Larry "LAK" Henderson, The Hiphop Educator
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Larry "LAK" Henderson, The Hiphop Educator

Lakehurst, New Jersey, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | SELF

Lakehurst, New Jersey, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2007
Solo Hip Hop

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“I’m going to make it despite what you say or do.”

This line from Larry “LAK” Henderson’s song “Black Men Rock” is just one of many he uses to inspire this generation’s youth.

With songs about Harriet Tubman – “I’m freeing so many slaves you can call me Moses” – and the black experience – “A lot of my dudes going ham, but not eating,” Henderson uses his beats and his delivery to get educational messages across.

Deemed the “hip-hop educator,” Henderson founded Smart Music Entertainment and uses it and his talents to create a new sound of hip-hop music that is used as a tool for learning.

“I grew up as a battle rapper. I bring that skill set to the table, so when I’m doing that educational hip-hop music, I’m still bringing that battle rapper, cypher, street-type of sound,” Henderson said. “It’s not a gimmick, because I’m not trying to force educational content with hip-hop beats and just magically mash them together and push it down their (kids) throats. I’m making a song I like first and foremost as an artist that they appreciate the hip-hop of.”

Henderson said he knows kids will appreciate the music aspect first and the message secondary. In a world full of Jay-Z’s and more popular artists, getting people to listen to “educational hip-hop” takes a lot of work.

“They don’t grasp the education part first. They’re like, ‘I like the beat, I like the flow, oh, and he’s saying this.’ That’s how it resonates with them,” he said.

Middle and high school students came to listen to Henderson’s performance at Richard B. Harrison Community Library for a summit titled “Empowering Young Minds: Hip-Hop Meets Education.”

Student Elijah Shabazz, whose favorite artist is Nas, enjoyed Henderson’s presentation.

“I think it’s important for that message to be spread out more through our communities. A lot of people, they’re influenced by the wrong people, so I think he’s (Henderson) a good person to be influenced by,” he said.

Henderson, who was wearing a shirt emblazoned with Malcolm X’s portrait, said he finds inspiration through people’s stories, his grandparents or anything and everything in life that is impactful to him. With degrees in African studies, communications and studio engineering, the New Jersey native travels across the country to convey his educational messages.

“When people are saying why is education important, that’s a terrible question. I met a young lady and she was 12 years old, and she could barely read. It’s like, what are we doing outside of pointing the finger and saying that this generation is crazy,” he said.

Henderson’s album, Lesson One: Hip-Hop & Education, has hit the Amazon best-seller list (No. 1 in Hot New Releases and No. 8 in Educational Music), and has received airplay on major radio stations around the world.

Monica Lucas, Shabazz’s mother, commended Henderson on “what he brings to hip-hop.” Lucas monitors her son’s music intake for curse words and derogatory comments about women.

“’Black men rock’, that is very powerful – that word (phrase) alone. I tell him (Elijah) that everyday,” she said.

Lucas said she hopes what Henderson did resonated with the kids.

“People are prejudiced about hip-hop, but hip-hop isn’t bad; it has different flavors. There can be bad hip-hop (just) like there can be bad R&B,” said Brad Thompson, a former city councilman who facilitated the event’s discussion.

Added Henderson: “We started this company to do something more to help inspire these kids to take education a lot more seriously. Is it going to change the world? Who knows. But I think that the music that they listen to can offer something more positive to put into their brains. As a man thinketh, so he is.”

To find out more visit, www.smart-hiphop.com. - Triangle Tribune


"You really put together something that is very creative, innovative, and it's informative...We love the words that you have illustrated throughout your entire Lesson One."
- Dr. Alvin Jones, host of CBS Radio's "The Business of Wisdom" - CBS Radio


"Go buy, purchase, download Lesson One: Hip-Hop & Education. You will not be disappointed...I am 100% a fan and I absolutely endorse this album."
- Sherryl Blu, radio host, BANG 103.6 FM, London, UK - BANG 103.6 FM, London, UK


"Not only is he a Hiphop educator, but he is brilliant with history!" - WSHA-FM 88.9


"You broke everything down. This is what we really need."
- Phil Jackson, host of Princeton University's SIDE B Radio - WPRB 103.3 FM Princeton University


First attempt at teaching middle school age children history through song:

“Greetings everyone!”
“Mr. Penfold, why are you wearing that ridiculous wig? And why are you wearing what appears to be a frilly long sleeved shirt that is at least two sizes too big for you along with some ancient looking flood pants and tights?”
“Excellent questions Billy! I’m wearing clothing similar to what was fashionable back when Christopher Columbus set out to reach the East Indies.”
“What’s with the weird looking piano?”
“This isn’t a piano Chris. It’s a harpsichord. I’m going to play a song on it that will help you remember what we’re learning today.”

Subsequent Test Results – 64% Pass, 46% Fail

Second attempt at teaching middle school age children history through song:

“Mr. Penfold, why are you wearing frayed overalls and a straw hat?”
“Well Patrick, today we are going to learn about America’s transition away from agriculture during the industrial revolution. I’m going to play you all a song on my friend ‘Mr. Banjo’ here that I think you’ll find quite memorable.”

Subsequent Test Results – 37% Pass, 53% Fail

Third attempt at teaching middle school age children history through song:

“Hahahahahahahaha!”
“May I ask what is so funny Ms. Jones?”
“You look ridiculous!”
“I’ll have you know that tie-dye shirts and bell bottom jeans were extremely popular in the late 1960s, the period of US history we are discussing today. I’m going to play a flower-power classic on my guitar that should convey all the information you need to learn today.”

Subsequent Test Results – 55% Pass, 45% Fail

Aftermath:

“Okay class. I give up. My thinking was that I could use music as an effective teaching tool. Your test scores however tell a much different story. Do you all even like music?”
“Of course we like music Mr. Penfold. But that music you’ve been playing for us is totally lame.”
“Lame, huh? All right then. What kind of music do you like then?”
“Hip-hop.”
“Ah, I see.”

A few days later:

“Class, I’d like for you to welcome a special guest who has joined us today. His name is Lak and he is here to bust rhymes and teach you some history.”

Subsequent Test Results – 100% Pass

Waveriders it has been quite a while since I was last inside a public school classroom. Years have gone by, but the passage of time has not changed two important facts. First off, history was my favorite subject. I love reading up on history! Second, with the notable exception of a song used to remember the names and capital cities of Central and South American countries, the majority of educational music I’ve been subjected to has been terrible. Okay maybe the word terrible is a bit harsh, but this music is definitely not geared for anyone over the age of eight.

With that in mind, perhaps you can understand my reluctance to listen to what is openly billed as an educational hip hop album. In my mind I pictured a couple of guys dressed up in labcoats rapping poorly with high pitched voices about the alphabet and basic math. Thankfully, my journalistic integrity got the best of me and I decided to give Lesson One a shot. It’s my sworn duty as a Ripple Effect writer to stay open minded after all. I hit play on my CD player and the first song, appropriately titled “Intro” began. The music sounded solid from the start and then the first lyrical content hit my ears.

SmartMusic entertainment / Dis da movement / We aim to elevate your mindstate through music / We want to teach and inspire you to learn more / We know the classroom for some is a straight bore / We know the hood’s at the bottom of the money list / We know the block’s full of negative influences / We know some teachers care / We know some teachers don’t / We know some families provide strength when others won’t / We know it’s never fair / Some parents never there / We know some show love then act like they never cared / The world’s cold in the middle of the summer / And if you don’t elevate your mind you never come up / We make it easier to grasp your potential and get you to understand the battle you’re fighting is mental / It’s nothing when you think about it and give it attention / And you get it poppin’ while memorizin’ the lesson / You can steer your life in a whole different direction / You can put yourself where you want to be, no question / If you can comprehend what I’m saying you can do anything / This is Smart Music, we teach and entertain.

Okay then. That was NOT what I was expecting! I could get behind that sentiment one hundred percent! Time for a little research. Smart Music Entertainment is the brainchild of Larry ‘Lak’ Henderson. Lak has been involved in making hip hop music for several years, but Lesson One is a new venture. He surveyed the educational music landscape and saw the same thing I had. Most of this music was completely childish or just plain bad. Believing that hip hop music can be a very effective teaching tool, he took it upon himself to right the wrong and made this album. The beauty of this music is that it will appeal to adult hip hop heads just as much as its teenage target market.

Lesson One is made up of ten songs and two bonus tracks. These songs can be broken down into three different categories. Songs like “First 25 Presidents” and “50 States” are purely informational. “Cash Flow”, “It’s A War”, and “Drugs” reflect on issues currently facing the youth of America. The other songs all deal with African American history. “Slavery” features an emcee named Nyce who together with Lak lays out the vile institutions history in an aggressive, hard hitting manner. “Kings & Queens” and “Moors” together provide a fleshed out genealogy that will prevent any African American child from feeling inferior to anyone else. “Invent” and “Congress Women” each offer compelling examples of African American accomplishments that should provide plenty of motivation for kids striving to achieve greatness.

The bottom line here waveriders is that this album is good. Very good! If you like your hip hop to have a positive or meaningful message look no further than Smart Music’s Lesson One. This is a solid album that you can buy for your child with full confidence in the lyrical content contained within. If you don’t tell them it is an educational album, they’ll never know its true purpose! They’ll just call it ‘dope’. If that term is not cool anymore I apologize. I am far from hip. Worst case scenario, they don’t like the album and you get to keep it yourself!

--Penfold - The Ripple Effect


In today’s rap culture, the references of drugs, guns, and the mistreatment of women are prevalent in today’s lyrics and videos. Everyone comments on the lack of direction and substance inside of rap today, with record company executives using an alleged simplistic formula with their artists to sell records and appeal to a diverse crowd. While many fans want Tupac back (pun intended) and MC’s like J. Cole to represent the domain of hip hop, there are some record labels who strive to not only present lyricism and tone to rap music, but also reach and teach this fledgling generation about slavery, African history, African-American impact, education on drugs and African-American history. That record company is Smart Music Entertainment.
Founded in 2007 by New Jersey Entrepreneur and featured performer on the company’s recently released “Lesson One: Hip Hop and Education” Larry “Lak” Henderson. Henderson, who was born in Jersey, began rhyming in fourth grade, developed a liking for hip hop legends of his era such as Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, and KRS-One. He was an on-air personality for Rutgers University WRSU-FM 88.7 in which his nightly “Led-Lak Show” which was the number one show on campus. Henderson co-executive produced the album along side D Rock for Drunc Products, and performed on nine of the ten tracks on the CD, delivering thought-provoking, clever rhymes that could be the type of music any parent would approve and appreciate. On one of the bonus tracks titled “Drugs” Henderson went to the history of illegal substances like cocaine:
“In 1862 Albert Newman changed the game/He extracted a crystal powder and called it cocaine/The cocaine hit the states, started taking it over/ They even put it in soda and called it Coca-Cola/ Started making a living moving the powder through/ And that’s why you see it on your avenue”
On the track “Congress Women” Henderson highlights the contribution that the first black women who served in congress made in transforming history:
“We pay homage to MLK/ But if not or Katie Hall there wouldn’t be a King Holiday/ Maxine Waters, the voice of South Central/ She combated the racist, defending black people”
And Young Nyce, the lone performer who is featured on the album besides Henderson, Performed one of the standout tracks on the album titled “Slavery” and lacing this deep line together of the beginning of Slavery in the U.S:
“The spot with the most slaves? The colony of Virginia/See they would put them up on a big platform/ And auction people for tobacco, cotton, corn, the list goes on/ They even trade slaves as a matter-of-fact/ They would trade five or six Bow Wow’s for one Shaq”
Other tracks such as “Invent” “First 25 Presidents” and “It’s a War” offer hip hop in a education format for kids and parents alike, also in which whomever is listening will be entertained in by my admission, very well crafted beats. So in conclusion, if you would like for your child to make that change for more clean and sensible lyrics, better learning capability, and content, then Larry Henderson and Smart Music is for you.

Official website;
http://smarthiphopmusic.blogspot.com/p/home.html

Facebook Fan Page;
http://www.facebook.com/SmartMusicEntertainment - ThyBlackMan.com


"Mainly what I write is for the average New Yorker/some mc's be talking and talking
trying to show how black people are walking/but I don't walk this way to portray
or reinforce stereotypes of today/like all my brothas eating chicken and watermelon
talk broken English and drug selling/see I'm telling and teaching real facts/now when some act in rap is kind of wack/and it lacks creativity and intelligence/but they don't care
'cause the company is selling it/it's my philosophy on the industry" -
"My Philosophy"- KRS-ONE (knowledge ruling supreme over nearly everyone)

For Larry "Lak" Henderson, his journey into the world of hip-hop began in his third grade lunchroom, making beats on the table, free-styling, and beat boxing.

But while hip hop music may have been his first love, there was another hobby that had his heart, too.

When his aunt assigned him a book report on the Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas in the fourth grade, she ignited the avid reader in him.

"I read everything from religion to politics and everything in between - fiction, non-fiction, autobiographies, conspiracy theories and the list goes on," said Henderson.

Smart Music Entertainment, a New Jersey-based company dedicated to using hip-hop as an educational tool, is the product of those two worlds colliding.

"The lyricist and the reader. The rapper and someone who understands the importance of education," said CEO/co-founder Henderson.

This year, Smart Music Entertainment released its first major CD project: Lesson One: Hip-Hop and Education.

It is an album that features songs on African-American history, geography, politics, money management and more. Although Lesson One is geared toward youth, Henderson says it is a "family album." The project has no profanity or offensive language. However, some gripping, raw content is portrayed in songs like "Slavery."

"It is a very hard track. We approach slavery in such a way that you're almost going back and reliving it," said Henderson.

A song that pays homage to African-American women in politics is called "Congress Women." The song highlights how Black women have formed and transformed history.

Henderson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a minor in Africana Studies and a specialization in Labor Studies from Rutgers University.

Educational research has documented the use of music as a viable tool to aid and enhance learning. Studies have shown that exposing a child to great music - as a listener and as a player - is good for brain development.

"Nothing activates as many areas of the brain as music," says researcher Donald A. Hodges, Covington Distinguished Professor of Music Education and director of the Music Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

In addition, research shows an increase in cognitive and reading skills when music and learning are paired.

Henderson's company is predicated on this fact -- music has the ability to slip into one's subconscious. A person can learn something without even realizing it.

"Repetition is the key to learning. You listen to it, you get into the music, you like the flow, it's music that you can enjoy," said Henderson. "One of the things that separates this form of educational music from others is that our sound is more of a soulful, hip-hop sound. It's easy to listen to and you'll want to play it over and over again."

Not only has Smart Music released their first album, they have begun providing workshops centered around the project.

"Students have the opportunity to participate in a discussion about the importance of education, watch videos from the Lesson One CD and engage in dialogue with each other about facts learned from each song," said Henderson. "We send them home with the CD and study guide to help them digest the music on their own and continue the learning beyond our workshops."


Teaching Language

Hip-hop has been stigmatized by many different attributes over the years. One such stigma is the use of urban vernacular in rhyme and straying away from proper English.

However, Smart Music looks to change that perception, while remaining true to the art form.

"We encourage people of all age groups to read, read, read and then read some more! Reading expands your vocabulary which results in better language skills," said Henderson. "We hope that this inspiration leads people to want to pick up a book and expand their vocabulary and improve their communications skills."

Growing up in an urban environment, Henderson himself understands the drawbacks that 'improper English' can have, but does not "discourage the use of slang in certain situations and environments."

"For example, enslaved Africans spoke in codes to throw off the slave masters," said Henderson.

While the Lesson One CD contains educational lyrics, Henderson was adamant about each song having an authentic hip hop sound.

"[It had to] sound like hardcore hip-hop music and that the soul isn't missing and that I'm not sounding too preachy," said Henderson.

A feat, indeed.

The first two tracks recorded for the Lesson One CD were "First 25 Presidents" and "Invent."

A lot of research was put into gaining the content for each song. The information had to be relevant, interesting, and able to be infused with the flow of a song.

"Invent" highlights the inventions and improvements made to inventions by Black people.

"First 25 Presidents" details the first 25 presidents of the United State and offers specific details about them that young people do not normally learn in their classrooms.

Feedback about this debut album remains positive.

"My children enjoy the sound and show a high-level of interest in the subject matters discussed throughout Lesson One. The subjects are not part of their regular school curriculum so the CD has really supplemented their learning beyond the classroom, and has further complimented what we teach at home," said Deon Stephenson, a parent who purchased Lesson One.

Stephenson claims his children's retention of the information has been above average.

"The most notable example of this is when I conduct youth workshops. I perform songs from Lesson One and then ask students to tell me what facts they learned from the songs that I performed. The amount of correct responses always let's me know that we're moving in the right direction," said Henderson.

The company is currently on a school tour and hopes to meet other like-minded artists to collaborate on future educational musical projects. - Newd Magazine


A Reflective Review By Andrea R. Garrison – Onlinewithandrea

I absolutely love Lesson Number One developed by Smart Music Entertainment.
It is creative, educational ,entertaining and innovative. It features ten major tracks plus two bonus tracks. The CD starts out with a powerful introduction followed by Kings & Queens, Slavery, Invent, First 25 Presidents, Cash Flow, Congress Women, Moors, 50 States, It’s A War, Congress Women(remix) and Drugs.
What amazes me is that Larry Lak Henderson and his team were able to incorporate so much historical information in a couple of minutes. Smart Music has taken Hip Hop music to another level.
This project should be incorporated in school systems and communities everywhere. Smart Music has no limits because educational music is great for anyone at any age at any time.
I look forward to Lesson Number Two. To find out how you can feature Smart Music Entertainment in your community and for more information on Smart Music visit www.smarthiphopmusic.blogspot.com and listen to the Onlinewithandrea interview with Larry ‘Lak’ Henderson.



http://www.blogtalkradio.com/onlinewithandrea/2011/11/04/larry-lak-henderson-creates-smart-music
onlinewithandrea is based in New York City, New York, United States of America, and is a Reporter for Allvoices. - AllVoices.com


Discography

Lesson One: Hip-Hop & Education
Intro
Kings & Queens
Slavery
Invent
First 25 Presidents
Cash Flow
Congress Women
Moors
50 States
It's A War
Congress Women (remix)
Drugs

Photos

Bio

Larry "LAK" Henderson, The Hiphop Educator, is the founder and CEO of Smart Music Entertainment, and the creator of a new sound of educational Hiphop music that uniquely inspires people of all ages. His album, Lesson One: Hip-Hop & Education, has hitAmazon bestseller lists (#1 in Hot New Releases and #8 in Educational Music), and has received airplay on major radio stations around the world, due to his combination of deep insights and authentic Hiphop sound.

Lak travels the country sharing his educational Hiphop soul music, offering "lessons" on topics that are rarely discussed, including current events, history, empowerment, political science, money management, and more. CBS calls Lesson One "creative, innovative, and informative." Dominion of New York Magazine says, "Most people who use Hiphop to educate do so badly. Lak does it so well."

Lak is a youth activist, social critic, history and religion intellectual, and an innovative education advocate. He is a Hiphop ambassador, and a noted speaker on the impact of the Hiphop culture. He holds degrees in Africana Studies, Communications, and Labor Studies from Rutgers University, and studied studio engineering at the Institute for Audio Research.

Lak has been featured at a host of youth and college events, Hiphop conferences, festivals, and on major radio and television programs, including London, UK's BANG 103.6 FM, CBS, BET, Houston's 97.9 FM, Chicago's WVON, Tampa's 88.55 FM, Minneapolis's 89.9 FM, North Carolina's 101.9 FM, New York's 103.9 FM, LA Talk Radio, Princeton University's 103.3 FM, Rutgers University's 88.7 FM, and on the nationally-syndicated show, "In Black America," to name a few.

Band Members