A demo ‘Rhymes with Reason’ exercise focusing on the word ‘alienate’; Photo: Rhymes with Reason

Brown University Alum Austin Martin is being celebrated for a literacy program he created called “Rhymes with Reason,” “an interactive educational platform that teaches students academic vocabulary using popular hip-hop music.”

The idea first came to Martin when he was in high school. He wasn’t engaged with the traditional academic environment, and like most young kids found himself gravitating to music as a means of escape. As his musical palate matured he found academic concepts emerging in some of his favorite songs. He quickly connected the dots between the music he was listening to and the history that was being taught, and the idea for “Rhymes with Reason” slowly emerged.

“I wanted to combine my love for hip-hop and this idea…about the academic viability of hip-hop,” Martin told the Brown Daily Herald. “I wanted to bring that spark to kids across the country with ‘Rhymes with Reason.'”

“Rhymes with Reason” is broken down into three major categories: Vocabulary Essentials, U.S. History, and College Prep. Each program uses anywhere from 100-200 key terms and introduces them through a song it appears in. The tracks can be replayed, and there are multiple choice quizzes as well as assignment based tracking that will allow teachers to see where students are having trouble.

Martin believes that the program will thrive in urban settings where hip-hop culture will be more widely embraced. It’s not the first time that an educator has incorporated hip-hop into a curriculum, but it’s unique in that Martin is still very young and can relate on a level that maybe a teacher can’t.

“There is a lot of power in tapping into the artists…and the songs that (the kids) listen to already and bringing those into an educational space,” Martin said. “We’re taking the hip-hop they already like, and saying, ‘That’s valid, that has value’.”

Watch Martin discuss the inception of ‘Rhymes with Reason’ back in April of 2016 at TedxBrownU, when he was still a junior in college below.