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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Introducing Hip-Hop in Elementary Music

Back in 2018 I wrote my first post on Bringing Hip-Hop to the Music Room with some ideas to incorporate hip-hop into music lessons, from band warmups to general music lessons on syncopation and everything in between. Incorporating the genre into more of our music lessons in general is a critical step that all of us need to take (and aren't doing enough), but it's also important to teach about hip-hop directly. Today I want to share some of my favorite resources for introductory lessons on hip-hop for elementary students.

First let me be clear: I am not an expert on hip-hop at all. I have been doing a lot of focused learning for the last 6 years or so, so that I can improve my teaching, and I want to share the sources I am learning from in the hopes that more teachers will be encouraged to start on your own learning journey. I am not here to position myself as an authority on the genre, but to point people to those who are. We are definitely learning together, so please share your own questions, ideas, and resources in the comments or send me a message! 

1. History of Hip-Hop

There are a lot of great documentaries and more that dive into the history of hip-hop much more in-depth, but the reality is in elementary general music we're usually dealing with serious time constraints. A couple of videos I've found that are a bit shorter but still give some important background and history are these:

From my ongoing conversations and working directly with hip-hop artists and educators I've learned that context and history are extremely important to teach when you're teaching hip-hop, no matter how condensed of a timeframe you're working with, and no matter what age group you're teaching. Don't skip this! There are plenty of other excellent resources for teaching about the history of hip-hop to young students: The Roots of Rap and When the Beat Was Born are great books for this as well.

2. Pillars / Elements of Hip-Hop

Another aspect of hip-hop I've learned not to skip is the pillars, or elements, of hip-hop. It's important to give some context for students for the culture of hip-hop as a whole, and make sure they understand that it is so much more than rap. Here are some introductory videos I've found helpful:

Once they understand the context of hip-hop, students can begin to explore each of those elements of hip-hop in age-appropriate ways (maybe something for a future post?), but I want to focus on these aspects for this post because I didn't realize when I was first starting on my hip-hop learning journey just how important the historical and cultural context is to the study of hip-hop. 

I hope this helps encourage more elementary music teachers to include hip-hop in your elementary general music curriculum! If you haven't already, please read my previous post below, where you'll find a lot more activity ideas and, most importantly, resources for learning more from hip-hop artists and educators. I am by no means the person to be learning from on this topic- I am sharing my own learning so we can learn together! 


  1. Thank you for the ideas. I have been wanting to do a hip hop unit with my middle school classes but was not sure where to start. I will use your ideas as a starting point with my middle school classes.

    1. I'm glad they were helpful! Please take a look at the general resources I shared in my first post, linked at the end of this one. They are a wealth of information!