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to arouse; to bring out; to summon; to wake
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Interview with Flocabulary

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With Flocabulary you can learn English vocabulary through rap music. This is one of the most effective learning techniques: Using rhymes to memorize words. But Flocabulary is even more. It contains the transcripts of the songs, written word definitions, mulitple-choice tests and other exercises you can do after or before you listen to the rap songs. We wanted to know more about the people behind this unique project and that''s why we spoke to Alex, one of the Flocabulary founders:

Alex, you studied music on the east coast of the US and now you are working in San Francisco. What made you move to the west?

I moved to San Francisco as a way to start something new. Flocabulary is a new concept and I needed a new place to make it happen. San Francisco is a place filled with new ideas and new companies. It''s the perfect home for Flocabulary.

Your partner''s name is Escher and he is also from the east coast. I take it the two of you met when you were at university?

Escher (Blake Harrison) and I actually met here in San Francisco (he attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia). We became friends and then started discussing a way to collaborate on this test-prep concept that involved hip-hop. I was a music producer and Escher was a writer, so our skills complimented perfectly for this project. We began working together almost immediately.

How exactly did the idea for Flocabulary emerge?

Blake was first struck by this idea when he was in High School. He recalls thinking that it was so easy to memorize the lyrics to entire Rap albums, yet so hard to memorize a handful of vocabulary words or terms for a test. He figured that if he could successfully weave challenging words into the lyrics while maintaining the credibility of the writing, then he would have a highly effective tool for learning and retention. Blake pitched this idea at me in January of 2004 and we had a demo recorded in a week. The concept seemed so natural to me that the creative aspects of the project took care of themselves. We focused on creating real hip-hop with well crafted, intelligent lyrics. The infusion of vocabulary was the second challenge. The result was flocabulary.

So, who writes the lyrics, who writes the music and who sings on Flocabulary?

For the most part Blake writes the lyrics to the songs and I write and produce the music. In some cases we collaborate with other hip-hop producers to get beats. We try to bring a diverse collection of voices to the songs by using rappers with disinct styles. On our first album, A Dictionary and A Microphone, you can hear Dee1R, a San Francisco-based emcee, Afro DZ ak, a Boston-based Spoken Word Artist, and of course, Escher. We also get a variety of singers and instrumentalists on the tracks to round out the sound.

What about the name. Is Flocabulary made up of «flow» and «vocabulary»?

That''s exactly right. Flow is a rap term for style, or the way a rapper delivers his or her rhymes. Vocabulary is, of course, our content. So the name evolved from the combination of those two words, just as our project evolved from the combination of two distinct concepts.

At this point Flocabulary is featuring vocabulary words and definitions that frequently occur on the SAT — the «Scholastic Scholastic Assessment Test». Does that mean your target market are mainly SAT candidates?

This first project is targeted primarily at the SAT market, though it has applications far outside of that specific discipline. Many of the words on this album are found on the TOEFL, the GRE, the PSAT, and in daily life. Our hope is that schools will build our songs into their vocabulary and language arts curricula as a way to foster vocabulary development in the classroom. Beyond that, we hope that a student of any age will see the value in building a strong vocabulary. It brings insight into great literature and makes you a master of you own langauge.
As a side note, we are working on new albums that focus on Geography and ESL.

Do you also perform your Flocabulary songs live on stage?

We are currently rehearsing a live show and will be taking it on the road in Spring 2006. We already have some shows scheduled at schools along the East Coast of the US. Our live show will be just like our album: fun and educational.

Alex, let''s talk about your product Flocabulary a bit more in detail. Suppose I want to prepare for the SAT. How do I obtain Flocabulary?

The most direct way to purchase Flocabulary is to visit the website www.flocabulary.com. We offer our CD/workbook package and also offer mp3 and pdf downloads of all songs and books.

So it seems you are using the Internet as a marketing channel and a communication tool. Which role does your website play in your promotion campaign?

Our website is our primary method of commerce and creates an online identity for Flocabulary. In the future, we hope to provide an intercative space for hip-hop fans and students to post rhymes and thoughts on vocabulary-based rap. Our website is, and will always be our link to the kids and the consumers. We try to drive as much traffic toward the site as possible. So check it out!

Who is maintaining and promoting your website?

We maintain the site with fresh content and news pieces. We mostly rely on word-of-mouth to carry our product to students, but also use some internet advertising. As I mentioned, we are currently building a new site that will feature exciting new content and access to our new CDs and books.

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