Question: What is critical hip-hop pedagogy?

Answer: Good question! Let me first tell you what critical hip hop pedagogy is NOT. It isn't just about playing a Tupac song at the beginning of class or using a Nas hook as a classroom cheer. Critical hip hop pedagogy is teaching practice that calls for highly structured classrooms that facilitate youth creativity and academic development. Hip hop started as a way for young people, without other options, to critically examine their realities and pose solutions to the problems of institutionalized poverty and racism. Critical hip hop pedagogy practitioners structure their classrooms so as to teach rigorously (since so much of early hip hop was about kids in the hood receiving a low quality education and very little love from teachers) and to provide students with practical ways to apply their knowledge. These practical applications are incredibly engaging and aim to reduce poverty, violence and racism (three of the original hip hop's societal critiques). Technology, as the new education frontier, has always been an important part of critical hip hop pedagogy because it allows students to design solutions to problems and to share their solutions with their communities and beyond.

 

Question: But isn't hip-hop a negative for communities of color?

Answer: Sometimes. To be clear, we aren't talking about engaging with hip hop music that denigrates women or that places value on material good over people. We are talking about early hip hop that was transformational for a lot of young people in the 1980s and early 1990s. More importantly, we're talking about a pedagogical approach inspired by the creation of hip hop, not playing a hip hop song to keep students engaged (though, you'll definitely hear a lot of Nas playing in my classroom). We treat early hip hop as a text and have used it to develop an engaging curriculum and pedagogical approach that leads to student success. In my first year as a teacher, 92% of my students met state standards in mathematics because they were engaged and wanted to learn.

 

Question: Where can I learn more about critical hip hop pedagogy?

Answer: That's the best question ever! You can join one of our webinars or sign up for our email list. We'll also in the process of developing a toolkit which will be available here soon!