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Hip Hop with Soul Science Lab

Hip hop is the latest iteration of black music in America. Its roots lie in the ancient storytelling traditions of the West African griot, brought to the US during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Enslaved Africans managed to keep some of these oral traditions of song and poetry alive, and to create new forms of music. During slavery and in the century that followed, the lineage of African American music grew to encompass spirituals, jazz, blues, rock, soul, R&B, and in the late 1970s, hip hop. Pioneered by African American, Latinx, and West Indian teenagers in the South Bronx, hip hop continues the West African practice of telling the stories of the people through rhythm and voice. In Asanté’s words, “Hip hop embodies the spirit of revolution and innovation that continues to survive in black and brown people despite challenging social situations and systematic oppression.”

As the duo Soul Science Lab, artist, educator, and creative director Chen Lo and multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer Asanté Amin approach hip hop as the heirs of this deep tradition, calling themselves “Afrofuturist griots.” Their role as educators is inseparably intertwined with their role as artists. Soul Science Lab combines music and multimedia performance to create culturally responsive, interactive educational experiences; the project Soul Science Kids speaks directly to an elementary-age audience.

Meet Soul Science Lab!

Introduce your students to Soul Science Lab with this “Meet Soul Science Lab” video. Visit the video index to watch all the videos for Soul Science Lab and the other Program Five artists.


A deejay spins on two turntables
Lesson 1: Learning “Hip Hop Hooray”
Students will learn the hook to “Hip Hop Hooray” and learn about key elements in hip hop songs.
A mural depicting African American leaders
Lesson 2: Learning “Higher”
Students explore lyrics and message as they learn “Higher,” and explore ways to create their own hip hop songs.

Resources for Teachers

The following resources provide background information about the musical genre and culture. Some are intended to be shared with students; others are for teachers who may want to explore further on their own.




Literacy Extension

Image Credits

“Turntables” by Andrew Evans is licensed by CC BY 2.0.
“A Little Help From Our Friends,” Robert Hieronimus 1996, photo by Baltimore Heritage.

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