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Literature – all rapped up

Calvin Tiu (Kalvonix) and Rick Kumar (Big Love) took a unique take on a Kwantlen Polytechnic University assignment. - Submitted
Calvin Tiu (Kalvonix) and Rick Kumar (Big Love) took a unique take on a Kwantlen Polytechnic University assignment.
— image credit: Submitted

What would happen if you took a classic kids’ story such as Alice in Wonderland and shook it up with rap rhymes reminiscent of Eminem?

Kwantlen Polytechnic University students Calvin Tiu and Hanrick (Rick) Kumar know – and now their instructor and classmates do, too.

The collaborative composition the pair of 21-year-olds submitted for their third-year children’s literature class was so original instructor Dr. Sue Ann Cairns hadn’t seen anything like it in more than three decades of teaching.

Tiu and Kumar, accomplished rappers who go by the names Kalvonix and Big Love, respectively, compiled an eight-track album of rap songs called The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, a music video and a conventional written essay.

Their project explored children’s literature, including the classics Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Giving Tree and Charlotte’s Web, and contemporary young adult novels such as What I Saw and How I Lied, Skim and Tweaked.

They used rap to reinterpret the books, and in the end delivered a final submission that, according to Cairns, was alternately “playful, serious and poignant.”

Their work has just been published in the University of Texas’s online journal, TheJUMP: The Journal for Undergraduate Multimedia Projects.

“They helped me and members of our class get inside the texts we were studying in fresh, creative ways,” Cairns said.

Though rap is sometimes controversial for its use of explicit and sometimes suggestive lyrics, Kumar and Tiu wanted to showcase rap as a thoughtful form of art.

“We’re always looking for different ways to branch out and this was an opportunity to prove that rap doesn’t always have to be so negative,” said Tiu.

“One of the reasons we wanted to do this project was to give rap a new voice,” Kumar added.

Tiu has been rapping for nine years (he was featured in The Leader when he was in high school in 2009) and has produced more than 20 solo albums using just his laptop, a studio microphone and recording software. He performed for a crowd of 12,000 at the Yaletown Olympic venue during the 2010 Winter Olympics, and in Surrey at the Sapphire Gala in support of the Child Development Foundation of B.C.

Kumar has been a creative writer since childhood, making the transition into rapping in 2009. He has released one solo album and two collaborative pieces. He is also an avid writer of slam poetry and spoken word, some one which has been published in The Runner, Kwantlen’s newspaper.

Together, the English majors recently created a seminar for high school and university students on the benefits of self-expression through rap, poetry and spoken word titled “Frontier Poetics.”

To listen to The Stuff Dreams are made of, check http://bit.ly/1p1wIfRw

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