He raps about the relative clause, sings about similes and MC’s about metaphors to a worldwide audience of millions.

Now hip-hop teacher Jacob Mitchell, aka MC Grammar, is hoping to influence the future of Scotland’s schoolkids by bringing his viral teaching methods to Glasgow.

The 40 year old left school aged 16 with a single GCSE and found himself working in a hardware store with few prospects.

“I started out well at school, but by the time i was a teenager I didn’t have consistent teachers. So I disengaged, ended up messing around and got into a bit of trouble. I left with just a C in English,” said Mitchell.

“After a few months working in B&Q I realised I had to do something because I just was not happy. So I went back to school and did my A Levels and GCSEs at the same time.”

To help him cope with such a formidable workload, he developed mnemonics in the form of the music he was listening to.

“I started writing all the stuff I needed to learn as notes as raps in my dictaphone. And  I smashed my exams.”

Mitchell went to university and held hip hop club nights on campus, going on train as an English teacher. It was during his early days working at the chalkface that his career took an unlikely turn while on teaching practice.

“The teacher let me teach whatever way I wanted,” he said. “So I did a rap about similes and the kids just went wild for it. They started using the techniques I was teaching them, and they began to understand the difference between simile and metaphor.

“When my class was coming up to grammar tests, all about relative clauses, adverbs and all the rest of it, they were struggling to identify what was what.  I wrote a song called The Grammar Song to help them and they smashed the test. My head teacher suggested I went into neighbouring schools as a consultant and teach them.”

The Herald: Some people say that rap isn’t a positive space for childrenSome people say that rap isn’t a positive space for children (Image: MC Grammar)

The positive feedback led Mitchell to develop teaching resources around his hip-hop mnemonics.

“I made these individual songs for relative clauses, adverbial phrases, adjectives and so on, and I called myself MC Grammar. The whole point was a joke on [90s US rapper] MC Hammer. I was saying, ‘Stop! Grammar time!’ and bought an MC Hammer costume, even if the joke went over their heads because they didn’t have a clue who MC Hammer was.

“I wasn’t thinking beyond creating good classroom resources, the same as any good teacher would. Then people started messaging to ask if MC Grammar could come to their school.”

The popularity of Mitchell’s educational act propelled him out of the classroom onto a worldwide rapping tour.  A hip-hop version of Julia Donaldson’s hit children’s book The Gruffalo, which he recorded for his daughter and uploaded to YouTube, went viral landing him a slot rapping Dr Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham on the Ellen Degeneres Show in the States. His rap educational philosophy has seen him become a global ambassador for World Book Day and has taken him to Europe, America, the Middle East and Bermuda. He’ll perform at Glasgow’s Glee Club this Saturday afternoon as part of a UK tour.

Having crossed into TV with Sky’s Wonder Raps, and recently singing a record deal with Decca, Mitchell has paused his teaching career to ride his wave of popularity - metaphorically speaking, as he would say.

And while the father of four gets to live out his rap star fantasies on stage, his motivations remain the same as they were when he first stood in front of a class of disengaged pupils.

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“I understand my audience, because I worked with them on the front line and I know what to create for them and not to patronise them,” he said. “It’s really sad that just under one million kids in the UK don’t own a single book. 

“We know that kids who read for pleasure are likely to have better jobs and better health. One of the things I say to the kids who are interested in hip-hop is,’you can’t rap a book if you can’t read a book. So if you want to be a good rapper like me, you need words. If you have some sick rapper coming at you with an extensive vocabulary, you don’t want to be caught short, so read, read, read.’

“We need to get books into the hands of these kids as an urgent necessity. The kids coming up on screens now, not on books, are our future. There is a lot of work to do.”

Mitchell accepts that the genre of hip-hop, with dubious history around misogyny, homophobia, gun culture and gang violence, might not be the go-to for parents keen to promote and develop their child’s literacy.

But he said: “Some people say that rap isn’t a positive space for children. If we took any poetry from Spike Milligan to Michael Rosen and put it to a beat then it’s a rap song. Rap is poetry, and I always make it positive.  We can’t run from it. It’s modern pop music now.

“We listen to a song on the radio that we haven’t heard for 15 years and we remember every single word. Music is incredibly powerful, and linking that with hip-hop beats and things we need to remember is what I do. For every question a kid has, I want there to be an answer I can rap. 

“Last week it was about hyperbole, next week it’s the 11 times table, next week it’s about metaphor. The most important thing is that they have fun learning.”

MC Grammar is at The Glee Club, Glasgow, on 6 April.