Old Skool: confidence through hip hop

Nicky Smirk left and See-Niz with the students of room 12 at Somerville Intermediate. Photo Jim Birchall

Spoken word artist See-Niz and rapper Nicky Smirk have been using a unique programme to teach public speaking confidence to students at Somerville Intermediate.

Nicky Smirk is a well-known New Zealand rapper on YouTube with popular tunes like ‘Snakes’ and ‘Karate Kid’, while See-Niz runs his own music label and production studio in Botany called Ghost Like Records (GLR). The studio is available for hire by local artists looking for a professional recording setup.

Teacher Vanessa Hancock was instrumental in setting up the out-of-the-box approach. She put a call out on social media for local MCs to get involved with teaching her students self-expression and was overwhelmed by the number of artists who put their hands up to help.

As a result of being asked to mentor the class, Nicky has returned to his old school stomping ground, where he was a student some 15 years earlier.

The Times got to witness two students perform their own tune they had written and composed, accompanied by a backing track. The students of room 12 have come out of their collective shells after being offered the chance to express themselves through the hip-hop and spoken word medium.

Nicky believes in the motto ‘Knowledge is power’ and thinks the best way to boost youngster’s self-confidence is simply by “talking and listening.”

Hancock added “It is wonderful to have Nicky and See-Niz with me in the class teaching what they do best and getting the best from my students. When I put the call out to invite any local rappers and spoken word artists to come into my class and do what they do best – I struck gold with See-Niz and Nicky.”

Hancock also says she is “constantly amazed at the talent that exists in our East Auckland community”, and

she feels that “too many teachers struggle and strive to be the experts of everything when experts are in the local community, and only too happy to come in and share their expertise.”