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Ise Lyfe Impresses in the Classroom

Posted Nov 21 2008

Earlier this week my school, Oakland Unity High School was fortunate to have hip-hop artist and educator Ise Lyfe present. Beyond his performance ability, one reason we hoped to have him come in was his skill as an educator. Too often, even the most conscious of performers aren't good in the classroom. They're good at entertaining, yet not always good at actually educating. From our past discussions, it was obvious that Ise had experience working with youth and respected school policies and goals. In some cases, artists feel that they should swear in the name of "keeping it real" or "relating to the kids," smell like weed, or talk about totally inappropriate subjects. Ise isn't scared to address controversial topics, yet knows HOW to do it. You can talk about nearly anything when presented properly.

Ise's presentation was titled "Is Everybody Stupid" and was a critical analysis of how media shapes people's views. He put a comedic twist on serious issues such as drug addiction and Black-on-Black violence, before taking a heavier spin. He referenced people and objects that were familiar to the students, including video games, 50 Cent, malt liquor, and even Disney World, to get students to think about the messages being broadcast over the airwaves and internet. More importantly, he discussed how the students need to empower themselves and be responsible for their own decisions.

So yeah, if you have a chance to see him perform or book him, I whole-heartedly encourage it. Need more convincing? Check out what the students thought:

What made me stop and think was when he put up the words of 50 Cent and that it was so dumb talking about black on black crime but when we hear it we think its cool, but when we see the pictures of the persons killed we don't think it’s funny any more.-Douglas G.
(note: students were shown the autopsy photos of Malcolm X and Tupac Shakur)

One of his quotes that stuck with me was "Knowledge is strength and wisdom is power".  This means that  knowledge is an important value to have but it is worthless and powerless if one does not use it and apply it to daily struggles and situations…His message was inspirational and a shocker to me.  I have become more critical of the things I see and the music I listen to.  I appreciate Ise Lyfe coming to speak to us and I hope he returns. –Adrianne B.

It was a great learning experience to see somebody that came from the same neighborhood as me and actually become successful…It was like a turning point in my life and I hope I see him again.-Kassendra G.

I believe that his teachings are very powerful and that his teaching method is very effective. I didn't know a lot of stuff that he was talking about until looking at his slide show…I believe that if all the minorities knew in the things Ise Lyfe was saying and believed in his teachings we would have been had an African American president.-Greg B.

His usage of words is what caught my attention. I can’t speak for no one else, but what went on today was something I won’t forget.-Jenny Y.

And just so we don't sound like total groupies, there a few minor points of contention, but one thing I've respected about him is his willingness to discuss varying viewpoints so we’ll have to chop it up at some point. Also, in processing with students the next day, I got to hear their thoughts after they got over their initial excitement.

First off, let me say we're looking to have Ise come back and we're in about 98% agreement. The main two "beefs" students had with Ise was that some are huge Lil' Wayne fans and Ise spent a fair amount of time criticizing Wayne's image and listeners. Ise didn't totally demonize him, yet for fans who haven't heard a critical
analysis of Wayne, it felt about harsh. I side with Ise on this one. If you're familiar with the Allegory of the Cave, this was a good example of that at work. Also, they admitted that they didn't catch everything that he said as he covered such a width swath of information. I told them that this was fine, as long as they got the gist. In learning new material, they may not catch everything, but each time they'll pick up new information. I felt like Ise did a great job in this area. Everything had a purpose and he explained his points. It was just a lot to take in if you didn’t have the background knowledge. Some themes he covered:

How fear is used to manipulate people, even when it goes against our common sense
The marketing of alcoholism in poorer communities
The marketing of Black male stereotypes
Contextualizing Obama's election—essentially, he's not the Messiah
Activism doesn't necessarily equal poverty

In a nutshell, I remain impressed with Ise at many levels. He did the little things right (showed up on time!), engaged the students, and taught them information that furthered their education. Why can't all our guests be like that?

Some good resources to learn more about Ise Lyfe:

Bio (clean)

Website

Video clips (clean)
Intro One

Intro Two

Peace PSA

Why You Do What You Do

Beautiful video

Comments

1. Sergio said at January 6, 2009 1:30 pm:

It was cool. I liked the way he talked about lil' wayne and how his lyrics are dumb and just talking bad about females.

2. Mirella said at January 7, 2009 12:51 am:

I thought Ise Lyfe's presentation was good in the way that it made you think about things that were going around you that you had never noticed before. That's tight!

3. kassendra gardley said at January 13, 2009 11:21 am:

I think that this was very interesting especially because I was there and I was there when he had us write down different things as we put them together we made a beautiful poem and it was wonderful. I hope to see him again..

4. Dominique said at January 13, 2009 11:21 am:

I agree with the comments that my fellow peers has put forth. I had a wonderful experience watching and being part of the presentation. I enjoyed the whole thing, hope to see him again.

5. Dominique said at January 13, 2009 11:22 am:

I agree with the comments that my fellow peers has put forth. I had a wonderful experience watching and being part of the presentation. I enjoyed the whole thing, hope to see him again.

6. Melissa said at January 13, 2009 11:39 am:

This sounds interesting to me specially the part when he criticized Lil Wayne, i mean the LolliPop Remix with Kanye really disappointed. both Lil Wayne and Kanye West messed up there. but either way in my opinion sometimes Lil Wayne does say some good things but not all the time.

7. Adrianne said at January 13, 2009 11:39 am:

Ise Lyfe's presentation gave me another perspective on the music I listen to and the media. The coolest part of his presentation was when he was talking about the corner stores in our neighborhoods and how the liquor and other items deliberately placed in low income areas to create a false sense of value.

8. Douglas Garica said at January 13, 2009 11:40 am:

i like when he talked about what the word meant because when you hear the song you don't really think of what u saying

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