Excuse me, we need answersThe shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014 has made not only national but international news. This tragic event has sparked many debates and discussions about race relations in America, the use of heavy artillery by local police, racial diversity in community policing, just to name of few. As teachers return to school, they must realize these discussions have already occurred amongst our young people.

With the use of social media we can collectively pool our curated resources to assist each other in strengthening our knowledge base and give shape to our approach to this timely and meaningful topic. The beauty of today’s technology is that we don’t have to wait for the history books to write about what is happening in our present time.


After my continuous watching of images and events unfold in Ferguson, I often heard the cry from the young people that the older generation doesn’t understand them. I also heard this ‘movement’ lacked leadership. But then I heard some of the older generation asking for the hip-hop community to speak to the youth. Even through the  contentious relationship between the generations at times, older folks realized they needed help in speaking to the youth. Many called out to the hip-hop community to ‘say something.’

Well, they did.

Don't Shoot

On August 27, 2014, ‘Don’t Shoot‘ was released. It is a collaborative hip-hop piece featuring The Game, 2 Chainz, Wale, Swizz Beatz, Tyreese and other hip hop and R&B artist.   Rap Genius annotated the lyrics to analyze and gain more of a close read of the lyrics. Rap Genuis is a site that annotates lyrics and other literary, historical, and musical texts  helping in the understanding of these documents.

(The lyrics are semi explicit but the message is powerful. Please check with your building principal or superintendent for guidance on how to use this resource.)


Bee Free


Another artist, J. Cole released a song “Be Free.”  Rap Genius also annotated this lyric.

But this not the first time the hip-hop community has rapped about the youth abd the African American condition in America. Self Destruction, released in 1989, also addressed these issues.

Self Destruction

One thing you have to admit, hip-hop music is filled with an abundance use of literary devices. The use of metaphors, similes, alliteration and other devices play a huge role in the language of hip-hop music. A Tedx Talk by Akala, an English rapper, poet, and journalist, speaks about Hip-hop and Shakespeare. He puts in perspective the connection between the two and the power of language.



I hope these resources help in fostering a conversation with our young people in a language they understand.



Angela Alexander


Resource Links

Don’t Shoot – (Music)– Featuring The Game, Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Diddy, Fabolous, Wale, DJ Khaled, Swizz Beatz, Yo Gotti, Curren$y, Problem, King Pharaoh & TGT

Don’t Shoot (Lyrics)  annotated by Rap Genius (Strong Language)


Be Free (Music) – by J. Cole

Be Free (Lyrics) annotated by Rap Genius.


Black Rage (Music) – Lauren Hill

Black Rage (Lyrics) – annotated by Rap Genius


Frontline (They Don’t Really Care) (Music) – MC Keem (Local St. Louis Artist)


Self Destruction (Music) – Stop the Violence Movement 1989

Self Destruction – (Lyrics) annotated by Rap Genius

When Rappers United in Song: Classic Pose Cuts 1988-1994


Hip Hop and Shakespeare – Ted Talk

Literary Devices – list


How to talk to your students about Ferguson – PBS New Hour

Ferguson and Beyond: A Community Conversation:  Forum on August 28 at Wellspring Church in Ferguson

#FergusonSyllabus – Twitter

Google Docs – http://bit.ly/FergusonSyllabus