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Monday, May 12, 2014

Web Series 'Thug Notes' Puts A Hip-Hop Spin On Classic Literature

Note: This video contains language that some viewers may find offensive.

Students of literature have long used SparkNotes and CliffsNotes to help them navigate the tricky plot-lines of the classics. Now, there’s a new web series that students can turn to for literary help: “Thug Notes.”

From “The Great Gatsby” to Dante’s “Inferno” these popular book report videos have captured the attention of students and teachers across the country by using hip-hop vernacular to explain classic literature.

Jared Bauer, the writer and creator of the series, and Greg Edwards, the host of the show, discuss the series and its popularity with Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Interview Highlights: Jared Bauer and Greg Edwards

Bauer on the theory behind “Thug Notes”

“It might just make things more appealing to take the ivory tower out of literature and kind of made it more accessible — almost in an abrasive way, you know? To make the point very strongly, that education doesn’t have to be in a certain way.”

Edwards on what he enjoys most about the series

“We just have a lot of fun shooting. Just the comments from YouTube, the kids really enjoy it, teachers are using it in the classroom. I think it’s great, and it’s just fun and it’s funny. I mean, I’ve read some of the books, definitely in high school and college, but some of these books I’ve never heard of, never even thought of. So when they give me the script, I do some research of my own. I go through some videos, and it just adds to it. It opens up my eyes, different reviews on these books, and just hearing it from [co-writer] Joe [Salvaggio] and Jared. They’re so thorough with this summary and analysis. It just helps to explain it, and it gives me a picture that I didn’t think of before.”

Bauer on using the controversial “thug” stereotype

“We are using a racial stereotype, but what we’re really doing is we’re inverting that stereotype and making it look ridiculous — saying the idea that, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ … You watch ‘Thug Notes’ and you see the smartest way to understand a book in five minutes, and because of that, it proves to the audience that, you know, there’s nothing inherently unrefined about, you know, urban vernacular, or about hip-hop setting. You know, we can explain literature in urban vernacular.”


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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