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The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

The Vanguard

Word to Ya Motha: new English elective on hip-hop is coming next fall


Tupac, Queen Latifah, and Kendrick Lamar will join the ranks of Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Toni Morrison, and other authors the school’s English students read, this coming fall. Upper School (US) English Teacher Talayah Hudson’s new senior elective, titled Word to Ya Motha—a reference to a popular hip-hop refrain— was approved by the English Department for the 2023-2024 school year, making it the first English course to center on hip-hop at the school.

Word to Ya Motha aims to educate students about all aspects of hip-hop, ranging from lyrical techniques to the culture that has defined the genre. The class will consider important questions about hip-hop’s historical influences, ability to enact change, and overall significance in modern American culture, Ms. Hudson said.

“Hip-hop, like most literature and poetry, is not new, in a sense,” she said. “It is always built with the help of their predecessors. Kendrick can’t make ‘DAMN.’ or ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ without 2Pac’s ‘All Eyez On Me,’” she said. “And 2Pac can’t do anything without Public Enemy’s ‘Fear Of A Black Planet.’ In the same vein, I have developed this course, while utilizing what other hip-hop scholars have done before me and will continue to do after me.”

Ms. Hudson’s passion for hip-hop began when she was a teenager, growing up in San Francisco, California.

“I am a Bay Area girl,” she said. “So, for me, that looks like listening to a lot of legends of the hyphy movement, a hip-hop movement of the early 2000s led by Bay Area rappers. That’s how it began, but music, like all art, and the people consuming it, is constantly evolving. Hip-hop is never static. It’s personally sustaining in that way.”

Throughout her life, hip-hop has been a constant source of comfort as well as an embodiment of her identity, Ms. Hudson said.

“My favorite hip-hop song is ‘Family Business’ by Kanye West because I have never heard a song that is as reflective as parts of my identity, my actual lived experience,” she said. “Music, and hip-hop in particular, is something that I can always count on. I will always be able to put on my hyphy music playlist, and drive to school rapping Mac Dre, probably to the annoyance of everyone around me on Memorial Drive.”

Black culture’s integral role in developing hip-hop must be highlighted and admired, rather than appropriated, Ms. Hudson said.

“To appreciate hip-hop is to think critically about why hip-hop was created,” she said. “And the fact that Black and Brown folks needed to create something that was expressly theirs. What were they excluded from? Why does hip-hop still speak to people’s experiences today?”

Word to Ya Motha will reinforce essential skills like critical thinking, using a medium, hip-hop, which many of the students will already be passionate about, she said.

“For me, taking a course in hip-hop means being able to take something I hold close to my heart and examine it critically. With things that we love, that type of analysis can be tough.”

Her course is imperative for a school with a mission of supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion, she said.

“If we’re thinking about an institution that wants to be anti-racist, we must create, incorporate, and adopt curriculum that is reflective of all student experiences.”

English Department Head Ariel Duddy said Ms. Hudson’s excitement for the course made approving it an easy decision.

“Entering her second year and getting her first opportunity to design electives, Ms. Hudson approached me about this course, which will provide students with an opportunity to explore hip-hop, both as an art and literary form and as a cultural phenomenon,” she said

Word to Ya Motha provides a novel, groundbreaking way of engaging with English, Ms. Duddy said.

“I’m excited about the potential for Word to Ya Motha to engage students with language in a variety of ways, including ways that more traditional courses don’t often provide,” she said.

Mallakia Bhatia ’24 signed up for Word to Ya Motha this spring because of its unique approach to studying English, which she has enjoyed about her current English class, she said.

“This year I’m taking Ethics, and it’s different from all the other ones, so I’ve found that to be fun,” she said

Samantha Mahoney ’24, who also signed up for the course, said she is eager to delve into her personal interest in an academic setting.

“I am pretty excited,” she said. “It felt like it was different than any of the other English courses where you read more classical books. Bringing your own personal interests into the classroom will make it a lot more fun.”

Samantha appreciated that the course centers a genre of literature highly relevant to students, she said.

“More pop culture topics rather than books from a long time ago excited me. English can be a lot more modern than it is right now,” she said.

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Chloe Taft
Chloe Taft, Editor in Chief
  I’m Chloe, the Editor in Chief of Volume 53 of The Vanguard. I’m so grateful for this role, and I can’t wait for you to read all eight editions! When I’m not editing articles, you can usually find me rock climbing, reading a classic, getting ice cream with friends, or perpetually rewatching episodes of Gilmore Girls.

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