Essential Learning at Hip Hop High

David E. Ellis, the founder and director of the High School for Recording Arts (“Hip Hop High”), was born and raised in St. Paul Minnesota, and is a graduate of the St. Paul Open School. Mr. Ellis established himself in the music business in the mid-eighties as the first rap recording artist to release a record in Minnesota, the “Twin City Rap.” After a couple of independent record releases with regional success, he was recruited by Prince and Warner Brothers to record and produce records at Paisley Park. Eventually, Ellis started his own production company, Studio 4, where a number of young black artists who had dropped out of high school soon became a permanent presence. These young artists would ask Ellis questions about recording their music, copyrighting and publishing their work, reading and understanding a recording contract, and so on. Guiding them through the creative and business process of the recording industry, Ellis was struck by the way the youth naturally embraced academic subjects that supported their pursuit of music careers. With that realization, and after a two-year pilot program, the High School for Recording Arts was born. It received a charter from the Minnesota Department of Education and emerging as the only public school of its kind in the United States. At the High School for Recording Arts the classes are small. The education is tailored to students’ interests and needs, and guided by faculty advisors. But it’s the school’s respect for the hip hop back beat and poetry of today’s inner-city youth that make the High School for Recording Arts (HSRA) in Minnesota’s Twin Cities a model educational program for at-risk youth, grades 9-12.

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