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Posts Tagged as "hip hop"

Self-made Heroes: the Dancers of Planet B-Boy

Monday, February 7th, 2011


It’s official: the documentary “Planet B-Boy” knocked my socks off.

Spinning on their heads, back flipping like it ain’t no thing, toiling day after day on their moves: teams of breakdancers prepare to battle for the title of best in the known universe.

The documentary profiles teams from around the world, showcasing their individual struggles and strengths. There’s the French team with all their camaraderie and warmth, whose interracial, cross-generational crew included the super-idiosyncratic dancer Crazy Monkey as well as a little blond kid.

I was also touched by the diligence and dedication of the Korean teams, both the returning international champions and the underdog challengers, “Last for One,” a crew of impoverished kids from the South Korean boondocks who danced daily from midnight to dawn to polish their routine.

Aside from the unbelievable athleticism, each team combines two key elements: incredible teamwork and extreme individuality.

It’s one of the great paradoxes of art: through the process of diligently internalizing the fundamental skills of an art form, artists become more free, not less. Through discipline, they become more radiant versions of themselves.

This documentary also addresses some questions about authenticity that are really close to my heart as someone who has spent lots of time in other musical cultures. What makes each of these dancers a b-boy is not their skin color or where they were born but their mastery of the art form. Their skills and experience make them completely secure in their identities as artists.

For their awesome example of self-determination, motivation, and extreme customization, I hereby nominate the dancers of planet B-Boy for the title of self-made heroes!

Related posts:
There’s always room for cello (rap song about cello playing)
Five fun ways to help your kids learn math this summer (hip-hop multiplication)
Self-taught heroes: William Kamkwamba, the boy who harnessed the wind
Self-taught heroes: Pearl Fryar

Posts Tagged as "hip hop"

There’s always room for cello!

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

I want to give a MASSIVE shout-out to my dear friend Nan Kemberling, who created this awesome rap video about cello technique!

Not only did Nan come up with this totally creative, fun, sassy, helpful, and accurate rap full of cello do’s and don’ts, but she also directed and starred in the video, honed a new persona as a rapper, showcased her own students, and created a viral youtube phenomenon!

This video is also a powerful example of what can happen when artist/teachers create educational music that you actually *want* to listen to.

When I asked Nan about the creative process of writing this rap, she said that she was always telling her students the same things, so why not make a rap song about it? This seems to echo the sentiment of Tim Bedley, veteran teacher and creator of the “Rockin’ the Standards” album of math songs: “My students just have the hardest time remembering some really important concepts. I have to keep reteaching and reteaching. If only I could get them to sing the information, they would NEVER forget!”

Here’s to a world where there are more awesome songs to help us learn the important stuff!

Related posts:
Five fun ways to help your kids learn math this summer with rock songs and raps
Happy pi day (beautiful song and video about 3.14159…)
“Simple, but not easy” (Lynn Harrell)

Posts Tagged as "hip hop"

It’s official: smart is the new gangsta

Monday, August 16th, 2010


I saw this shirt in the window of Style Craft Phat Gear, a hip-hop clothing store in downtown Hotlanta, while cruising by on my bicycle. I thought it might be fun to wear this while practicing multiplication hip hop!

The shirt is available here. (Or make a pilgrimage to Style Craft Phat Gear where they have it in stock.) Thanks to blogger Tim Merritt for taking the photo, which was the coolest one I could find of this shirt online!

Related posts:
Five fun ways to help your kids learn math this summer (online!)
Be Yourself, Wear What You Want, Do What You Love (Coder Barbie/Ada Lovelace/Mashable followup)
“On Being Yourself While Doing Math” – Guest Post Alert!