You'll notice a theme this week here on the blog: all hip-hop songs. Why? Because for some of you, embracing hip-hop means bringing in far more students than you'd bring in otherwise. The difficult part about hip-hop sometimes is replicating it in the ensemble classroom; bands, orchestras, and choirs can play "Elanor Rigby" all the livelong day, but "Gin & Juice" will probably never happen at a school concert. The other thing that teachers have to be judicious when disseminating hip-hop to the classroom.
Wait -- what's that?! You need a resource for disseminating hip-hop in the classroom?! Well, here you go: A Hip-Hop General Music Textbook! It's called Fresh Beats by Robert Vagi (I know his mother!) and it's a totally sweet book to use.
Of other tangentially related hip-hop note: I was watching an episode of CNN's series The 70s with my husband the other night -- notably, the episode about the music of the '70s. Much of the hour glosses over incredibly important bands, but it's worthwhile to see both Sesame Street's Snuffalupagus on a light-up disco floor as well as Questlove and others discuss the origin of the word "hip-hop" -- which was clearly 1979's "Rappers Delight", of which the first two words are "hip hop", and that term came to define an entire genre.
“Can't Forget About You” - Nas ft. Chrisette Michele
Intro: Nas is known as one of the most poetic rappers of his day and his albums have garnered tremendous critical acclaim. “Can't Forget About You” is found on his eighth studio album Hip Hop Is Dead, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart upon its release in 2006. The album was eventually nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2007. “Can't Forget About You” appeared on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs chart at #46.
Analysis: Starting with a thumping bass drum, jingle bells, and snare on the upbeat, the song gives way to Nas rapping over the instrumental of Nat King Cole's “Unforgettable.” “Can't Forget About You” follows a similar song structure and chord progression as “Unforgettable,” and the chorus, sung by Chrisette Michele, borrows and eleborates on melodies found in the sampled song. The final line of the song is the recording of Nat King Cole singing the final line from his “Unforgettable.”
Considerations for Teaching: Although Nat King Cole is known more for his popular songs, he began his career as a jazz pianist before he became an internationally known figure for his vocal recordings and his role as a host on his own variety show. His King Cole Trio was a mainstay of Los Angeles jazz in the 1930s and 40s. Nas's nostalgic “Can't Forget About You” contains little to no profanity and no inappropriate subject matter, and may be a good gateway to introduce students to the crossover appeal of a jazz artist such as Nat King Cole.