CLASSROOM CYPHER OVERVIEW

Classroom cypher is a conversation that allows for multiple forms of simultaneous participation.’

‘Classroom cypher is a conversation that allows for multiple forms of simultaneous participation.’

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.

First Chapter History session part one
Hip hop is one of few cultures that celebrate the inner city. This is due in part to hip hop’s birthplace – the South Bronx of New York City. Essentially, hip hop embodies the “feelings” of inner city life, and the music and art reflect the often harsh realities of inner city life. But how did this appreciation for such an underappreciated environment become a symbol of celebration for so many? This appreciation can in some part be explained by the study of aesthetics. Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that focuses on the nature of beauty, how we look at the arts and our responses they produce. This lesson examines the beauty of hip hop art forms and why people appreciate or do not appreciate them. In what ways is inner city life reflected in hip hop and how did this come about? Is the inner city represented in a positive and/or negative way?

Second Chapter History part two
Hip Hop is described as ‘Something out of nothing’ Young people birthed a movement out of their creative conscious. In Jamaica in the seventies King Tubby and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry would strip down the instrumentals, mixing in and out the vocals, adding echo. This was called a version, or dub. This is how the remix started that was popularised by Kool Herc and Flash. A remix is all about making something better. Making a song reach different audiences. You now have remixes in art, literature and in life. Are their areas in our lives that need remixing?

Third Chapter History session part three
Preface: As we complete the third decade of what has been termed “hiphop culture,” much has yet to be explored regarding its roots, history, terminology and essence. Deciphering theories from facts is a gradual, seeming endless process since many resources are scattered, leaving missing links in the chains of history. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that there are authentic facts, proven by sound testimony and evidence, regarding “hip hop” history. These truths, unanimously agreed upon by the pioneers of the culture, should constitute the “hip hop gospel,” whereas the questionable theories should remain as footnotes until proven to be fact.

Fourth Chapter Hip Hop in Society
It is apparent that Hip Hop has had a worldwide impact. The evidence is in movies, TV, magazines, and on the internet. Many elements have been adopted by a wide segment of mainstream society. Contrary to popular perception. “Early hip hop has often been credited with helping to reduce inner-city gang violence by replacing physical violence with dance and artwork battles…. With the emergence of commercial and crime-related rap during the early 1990s, however, an emphasis on violence was incorporated, with many rappers boasting about drugs, weapons, misogyny, and violence.” As an art form, the musical style incorporating rhythmic and/or rhyming speech is seen as having a widespread and lasting influence. As an economic engine, Hip Hop “represents a multi-billion-dollar industry that influences everything from automotive design and fashion to prime-time television programming, educational and professional sports, mass media marketing, and advertising. The commercial interest in Hip Hop has led to targeting expensive products to those who cannot afford them, and the quest for the products has been associated with illegal behaviour. In terms of its influence on individuals, concern on one level is that the initial attraction to Hip Hop subculture becomes an entrenched negative lifestyle for too many young people as a reaction to the lack of acceptance and indeed outright rejection they feel in society.

Sixth Chapter Who’s the best?
Within the hip hop community, their remains an ongoing debate about who the greatest Artist is. This enduring debate is much like an argument over who the greatest composer, playwright, football player, or Cricketer is. To establish one’s greatness, most persons must meet basic criteria and be judged against their competitors and the criteria by which the standard for consideration in the discussion is set. Rappers or MC, themselves often claim that they’re the greatest or the best MC. Many argue that rappers KRS One, Rakim, Nas, JayZ, Tupac, and Notorious B.I.G. are frontrunners in this discussion. The students will decide for themselves.

Seventh Chapter Make your voice count

“The freedom songs are playing a strong and vital role in our struggle. They give the people new courage and a sense of unity. I think they keep alive a faith, a radiant hope, in the future, particularly in our most trying hours.”

Martin Luther King Jr


In December, Quest love wrote on Instagram, “I urge and challenge musicians and artists alike to push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in … I really apply this challenge to ALL artists. We need new Dylans. New Public Enemys. New Simones.” He went on, “Songs with spirit in them. Songs with solutions. Songs with questions. Protest songs don’t have to be boring or non-danceable or ready made for the next Olympics. They just have to speak truth.”

We shall overcome, we shall overcome,
We shall overcome someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
We shall overcome someday.


The simple, aspirational lyrics of “We Shall Overcome” have been sung by everyone from churchgoers to civil rights protesters to Southern labor activists to the United States president.
The song is part of a long history of protest music that has helped to open eyes and awaken consciences since the earliest years of life, and the tradition continues today.

Eighth Chapter The rose session
Sometimes we must struggle against incredible obstacles. It can feel like they are impossible to overcome. Amazingly, we often end up finding that we have the strength to break through the barrier.

Ninth Chapter Expressive Art session
Graffiti holds special significance as one of the elements of hip hop culture. Graffiti as an urban art form has existed since at least the 1950s, but began developing in earnest in the late 1960s, and flourished during the 1970s. Graffiti first came to public attention in the late 1960s, mostly in New York City. It came out of a movement for Black and Hispanic identity and empowerment. In the 1970s and 80s it became part of the hip-hop style. The tag was a stylized logo that allowed an artist to paint subway cars yet remain anonymous. Graffiti writers used tags to compete for public space and attention.

Tenth Chapter Hip Hop declaration session
The Declaration recognizes hip-hop as an international culture of peace and a positive force in the world. People that helped create it include Afrika Bambaataa, KRS-One, Pop Master Fabel, Harry Allen, and Ralph McDaniels. It was signed by 300 hip-hop activists, pioneers, and UN delegates, along with organizations such as Temple of Hip Hop and UNESCO. The Declaration was presented to the United Nations organization in 2001.

Eleventh Chapter Why and Where session
Hiphop is a musical genre that has gained worldwide prominence alongside country, classical, jazz, blues, rock, folk, and reggae music (among many others). Within hip hop, there exist many different styles of music as well. Some of the more popular subcategories of hip hop music are what are referred to as gangsta rap, hardcore rap, underground hip hop, gospel rap, down south rap, Miami bass music, conscious hip hop, and commercial rap. These categories are often tied to specific geographic regions of the U.S. For example, most agree that gangsta rap has its roots and strongest fervour in the West coast hip hop scene. Moreover, different groups with different lifestyles and values support different subgenres. Commercial rap is for the most part whatever is popular at the time and the wide scale success of any genre usually results in its adoption by others groups from other regions (for example, GUnit is gangsta rap, but the group is based out of New York).

Twelve Chapter Bad meaning good session
Historical and social contexts are terms used to explain the situations, events, and circumstances that define particular moments in time. For example, if one was interested in studying why Afro hairstyles are popular; One must consider the historical and social context of the Black Power Movement of the 1970s. Likewise to understand the popularity of Dreadlocks, one must understand the significance of Jamaica’s independence, Bob Marley, and the Rastafarian belief system. Students should understand that hip hop music has changed over time and this is in large part due to the changing social and historical context of hip hop in our society. Therefore, hip hop can have different meanings for people depending on when and how they encountered hip hop, just as the Afro and Dreadlocked hairstyles have different significance for different people based on location, social, and cultural encounters.

Thirteenth Chapter Hype or Not session
This lesson takes a hands-on approach to helping youth understand socializing messages in the media. Through exploring the mass media outlets of newspaper and magazines and music, students will learn to understand how images of violence, poverty, crime, and sex in the media perpetuate and reinforce stereotypes that exist about urban youth. Moreover, students will participate in critical analysis of various media outlets through guided discussion and experiential learning activities.

Fourteenth Chapter Creating a Billboard session
Written reviews of various works of art (music, visual, dance, film, theatre) are often the consumers first exposure to the art. For example, before visiting an art gallery, most often people read reviews and advertisements that make them want to visit the gallery to view the art. The same is true for other mediums. Hip hop and the industry producing it work the same way. The process of having an album, song, or art reviewed impacts overall exposure for artists and either helps or hurts the artists’ success.

Fifteenth Chapter The Review session
Students will write biography and press releases about one another. Students will learn to interview – ask questions, listen, and take notes – and write a personal biography about a fellow classmate. Students are encouraged to create aliases (ie. adopt new names and hip hop inspired alter egos).

Sixteenth Chapter Masks session
Within hip hop music and culture, much of the artist’s success depends on how they “represent.” To represent in hip hop context in large part means to be true to one’s self. There are numerous examples of artists that have failed (e.g. Vanilla Ice, JaRule, Black Eyed Peas) and succeeded at this task (e.g. N.W.A., JayZ). Still others’ identity is still up for debate (e.g. 50 Cent). For other hip hop artists, the success of their careers has not been based on keeping in real, but instead on wearing a mask or adopting an alter ego (Ghostface, Bobby Digital, MF Doom, Dr.Octagon). This lesson explores identity and the reality that most people have many different identities that they wear in various ways for various reasons. We will examine Paul Lawrence Dunbar and two hip hop songs and examine how each discusses (one figuratively, one literally) identity through exploring the wearing of mask.