Spotlight on hip hop artist Jackill

Aberdeenshire YMI have been working with local hip hop artist Jackill for 3 years to deliver a hip hop project to primary schools and two groups of young people at risk of exclusion from mainstream secondary education in the north of Aberdeenshire. Jackill writes here about why he believes hip hop is such an important tool for learning.

Local hip hop artist Jackill stands holding a microphone in a black and white image - he wears a black cap and looks away from the camera

Pictured: Jackill, Credit: Ayefilms AKA Derek Mackay

Commonly misconceived as simply just a genre of music, hip-hop is a cultural movement that first began in the Bronx in the 70’s but now spans every corner of the globe and has solidly cemented itself as an international movement.

Testament to it being an international movement is how effectively its being used as an education tool across Scotland, even in small fishing towns such as Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

For the past few years, I’ve been part of delivering various YMI hip hop projects, working with organisations such as SOUNDSHMU and the Elphinstone Institute.

Over this time, I’ve come to understand the real value of hip-hop’s ability to engage with young people from all backgrounds of life, both through the eyes of a practitioner and as a participant in various workshops. Often young people that may struggle in a traditional learning environment seem to thrive in the setting of a Hip-Hop workshop.

On the surface of these workshops the participants are learning Rapping, beat making and sound engineering. Looking deeper though, there are many more aspects being taught. In the process of learning these things we are actually covering subjects like Maths, Physics, English, philosophy, politics and so much more.

At the core of hip-hop is authenticity. For me it’s a powerful form of social commentary, and in order to do that effectively it’s important to speak in your own voice and with your own native tongue. This is something that has been heavily encouraged in workshops in the north east where the native tongue is Doric and Scots. When a young person can create a piece of work, unapologetically in their own voice and vernacular and be proud of the finished piece it tends to be a massive boost to their sense of identity and self-esteem.

I feel strongly that hip hop as a learning tool is hugely powerful and that its value has not always been fully understood or embraced. It connects with young people in a way that other forms of music don't always have the power to do.

It is after all a contemporary form of folk music, allowing young people the means to express their voice in a way that is relevant to them. I'd urge YMI across Scotland to give it a try and see the benefits for themselves in the community and the young people living there.

This article was published on 17 May 2021