Hip-Hop Sets Up Building Blocks: Ian Caven develops program for Milagro Center students


A group of students at the Milagro Center spent time this summer learning from one of Delray Beach’s most talented musicians on how alliteration was used to express positive thoughts during the development of Hip-Hop music. Ian Caven taught the students a nine-week course titled: Hip-Hop Building Blocks. Caven’s tutorial on the world’s most popular genre of music focused on the history, elements and dancing styles. He taught two one hour classes at the Milagro Center, 695 Auburn Ave., Delray Beach, to local students ages 6-11, each Friday afternoon over a nine-week period from the start of the summer break this past June through the start of school in August.

“My favorite part about taking this class with Mr. Ian is that I’m always learning new things like listening to older hip-hop artists I would’ve never found on my own and learning the culture of Hip-Hop,” said Laniya Marcellus, 11, a student starting sixth grade this summer at Carver Middle School in Delray Beach.

“It’s fun because part of the class we’re learning new dance moves, then we get to have a rap battle and another part of class we learn the elements of hip-hop like poetry. The class has given me a lot of confidence. I want to be a dance teacher when I grow up. Recently, for a talent show here at Milagro Center, my friend and I made up our own dance. I’ve learned some Hip-Hop choreography I can use.”

Caven regularly incorporates the United Nations Living Values Educational Program curriculum into the Hip-Hop Building Blocks classes. He shows the students how alliteration was used to express thoughts during the development of Hip- Hop.

“Alliteration… Rap is poetry, if you study Run DMC’s “Peter Piper” song – Peter Piper picked peppers but Run Rocked Rhymes” or rapper LL Cool J’s ”Ahh Lets Get ILL” song – ” I’m the Ladies Love Legend in Leather Long and Lean and I don’t wear pleather…” the alliteration is evident,” said Caven.

“Every day I pursue my passion of music… I’ve developed a program that introduces kids to Hip-Hop from its origins while expanding on its social, political and artistic influences. I cut it down bite size for the kids. Remember, we have to teach the children.”

During class, Caven regularly ties in the lesson plan to clean classics from Hip-Hop co-founders Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa and the inventor of Hip-Hop, DJ Kool Herc, whose real name is Clive Campbell.

“When and where was Hip-Hop born?” Caven asks the class.

“In 1970, South Bronx, New York,” the class positively answers Caven.

“I came into this class as a big fan of the recent song “Cheerleader” by Omi,” said Marcellus. “But each class, Mr. Ian plays some old school Hip-Hop in the lesson plan and I’m like OK, I like that, I really like that song, I find myself exploring a whole new world of music.”

Caven’s program on Hip-Hop Building Blocks is spreading across the globe. During a recent class, Gerad Logan, a teacher from London, England, sat in on a class to study Caven’s program and came back for another class to present the history of Hip-Hop in England to Caven’s students. Logan plans to teach Caven’s Hip-Hop curriculum to English primary school students ages 6-11 in London during this upcoming school year.

Marcellus and her peers also studied the important pioneer women in Hip-Hop like MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Roxanne Shanté and Lauryn Hill. Maryann Payne, a dance teacher at the Milagro Center assisted Caven during the Hip-Hop Building Block classes. Together, the duo creates a learning atmosphere and programs for the children that are fun, informative and constructive.

“DJ Kool Herc brought the idea of two turntables from Jamaica. He was strong like Hercules, a big guy from the South Bronx. He took two pieces of equipment, put the same record on each turntable and when he got to the break, which is the chorus, he looped it back and forth, back and forth, so in that extra time while the break was going on dancers would dance. That’s where break dancing came from. It was dancing during the break. We dropped the whole word break. Beat boys and beat girls would dance during the break,” said Caven to his students.

“Hip-Hop is very special being because it’s a collection of a lot of things and genres of music all rolled together.”