Empowering Minds: LL Cool J’s GAP Commercial as a Catalyst for Classroom Conversations

Empowering Minds: LL Cool J’s GAP Commercial as a Catalyst for Classroom Conversations

Title: LL Cool J’s GAP Commercial: A Catalyst for Social Change

Course and Grade Level: Challenge and Change in Society, Grade 12 HSB4U

Curricular Object: Link to the GAP Commercial

Strand and Specific Expectation: B2. Causes and Effects of Social Change, B2.3 explain various means of creating social change (e.g., direct action, protest, advocacy, community organization, revolution, political activism).


In the Grade 12 course “Challenge and Change in Society,” we examine the causes and effects of social change, exploring diverse methods for effecting change. To facilitate a meaningful exploration of this subject, we’ve selected LL Cool J’s late 1990s GAP commercial as a pivotal curricular resource. This commercial serves as a compelling case study, illustrating the significant impact of popular culture and hip-hop in promoting social change. It vividly exemplifies advocacy and empowerment within a broader societal context, making it an ideal choice for our curriculum. Although it was created for senior high school students, it can be modified for grade 8+ . This exploration is not confined to a single grade or subject.

By using this commercial as a central resource, we can create an engaging learning environment. We’ve formulated a series of essential questions to encourage students to apply analytical, synthesis, evaluation, and creative skills. These questions revolve around LL Cool J’s approach to advocating for social change, the messages he conveys, and the subtleties woven into his actions. We also prompt students to examine the impact of the GAP commercial and explore the motivations behind the Gap’s decision to prominently feature LL Cool J wearing the FUBU hat.

Within this context, LL Cool J’s incorporation of the FUBU mantra, “For Us By Us,” into the commercial’s lyrics signifies a reclamation of power and a stance against anti-black racism. His unique attire in the commercial symbolizes resistance against microaggressions and racial biases. This analysis provides a rich platform for students to explore how individuals use their influence to challenge established societal norms.

Furthermore, the commercial’s impact extends beyond the fashion industry, fostering discussions on representation and inclusion. It empowered young black individuals to assert their presence in the hip-hop fashion sphere, contributing to the emergence of brands like 100 Mile and 2 Black Guys. Donning FUBU clothing became a source of pride, representing not just fashion but also cultural identity and community. This discussion helps students appreciate the broader implications of cultural representation in advertising and its role in fostering inclusivity.

Overall, LL Cool J’s GAP commercial is a powerful tool for examining the causes and consequences of social change, encapsulating the influential role of culture, advocacy, and empowerment in challenging societal norms.

Connection to Strand and Specific Expectation:

LL Cool J’s GAP commercial connects directly to the strand “B2. Causes and Effects of Social Change.” The commercial showcases how a prominent figure in hip-hop culture used a mainstream advertising platform to advocate for change. Specifically, it exemplifies the means of creating social change through advocacy and the use of pop culture influence.

Additional Resources and Connections:

Introduce Canadian brands with a similar history, such as “100 Miles,” “2 Black Guys,” “Fresh Rejects”, “Nise World”, “Grand Slammers” and “United Colours of MELANIN,” to provide a broader perspective on the theme of advocacy and cultural representation in fashion.

Evoking Critical Thinking Questions:

  • What was the lasting impact of this moment, not only within the fashion industry but also in the broader cultural context?
  • Is the phrase “For Us, By Us” limited to the Black community, or does it have broader implications?
    • In what ways does the concept of “High tide raises all boats” apply here, considering Fubu’s role in the fashion world centred on Black American culture? Where can we see the legacies of this groundbreaking moment?

Potential Student Responses:

When exploring LL Cool J’s GAP commercial as a curricular object, students may exhibit a wide range of responses and inquiries. Some students may engage with the message of empowerment and resistance against racial biases, while others may express curiosity about the role of hip-hop culture in social change. Reflections on the commercial’s broader societal impact, including its influence on fashion and challenges to norms, are also common and expected. Cultural identity may be a point of connection, with some students relating the commercial to their own backgrounds.

Students may inquire about the historical context, the symbolism of symbols in the commercial, its impact on fashion trends, and the strategies employed for advocating social change. Discussions about cultural appropriation, diversity in advertising, and the evolution of hip-hop culture are likely to emerge as well. 

In addition to positive responses, some students may offer critical views, expressing concerns about commercialization, corporate motives, and the limited inclusivity of the campaign. They may question whether the commercial was exploitative, if it went far enough in advocating social change, and whether its impact was sustainable. These responses and questions enrich the learning experience, fostering critical thinking, and a comprehensive examination of the commercial’s multifaceted impact.



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