited, controlled, or confined. So why does America keep trying to do these same things to people of color?”

    Beautiful words in light of everything that’s happened recently.

  97. victor

    this is excellent, keep up the good work Mr Mooney, you are bringing up the next generation and giving them the knowledge and critical thinking tools that will hopefully make the US a better, more tolerant country in the future..

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  99. bhumikap

    I once got to sit in on “The Sociology of Hip Hop” class taught at UofT. It was eye opening, and so is rap and hiphop. This is such a great way to reach out to children and teach them about struggle, and racism, and privilege. Kendrick is an accessible artist, and his words become more accessible when we stop to listen. You’ve done a great job with your kids- this is what teaching needs to be. This is the one way rap needs to become more mainstream!

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  102. Au Matu

    This is Beautiful! I’m not one for tears, have to admit though that my eyes are watery as I type this…Thank you for all of the above, I hope that TPAB will be continue to seen as the literary landmark which it was intended to be, and that your use of it inspires others to do the same. And most of all, THANK YOU for embedding the idea of hip-hop exegesis into the minds of your students, which not only inspires them, but (ideally) inspires artists as well to, basically, step up their game.#AuApproved

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  109. Alma McDonald

    I love this!!! I am an English teacher in Mississippi. I am planning on reintroducing “The Bluest Eye” into my curriculum (it was banned by an old principal a few years back). I always incorporate music, especially hip hop into my lessons. I also love that you quoted Linda Christenson. I met her last December when I participated in the “This Changes Everything” writers retreat in Portland. I would love to use this in my class. Would you be willing to share your plans and resources?

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  113. Paperstax

    Mr. Mooney,

    What a great read. I’m sure the experience was fantastic for you, as for the kids.

    I’m also confident that while many see this is as groundbreaking, you’ve been doing it for years. I have taught 13 years in the Miami Dade Public School system and have incorporated Hip Hop since day one. I’m sure we could have some great discussions.

    I would really appreciate it if you could get in touch with me at your convenience. I have some ideas–and possibly some free resources–that you might be able to take advantage of.

    Please hit me at and check out to see what we are doing here in Miami.

    You might also want to check out http://www.the to see one of our partners.



  114. Blll E

    Beautiful post, my dude… but one thing… it’s “elicit” not “illicit”

    “This is the kind of extended thinking that we want to illicit from our students.”

    It’s all love, but I’m just sayin’…

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  118. Adriana

    Amazing and awe-inspiring work you’re doing in spear-heading hip-hop education movement. Doing a research paper with you and GZA as my focus. Thanks for the inspiration. Hope my kids get to be taught by someone like you in the future. p.s. you and your students should break down music by a group called Hiatus Kaiyote.

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  120. Ellie

    You are teaching freedom in school. Freedom to think for one’s self, freedom to dissect things in a way that one can relate, and most importantly freedom to become a great engine of change. Keep going!!! Keep flowing!!! You are changing the world!

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