Chipmunk gets school kids rapping

Campaign: Def Jam Rapstar - Rhyme Master Schools Competition Client: 4mm Games PR team: Dubit Timescale: October-December 2010 Budget: £20,000

Lyrical legend: Chipmunk helps kids rap
Lyrical legend: Chipmunk helps kids rap


Games development company 4mm Games hired youth comms agency Dubit to launch Def Jam Rapstar to the youth market. Def Jam Rapstar is a karaoke video game dedicated to hip-hop.

Dubit decided to use the status of rap artists among young people to highlight the importance of literacy skills and vocabulary, demonstrating the relevance of English lessons at school.

It created a competition called Rhyme Master Schools, where young people had to write a rap about themselves or what they were doing in school. UK hip hop artist Chipmunk was secured as the game's spokesperson.


- To manage the Rhyme Master Schools competition and drive entries through the website

- To raise awareness of Def Jam Rapstar

- To generate coverage in teacher and young teen media and promote the competition through direct marketing.


Initially, backing was sought from the National Literacy Trust's Reading for Life division, which promotes reading at all stages of life. Chipmunk was then used to garner interest from teen media and appeal to the teaching press.

A website was built to host the competition, collect entries and create a space for media and interested parties to communicate. It included a video by Chipmunk detailing why school and English language were essential for aspiring MCs.

Key youth titles were approached with a story about Chipmunk's search for the UK's next rap star and his tips for success.

Teaching media picked up on the Reading for Life angle and positioned the competition as a way for teachers to engage with students.

A shortlist was drawn up by Dubit and a winner picked by Chipmunk, 4mm Games and Reading for Life.

Chipmunk visited the winner's school, performed his latest songs, presented the winner with her prize, and competed with students playing the game.

PR activity for and after the personal appearance was handled by Dubit and other agencies.


All teaching media covered the competition including TES, Sec Ed and specialist English language publications. The teaching press, along with the NLT, also pushed the competition to their substantial mailing lists. Teen titles such as Shout, Top of the Pops and Bliss also carried the competition and linked to the website. Many teen gossip sites and blogs ran the story off the back of other coverage. In total there were more than 100 pieces of coverage focused on the competition.


More than 400 schools entered the competition and the website had 25,000 visitors. Teachers' feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many requesting it to be run again. The competition has been picked up by 4mm Games to run in the US.


It's hard not to like this campaign, especially given the superb return on investment for a frankly pretty limited budget. I particularly like the peer-to-peer element, raising awareness through existing viral networks between young people.

The message being communicated is pleasingly simple - if you want to be a rap star, you need to know how to speak properly. Old farts and fuddy duddies will have an automatic default negative setting towards any initiative to improve English literacy that doesn't involve learning John Donne recitals.

But this sort of initiative is far more important in terms of engaging the interest of young people, for whom the distant payoffs of being able to read, write and speak properly are intangible. For many, using a clique-led patois and not being a 'geek' means being cool in the playground. They find it far more important to achieve this today than worry about having the English skills that will get them into university or get them a decent job in a few years.

You can see why teachers love this campaign.

Nadirah Kaba recommends

Read more

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in