Classroom Cypher


Hip hop is more than rap music. Hip Hop culture is worldwide, it is rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, males and females, religious and atheists, citizens and immigrants as well as young and old.

In a cypher, students stand in a circle, spread at equal distances, and one at a time, contribute a rhyme, line of poetry, thought, idea, or affirmation. This circle is the educational foundation of the work I do in hip-hop education. What comes to mind when you hear the term hip hop education? I’d imagine that the vast majority of people would picture young people learning how to write rhymes, break dance, graffiti or DJ. Hip-hop is a culture and it’s just like learning about the Aztecs or the Mayans. We learn the origin, customs, and traditions of hip-hop through 16 sessions. It is designed to enlighten students to the hip hop culture and also address the social barriers young people are facing. Hip-hop was born in the South Bronx of the 1970s under oppressive conditions. In response to limited resources, poverty, and gang violence that riddled the New York City borough, black and Latino youth came together in an effort to improve the community, expressing themselves through rapping, breakdancing, graffiti art, and turntablism. Over 40 years later, hip-hop has become a worldwide phenomenon, reaching every corner of the globe and shaping the identities of a whole generation of young people. Kids today are just as invested in hip-hop culture as they were in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. It’s true that commercial hip-hop is often sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, and violent. The same is true of contemporary cinema, television, sports, and wider culture. This is precisely why we should create spaces for our students to critique these messages. Hip hop education also provides a brilliant way into political and cultural discussions. The course aim is to motivate, inspire and energize a generation. True hip hop mobilizes and brings together. It is a series of workshops that use the culture of the past to shape the future. Each session is divided into chapters, looking at the origins and rise of hip hop as an artistic form and global cultural phenomenon. We will examine the sociopolitical conditions that first led to the emergence of Hip-Hop in the 1980s as well as the ways it gets taken up today. We will look at it in the context of its existence as an outlet of expression for marginalized people. Hip-hop has become a formidable global cultural phenomenon. In going global, hip-hop has taken the angst, hope, social and political conditions of life in the inner cities to the global stage. It has become an anti-establishment culture, spawning its own special mode of communication, dress styles, and fostering a culture of resistance to institutional dominance, class exploitation, and middle-class values. This course will study the development, history, communication style, dance form, moral framework, and processes of globalization. It begins by asking what is hip-hop and key moments of this life form, we will examine the myriad dimensions of this culture, through its music, lyrics, spoken word poetry, music videos, dance styles, and political messages. If this is something you are interested in contact me on Peace!