A couple of weeks ago, right before class began, one of my students informed me that he needed to talk to me about something important.
"Now? I asked.
"We can talk after class," he said.
After class ended, he waited for other students to finish up their questions and leave, then he approached me to show me a message that was on his cell phone. "Check it out. Read this."
It was an email message from an administrator at RapGenius, informing and congratulating my student for becoming a "verified artist" on the site, which meant that the site acknowledged his identity as the actual artist who can explain his own rap lyrics, which uploads to the site. The student was proud to have been accepted like that into the RapGenius community, and I commended him on his verified status.
He'll receive no compensation and no discounts, no free concert tickets. But he still felt like he had something valuable by receiving that email. Later as I reflected on it, I remembered that receiving "props" or recognition count as considerable worth for folks and especially in hip hop circles where cultural capital is an important form of currency.
The RapGenius folks apparently understand the value of props, and they thus established a system of symbolic rewards and status symbols as a way of creating stronger bonds among the citizens of the community.
• A Notebook on RapGenius