HipHoponomics, Part III

Economics and rapping wouldn’t seem to be the most natural bedfellows, but they keep showing up on this blog, including here and here. But this latest instance is probably also the best. It’s called “Demand, Supply,” and the artist is Rhythm, Rhyme, Results, a startup company in Cambridge, Mass., that creates educational rap music. Here’s the song (the link is from Imeem Music), followed by the lyrics and a note from the artists describing their mission. Enjoy.

Demand, Supply

Tradin’ this for that, call it tit for tat
We all face tradeoffs and that’s a fact because
Everything is in finite supply
That’s the reason why we all sell and buy

Next up is rule deuce, the next best use
Of money or time defines its true value
It’s more convoluted than just the simple cost
What else could you do? What opportunities are lost?

Decisions at the margin, yeah that’s the key
To understanding principle #3
Take your present situation and assume that it’s the best
If a change is worth more than it costs, then that’s your test

Lesson #4: it’s like the carrot and the stick
We break it down so you can see what makes the world tick
So why do we do the things that we do?
It’s a system of incentives that we all respond to

Demand, supply
Listen up, learn this, and you’ll know why
We work, we buy
The price is right when the competition’s alive

Everyone in society can benefit from trade
#5 is a reminder that we shouldn’t let hope fade
Just use what you’ve got to produce your best
The money that you make will buy the rest

Lesson 6 is a trick, the invisible hand
Buyers and sellers clear markets without the man
The market system almost always prevails
But recognize, too, that markets can fail

Because of monopolies and the troubles they create
Uncle Sam comes along and he’s gotta regulate
That’s lesson #7: when government’s there
They oversee to guarantee that competition is fair

#8 says the future of a national State
Relies on services and products people create
If we sell and excel and we keep doing well
Then the money keeps going ’round just like a carousel


#9: keep an eye on that money supply
Printing too much paper sends prices sky high
A dollar means nothing, it’s just a nice name
If what it represents doesn’t stay the same

Number 10: there’s a tradeoff in the short run
Between unemployment and inflation
I really can’t explain the whole situation
You want the full story? Step up your education!

And here’s a note from Robbie Mitchell, managing director of Rhythm, Rhyme, Results:

Our goal is to create original music for educational publishing, media, and software, and as way of demonstrating our abilities we have created four full-length demo CDs in four subjects (science, #4, is almost finished). To create the songs, we research the state curriculum standards, create detailed outlines from a list of eligible topics, then oversee production involving a network of professional lyricists, composers, vocalists, and producers, bringing it all together under a coherent artistic vision. This model allows us to create a wide sonic range of music at once. Sometimes we do the work ourselves; e.g., Ben [Jackson] has written and performed a number of our demo songs, and I wrote the economics song.

This year we were also part of a phenomenal campaign for the American Academy of Audiology, for whom we created “Turn It to the Left,” a song about protecting your hearing. We are currently in negotiations to do a larger collection of health songs for a health consortium.

RRR is governed by a small board of directors, led by Isaiah Jackson, our president, a professor and former orchestra conductor. Ben is creative director, with a history of teaching and musical experience; I run the day-to-day affairs as managing director and am focused on the business of digital media and related technology.

We (Ben and Robbie, friends since 10th grade) are 27 and 26 respectively, and realized two years ago that we had no problem remembering song lyrics from pop songs. We also noticed that most educational music is either too childish or ineffective; most companies don’t wander anywhere near contemporary music, and those that do don’t execute the concept well. We set out to teach students in a medium and genre they’re comfortable with — if you’re going to teach them, you don’t get to take what they like and change both the lyrics and the style! Otherwise, too much behavioral change would be required.

Nicolas L

It's now stuck in my head. This is the best educational song since the cheesy multiplication table songs my teacher played in third grade.


a verse about the free market's necessary pillaging of foreign labor and resources would better approach reality. but maybe that's the "step up your education" part.


Yeah this is really good. Educational rap isn't worth much if the listener doesn't want to hear it more than once, so this really breaks the mold of most of the crap they forced you to listen to in school


I love this. Great concept. The song is pretty catchy.
I can imagine teachers in school breaking down the lyrics of these songs, almost like you would in a poetry class, to teach these lessons. Kids will remember them.
Great idea!


I must say, this sounds like the kind of thing that well-meaning adults always think is a great idea, but actual high school students usually hate. Even if the musical aesthetic gets close to that of contemporary hip-hop (this particular song seems to do a relatively adequate, if not great, job of that), the mere fact of the song's being an economics lesson already dilutes what makes hip-hop (or pop, or rock or whatever) fun and exciting for the kids who listen to it.

Kids love hip-hop (or heavy metal, or goth, or whatever) _because_ it's wild and rebellious and is something their parents likely hate. Projects like this one strip the music of the very thing that holds appeal for kids. My feeling is that adults like "educational rap" so much because it's sterile and understandable to them (the adults), not because kids actually respond well to it.

My guess? Teachers and and administrators will love it, but students will roll their eyes.


Scott Manley

It's surprisingly good summary, usually educational music is embarrassingly bad but this works, and it looks like the rest of their tracks are worth sharing with your kids. (and in some cases adults)




I'm shocked, the song was actually good. I never expected to play an education song and wanting to hear it again. It all flows very well.


Sell these songs on iTunes.
Perfect hit.

S .Heaton

Thumbs up: and it's better than the Obama ringtone.


Although I abhor most Rap & Hip Hop music I can see its merits as a teaching tool. Whatever gets kids thinking constructively is a very good thing!

Jason Roth

And check out this Compton rapper who also happens to be a physics student:


In response to the comment that this is "the kind of thing that...actual high school kids usually hate," it should be pointed out that Rhythm Rhyme Results has been testing their songs for months with actual high school students, and the results have been very positive. (Full disclosure: Robbie and Ben are friends of mine, but I am not affiliated with RRR.) My understanding is that the students at RRR's test sites have been remarkably engaged by the music, and have even been heard singing the lyrics after the test sessions. Perhaps Robbie can comment on this a bit more, but I wouldn't be so quick to judge the efficacy of their product.


FYI, the ten lessons are straight outta Greg "N-dot" Mankiw's intro text, Principles of Economics.


If you think the economics song is catchy, you'll like the math tracks even more (they're all streamable here:

And as for whether real kids will respond to this type of music: I incorporated them into lessons for the 12-year-old boy I tutored in math and science, and they became a regular feature on his playlist.


I'd like to hire them to write me a rap about the importance of not illegally copying computer games' floppy disks.


I'm a high school AP economics student.
Good effort, but... come on. If my teacher played this song, my class would respond as follows:
-uhh wtf?
-oh, it's one of those *collective eyeroll*
-*check time*
-i guess this is better than taking notes
-*zone out*


I am a rhythm junkie. I love rap but I'm a mother of four and rap is not allowed in our house because of the standard content. I listened and I loved the rhythm and thought the lyrics were great! Playin it again. The company is extremely well named. Where do I get my CD?



I'm not a business man. I'm a business, man.

Thanks, Jay-Z.


I dig it a lot.

I try to tell (white) people that one of the reasons i love rap/hip-hop is because it's so educational. I learn stuff, still, that i never had the chance to learn in grade school or college - where black history / art / culture just doesn't exist, and if it does, it's completely whitewashed, boring, often untrue.

This particular song just goes more into econ fundamentals, whereas most of what I listen to tries to paint a view of the world that actually makes sense based on our experiences - not what is supposed to be true according to our textbooks - 'democracy', 'everyone has a chance to succeed', etc.