Aynsley Malase is getting closer to following in the footsteps of his favourite rap artist through a rap class at Tangaroa College.

The 17-year-old from Otara, who writes lyrics about growing up in South Auckland and looks up to rapper Dei Hamo, is one of eight students at the school to be part of a project that encourages learning through hip-hop music.

The performing arts teacher at Tangaroa College, David Riley, who oversees the rap programme, said it had helped encourage some of the school's most notorious truants to find a reason for wanting to come to school.

He described the process of getting some of the students to want to learn as being "like a parent trying to get their child to eat veges".

Participants were not allowed to let the rap class sacrifice their performance in other subjects, and it also helped them develop skills without realising it - for instance writing lyrics helped with English creative writing, Mr Riley said.

He hoped to further incorporate the programme in the school's curriculum next year so students could use components of the music production process to gain credits.

Ngaire Ashmore, the principal of Tangaroa College, said she was initially unsure about the idea of encouraging rap, which she thought was a whole lot of swearing, but had found the programme fitted well with the school's philosophy of "real learning".

This year a popular "MC" known as Shanti approached the school asking to teach Year 12 and 13 students about the hip-hop music business and the class known as "shine skool" began.

Mrs Ashmore said it was important to encourage students to follow their interests as they tended to follow through with projects they were passionate about.

Over the past few months she has watched the students learn to write lyrics that help them express themselves and the issues teenagers and Pacific Islanders in New Zealand face.