6th Grade Hip Hop Unit

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    I’m hoping to start a unit with two 6th grade general music classes on Hip Hop and Rap. We’ve been analyzing song form as it relates to Grammy Award winning songs, but I’m having trouble finding songs with school appropriate lyrics in the modern Hip Hop genre. Does anyone know of any songs that might be good to work with? Or of any resources that might help me find appropriate material?


    Have you checked out Flocabulary.com? You can sign up for a 14 day free trial and check it out. One of the things I love about their music is that it is authentic hip hop and rap, as opposed to a cheesy second-rate imitation. You may also consider using edited versions of popular rap and hip hop songs. iTunes and Spotify usually offer the radio edits of more explicit songs. Also, check out some of the old school rap and hip hop. Finally, here’s a link to a great article on finding clean hip-hop and rap songs (it’s written for dance teachers, but works for music teachers as well):




    Hello! I have completed an entire curriculum based on the history of hip-hop and using that to teach the nation standards of music. I really only used “old school” hip-hop (1970’s-1980’s) because the message was either having fun, boasting, or socially conscious. I used the following pieces:

    Apache-Sugarhill Gang
    Ladies First-Queen Latifia and Monie Love
    (Ladies First is excellent to use as an example of socially conscious hip-hop and comparing/contrasting the images from this video and lyrical content to what the public commonly think when they think of modern rap/hip-hop. This piece offers what hip-hop started out being…thought provoking, socially conscious…it didn’t necessarily start out with scantily dressed ladies. I love this piece because it shows to strong women MC’s. In today’s music we mostly see women as “decoration” in a video or musically they only contribute melodically)

    Rapper’s Delight-Sugar Hill Gang
    Ice, Ice Baby-Vanilla Ice (one little word issue in there….”hell of a concept”)

    These are some newer songs/artists that I have used:
    Stereo Hearts-Gym Class Hero’s featuring Adam Lavine
    Secret Agent 23 Skidoo (He’s a hip-hop artist that is appropriate for kids and has some good messages in his song)

    Some interesting angles to take would also be the issue of using “sampled” music! For instance:
    “Ice, Ice, Baby” (Vanilla Ice) is sampled from “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. When I play Under Pressure for the kids, they automatically think it is “Ice, Ice Baby” and then we can discuss sampling as well as copyright!

    “U Can’t Touch This” (MC Hammer) is based on a sample from Rick James’ “Super Freak” (Not that you want to play all of “Super Freak” for your classes, but I always play the first part)

    “Rapper’s Delight” (Sugar Hill Gang) is based on Chic’s “Good TImes” (this is actually pre digital sampling, and they used a live band playing, but I think, technically, it’s “sampled”)

    “Apache” (Sugar Hill Gang) is based on the Incredible Bongo Band’s song “Apache” and was also used in Sir Mix A Lot’s “Jump On It”

    Let me know if you would like some more ideas! I taught an entire 9 week unit with my 6th, 7th, and 8th grade general music students!

    Alexis Yatuzis-Derryberry
    Siegel Middle School
    Murfreesboro, TN


    (please excuse the typo’s in my previous post! I have “end of day brain!)


    Thank you both for the awesome resources. I ended up using a song by Frank Ocean called “Thinkin’ bout you,” and i also showed them the “This Week in Rap” on flocabulary.com. They loved it! I didn’t have enough time to get in depth with history, but we talked a bit about elements of hip hop and vocabulary specific to the genre.

    For anyone else interested in the topic, I also found these lesson plans geared towards 6-12th grade general music classrooms. The plans are in depth, and include a variety of well-researched, authentic teaching material: http://kexp.org/learn/lessonplans.aspx?docid=1

    Thanks again for your help!


    I do a hip hop unit with grade 8. I’ll attach my grooveshark playlist. There are a few toward the end and the wax taylor that have questionable lyrics, and you will need to listen closely to anything you analyze, but its a good place to start. I especially like Guru because they sample a lot of Jazz.

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