Which Mic Will You Choose?

rapper or mc

Photo taken by Hannu-Pekka Peuranen

I owned a Grandmaster Flash record.

I bought LL Cool J’s Bigger & Deffer cassette tape when it first came out.

I’ve seen De La Soul in concert.

So I thought I knew a little bit about hip hop. Well it turns out that is all I know. A little bit. But I am a lifelong learner. So the other day, I had the opportunity to learn a bit more. A colleague of mine, Devon Beck, and I were discussing music and the terms MC and Rapper kept coming up.

And then it hit me. I really didn’t know the difference between the two. In fact, I am sure I have used them interchangeably. When I should not have been. Because I learned that, in fact, they are very different.

From my conversation with Devon, and from further research on the internet, I have come to learn that an MC’s objective is to interact with the crowd or as Ice T states ,”control the audience.” Whereas, a rapper’s mission is to simply sing their song and that’s it. This is not to imply that rapping is easy. But you get the idea.

In our conversation, Devon went on to point out to me that he never calls himself a rapper. He always introduces himself as an MC or a Hip-Hop Artist. I was excited to learn the difference and never thought much more of the distinction. Until today. In the middle of voxing a friend it hit me. The difference between an MC and a Rapper is very much like the difference between a weak educator and a great educator.

A weak educator has their script or their song, if you will. They don’t stray from it and they dare not take any cues from their students/audience. This may approach may be moderately effective. But most students simply don’t give a sh*& because they’ve heard these same tired beats before.


image credit: moving2virtual.icohere.com

On the other hand, the great educator, like an MC, that makes it their objective to interact with the crowd, ends up inspiring, motivating and energizing. They are not afraid to stray from what they had planned. They gauge what their students/audience needs and they allow them to become part of the song, part of the lesson.


image credit: freeinfosociety.com

I realize I may be oversimplifying things. Or am I? Think of the artists that are known for putting on the best shows: Jay Z, Bruce Springstein and The Rolling Stones, just to name a few. Do they simply run through their playlist? Or do they gauge the audience to determine where do go next? I think anyone who has ever been to one of their concerts know the answer to this question.

“Now let me make a distinction. An MC is a representative of Hip-Hop culture. A Rapper is a representative of corporate entry.”


A weak educator’s eyes are constantly on the textbook, the script, the lesson plan. The great educator is constantly looking at their students, their staff, their community to see what their next step should be. They may start with a set playlist. But it never sounds the same. Like an MC, they always take into consideration the culture (beliefs, customs and values) of their audience to determine where to go next.

Are we Rappers or are we MC’s?

Think about it.

The audience has paid good money for their ticket!

They lined up for hours.

The opening acts were okay.

But they came to see you.

Which mic will you choose?



  1. Loved this post for the message and the fond memories it brought

    My morning bus rotation will never be the same without your Boys 2 Men renditions, they made ever morning brighter

  2. I think that great venues makes great concerts. If the manager dictates the rules, then the rules win. However, if they create an environment where people can just come in and play their thing, then there is more rooms for personality. Some artists get to a point where they are able to dictate terms to the audience, but sadly, too many artists are told by record bosses and tour operators. Maybe that is where we need to address? Who are the bosses and operators in your organisation? What influence are they having on the learning and your role as an educator? Maybe I am wrong …

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