Actually, the definition of a Hip-Hop Educator is still evolving, still in the process of asking itself what it intends to be. Hip-Hop Educators know the dangers of defining, plus we’re too busy, in classrooms and community spaces, doing the necessary and difficult work. The Hip-Hop Educator is a roots worker, going beyond artificial walls and borders. We are organic intellectuals, cross-pollinating possibilities to transform collective realities, ya dig!?
Let me break it down. Embedded within the phenomenon of hip-hop are all of the pedagogical components of building knowledge aka making-meaning, the foundation of education: the sacredness of the cypher, the call and response interplay between the community and the individual, the combined focus on style, meaning, and form, the dual importance of originality and sampling, innovation and honoring legacy.
And this is just the beginning. Then there’s: the text, lyrics from every nation, in every language, with the spectrum of musical and cultural influences representing every tribe in the global village; the history of communities using creative expression to build and defy; the respect for multiple intelligences embodied in the four elements, the DJ, the B-Girl/B-Boy, the graffiti artist and the emcee.
The teacher and the emcee are more alike than you think. Each track should be well-crafted. There must be jewels in the words you choose and the way you say them. The crowd listens with their whole bodies so when you Call, come correct, or you will get no Response. Your set list must be well planned but you must also be willing to improvise. School administrators, parents and students will, at times, question your legitimacy and/or authority and you will need to freestyle on the spot.
"It is a layered approach founded on social justice education, embedded in hip-hop culture, relying on critical pedagogy and community activism to teach hip-hop as subject, hip-hop as pedagogy to teach another subject, and/or hip-hop as the warm up, hook or bridge to draw students into the class." Word! The Hip-Hop Education Center is working towards a definition if you want to get involved.
The field of Hip-Hop Education is blooming. Educators are writing about the use of hip-hop as a teaching tool and as a pedagogical framework. Each year there are hundreds of panel discussions, conferences, scholarly essays and books to document a movement that is growing organically. With hip-hop holding on as the preeminent musical influence for yet another generation, the Hip-Hop Educator is poised to take center stage and may be our only chance of successfully reforming education.