Nevermind the corporate synergy at work for Gatorade here – just watch this preview:
Trying to find a consistent link or updated information on Blokhedz (WARNING – my browser warns of viruses from this link) has proven difficult. However, getting students to read Blokhedz: Genesis has been a pleasure (Click the previous link to view Amazon’s thorough preview).
As indicated in the text’s pre-reading synonpsis, Blak is a seventeen year-old wannabe rapper internally battling between his own social conscience and the harsh realities of the music industry. Influenced by his older brother Konz (short for Konzaquence), Blak is advised early to consider that “people would kill for [his talent]. You wanna be a tough guy? Tough guys get touched every day. You may not realize it, but your words have power” (Madtwiinz, 2007). Konz then bestows his Lion medallion upon Blak as a symbol of wisdom and power. The Lion previously stopped a bullet from reaching Konz’s heart before he was incarcerated, and the medallion carries great weight to young Blak.
Young and brash, Blak fails to heed Konz’s advice, leading to Konz’s eventual death at the hands of the Wild Dawgs, a rival clique. Wrestling with guilt over his brother’s death, Blak spits rhymes throughout the text that will impress and engage any reader – especially adolescents. For example:
When u mention Blak critics say the God is hot / Arrogant is something tha thte God is not / Sign autographs and flow in front of barbershops / One problem, When I start I find it very hard 2 stop / Now that my destiny is known / I’m the king and G-Pak is protecting the throne / What (MadTwiinz, 2007).
This verse pales in comparison to Blak’s ultimate battles with Blok Murda Records rival Vulture: a rapper who preys upon the ignorance of Empire City’s lust for violence.
As pure entertainment, both the Blokhedz text and web cartoon stand on their own. As for literary value, readers will likely be most drawn to the vernacular; a ‘slang glossary’ is even provided as an appendix to the story. Still, the text is not devoid of meaning or literary value. Blak is a wholly round, dynamic character who stands in direct contrast to flatter, static characters like Vulture or Bloko, the record label’s boss who resembles Death Row’s Suge Knight. The Lion medallion presents an accessible symbol with layered meaning open to interpretation, and given the vivid illustrations, the intended positive message will not be lost upon most readers. Furthermore, foreshadowing is scattered throughout the piece, the best example erupting when Blak’s crew pull a U-turn while failing to notice a No U-Turn sign littered with stickers and graffiti. The result? A her0-esque encounter with a corrupt policeman who is later proven to double as a henchman in Bloko’s underground domination of Empire City’s drug trade and organized crime.
The key to justifying housing this text in the classroom is the fact that the message is ultimately positive. In an interview, author Mike Davis states:
We wanted to make a statement that it is important to use the power of one’s words in a responsible manner. Hip-hop is very powerful and influential. Words have manifestation and attraction powers. What you think is communicated by what you say and what you say shapes your reality. With the current values that are presently reigning in mainstream hip-hop, the message the youth are receiving is one of materialism. The essence of the struggle and its creativity is being over shadowed by industry. We wanted to do our part to maintain the voice of struggle, its creativity and express the strength and influence of this magical art form called hip-hop (Ward, 2007).
More importantly, he notes, “Lastly, on the social front, Blokhedz has become a tool to encourage literacy for the generation that was born in the information age and might not want to read a book. With the imagery, and hip-hop undertones, we attract them to the look and then drop jewels or lessons to them in a non preachy way” (Ward, 2007).
A 2008 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, used copies of Blokhedz can be found for $0.01 on Amazon.com … I’ve already run through four of them in the last few years.