Teens Make Musical Scrapbooks

Published July 14, 2010

DOVER, Del. (AP) — As travel journals go, the one a group of students will take home to Spain later this month has most others beat — literally.

The teenagers, with the Global Friendships exchange program, are spending the month with Dover-area families, taking day trips to must-see places like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and are honing their English language skills — all of which make for some pretty neat memories.

And that's where the beat and LaFayette Bell Sr. come in.

Bell is teaching the teens how to rap about their memories — as part of their experience here in Delaware.

What the students will end up with is something like a musical scrapbook — urban American style.

So how do you teach someone to rap?

Well, says, Bell, "it starts off with an idea."

So, suppose you want to rap about something like the impact of AIDS on children — something Bell rapped about in his piece "Nothing but Pillow Talk" — that would be your main idea, he said.

"From the title, I write the hook," he said.

That's the sort of gotcha line that draws the listener in.

And "you have your beat," he said.

Bell tells his young rap students that with music, things don't always have to make perfect sense.

"It don't really have to come together like glue and paper," he said.

But like other songs, you need to think verse and chorus, verse and chorus as the structure.

Bell did his free workshop for the exchange students Monday at Killens Pond State Park — doing some a cappella rapping for his audience. He likely will do another before the teens return home to help them complete their project.

This time around, he suggested that it didn't matter much if they rapped about their trip memories in Spanish or English. The important thing is to come up with the title and the hook.

Once they have that and the experiences they want to include in their rap, Bell will provide the beat.

"It's got to stay consistent," he said.

At this workshop, Bell even showed the youngsters how to copyright their songs, and he brought along the paperwork from some of his works.

Bell, who lives near Harrington, works full time as a school bus driver, but he's been a rap artist since 1992, writing and performing with the likes of T Lee in Houston, Texas. He's also written raps for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots annual holiday toy drive.

This group of teens arrived in late June from their homes in Barcelona, Spain, said Marcia Schweitzer, a local coordinator for Global Friendships.

The idea is to give the students a full range of experiences, she said.

They've already been on field trips to New York and Washington and to an amusement park in Pennsylvania. On Monday, they visited Killens Pond to see what one of Delaware's state parks is like.

In the weeks ahead, they also will visit museums, said co-coordinator Marc Schweitzer, Marcia's husband.

And there also will be a trip to Annapolis that likely will include a stop for some shopping — something the teens love, Marc Schweitzer said.

And before the trip is over, "hopefully, they will improve their English skills," he said.

Written by MOLLY MURRAY,The News Journal of Wilmington

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