Familiar Familia reflects on McNally Smith's hip-hop summer camp - KMSP-TV

McNally Smith hip-hop summer camp: 'This has kept me alive'

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

From music and movies to fashion and finance, hip-hop's impact on pop culture is undeniable -- and some teens from across the country are getting a unique look at how the billion-dollar industry works at McNally Smith College of Music.

The St. Paul school is the only one in the country that offers a college degree in hip-hop studies, and they've started a summer camp to get interested students introduced. Now, when most people picture summer camps, they think of making arts and crafts and sleeping in cabins in the woods -- but these teens are putting a different spin on the annual tradition while taking center stage in the process.

Sometimes, hip-hop gets a bad rap -- but it's an influential art form, especially among the young.

"Music is my life," Michael Benson said. "It's the ultimate mode of expression. Hip-hop has always been there for me. It's the newer generation of music."

Benson, who is known as Focus on stage, was looking for something to do this summer and came all the way from West Palm Beach, Fla., to focus on doing what he loves most.

"This has kept me alive," he explained. "I've dealt with excessive amounts of bullying, criticism to the nth degree. There's certain things about hip-hop that say it's okay, it's going to get better and it does get better."

In addition to learning everything from the art of rapping to the history of the uniquely American art form, the students traveled around the Twin Cities to see why Minnesota is such a hotbed for hip-hop music. The best part, however, is that they created their own soundtrack for the summer of 2014 while making friendships that will last a lifetime.

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