Of course, if anybody really cared about spotlighting strong black voices that students haven’t been exposed to on their own, Kendrick’s latest record would rank very low on the scales of historical significance and excellence in English. As Mooney points out many times in a blog post that’s hilariously riddled with logical contradictions, “hip-hop has become a worldwide phenomenon, reaching every corner of the globe and shaping the identities of a whole generation of young people”, to the point that “demonizing” the music genre – or culture, as he often labels it with no cynicism – would be a grave and “symbolically violent” insult to the hipster groupie lowlifes who consider Kendrick Lamar’s dope beats to be an integral “part of their identity”. Assuming as our apologetic white poet-teacher does that high-school students are already committed to hip-hop and worship Kendrick, J. Cole, and Lupe Fiasco as political and musical idols, what educational value does one derive from pimping their albums over infinitely more distinguished and eloquent writers students haven’t yet encountered?
Only in Mooney’s warped and fickle view of “cultural relevancy” does contemporary rap music deserve a higher pedestal of “literate-ness”, beauty, and nobility than the texts of Fredrick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois, Thomas Sowell, and a host of actual poets I read in high-school and willfully forgot about soon after because of my deep-set disdain for poetry. One certainly doesn’t need to cheapen standards of good literature in order to analyze black authors, but the truth is that Progressive reformers like Mooney don’t really give a damn about analyzing or understanding the work of black Americans; they only care about the work of black Americans who seem to sponsor their political agenda. Even granting that increasing representation of African-American art always fulfills a noble, compelling educational purpose (it doesn’t), hip-hop “education” has nothing to do with illuminating alternate perspectives, urban strife, or evolving style in the written word, and footage from the High Tech school proves that Mooney’s favorite rappers were already bona-fide superstars among Gen-Zers without the advertising bonus of a class applauding their artistic genius. At its core, hip-hop education is just another poorly masked excuse to spread alternate-history versions of the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin shootings while brainwashing kids into denying every blessing implied by the American Dream.
Some of Mooney's students on To Pimp A Butterfly.
For those who’ve read this far, I’ll just throw it out there that I quite enjoy Kendrick Lamar’s music, particularly Section.80 and much of Butterfly, which is to say that all the wisearse, tolerant rap music fans who are silently ridiculing me for my ignorance really have no moral superiority for thinking Kendrick should be taught in government schools. As opposed to many acts, Kendrick’s beats actually incorporate live instrumentation, and his lyrics on “Keisha’s Song” (about a prostitute in despair who’s raped and murdered in the street) or “These Walls” combine with dark, sonic atmospheres to reveal an artist who actually cares about storytelling and isn’t simply settling for making a catchy tune. But education isn’t about exposing me to art or ideas I already like. If the only writing, or rapping in this case, I ever had to study was stuff I already liked, I wouldn’t be learning much of anything, and education traditionally used to be all about learning things – things that show one how to live and how to live in accordance with beauty and virtue.
It’s also true that Kendrick is one of the most overrated and absurdly idolized figures in American musical culture. He wields racial slurs liberally whether or not the narrative or character he’s portraying calls for it, and the song from Butterfly he specifically chose to perform for High Tech revolves around a vapid hook that just repeats, “Nigger, we’re gonna be alright” over and over for no reason. No one, not even Pitchfork’s staff, listens to Kendrick for his ornate or literary language; they listen to him because he unites a dream team of producers and is very good at venting anger on issues that make others really angry. Indeed, the media’s unanimous infatuation with “the incredible Kendrick Lamar” as “a poet, lyrical genius, and positive icon” (this is Ellen Degenerate speaking) has begotten a series of running gay jokes in my own Beatissima dorm hinging on the latent desire of Kendrick fanatics, who have no frame of musical reference and consequently glorify the current fad as a masterwork, to orally pleasure the Grammy-winning man, the myth, the legend. Even The Daily Beast has picked up on this phenomenon, describing it as a “critical circle jerk” – a mutual admiration society that Mooney has ironically hijacked to teach kids… the value of thinking for oneself and forming independent, critical views of media. Forcibly cramming Kendrick or any working musician into a classroom at the peak of his career is the total opposite of encouraging independent truth-seeking. Instead of that, Mooney is merely condoning hero-worship while perpetuating the mythology that Kendrick, like Pixar, Apple, Netflix, Starbucks, and any other cult establishment, can do no wrong, when in fact his latest music video is just a slickly produced screed against the white-skinned po-lice that prioritizes style over substance.
A screenshot from Kendrick's latest PSA.
Thank you for having the decency not to treat my education like a giant joke.