Harvard University is offering a new poetry class for teachers to expand their own reading and teaching practices and Hip-Hop is front and center during the course.
Hip-Hop star Nas sat down with the poetry Professor Alyssa New from Harvard University, to explain the artistic use of slang in his rhymes, which are used heavily throughout the two-month program.
Professor New is part of Poetry in America for Teachers, which has been designed for educators who would like to expand their own reading and teaching practice.
The Harvard program aims to introduce content and techniques intended to help educators teach their students how to read texts of increasing complexity.
One of the songs teachers have to breakdown is Nas’ classic song “It Aint Hard to Tell.”
During this clip, Nas and Professor New exchange pleasantries and get down to the business of explaining the language in one of Nas’ most revered songs, “It Ain’t share to Tell.”
The Queensbridge New York reared rap star explains how “criminal slang” from his neighborhood influenced his communication to listeners on his classic debut, Illmatic.
“When I say speak with criminal slang that’s really a nice way of describing the language around me,” Nas explained to Professor New. “All slang is not ‘criminal slang’…’criminal slang’ is like a step further. So I feel like slang right, is like I’m chilling I’m cool you know. Criminal slang is almost like coding. It’s almost like you talk in ways that people won’t know what you’re talking about and there’s something dark, there something mysterious, there is something dangerous about that.”
During the course for teachers, titled “The City from Whitman to Hip Hop,” Nas and other rappers’ lyrics are compared to classic poets like Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, Emma Lazarus, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, Frank O’Hara, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Hayden, Robert Pinsky and others.