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History of Research on Multiliteracies and Hip Hop Pedagogy: A Critical Review

Abstract and Keywords

In this chapter, the authors explore the research history of multiliteracies and Hip Hop-based education (HHBE), and look critically at the benefits of incorporating Hip Hop based educational practices into classrooms. HHBE is effective at de-marginalizing student’s lived experiences and assists students, both academically and emotionally. Further, the incorporation of HHBE into classrooms allows students to look at the African and Afro-Diasporic roots of Hip Hop as well as the history of African American Language and its role as a mode of resistance. HHBE allows for praxis by encouraging students to be critical of the messages within this mode of media and empowering them to support and produce media that does not perpetuate oppression. HHBE fosters identity development amongst students and allows them to study the meaning behind social identity constructions. HHBE counters the cycle of socialization, and possesses the ability to combat White racial hegemonies that persist in classrooms.

Keywords: African American Language, multiliteracies, identity, Hip Hop based education, socialization

There is a difference between history and origins; you can’t have a real history without a comprehension of an ORIGIN. Not how did something come about, which is history; this happened, this happened, but why did something happen. We are never going to have true history until we get this origin right. The origin of Hip Hop has less to do with “A” happened, then “B” happened, then “C” happened then “D” happened. The origin has to do with what were the causes, what were the events in nature that caused Hip Hop to be.

(KRS-ONE, n.d.; emphasis added)

Educators around the world are using Hip Hop as a way to create a bridge between students’ interests and educators’ learning objectives. In numerous cases, the primary focus has tended to utilize Hip Hop culture solely as a pedagogical strategy to spur students’ increased engagement and act as an entry point to teach traditional subject matters. While these educators demonstrate significant gains in student success utilizing these methodologies, these strategies may not fully acknowledge the larger contextual ORIGINS of Hip Hop as defined above by Hip Hop artist and scholar KRS-ONE. These ORIGINS are rooted in Afro-Diasporic ways of knowing, as embodied through Hip Hop language, literacy and cultural practices, production, and performance. In this chapter we will frame the history of research on multiliteracies and Hip Hop pedagogy by connecting the multiple ciphas1 of Hip Hop‒based educational practices including: African aesthetics, African American Language and Literacy practices, African American and Latino cultures, Hip Hop culture, social justice education, critical pedagogy, culturally relevant pedagogy, and multiliteracies. Finally, the chapter builds on the impetus and value of this research to chart future directions that center on multimodal media (p. 604) production in the development of critical media literacies toward a Critical Social Justice Hip Hop Pedagogy.

32.1 Introduction: Current Hip Hop‒Based Educational Practices

Today, more than ever, Hip Hop is being used as a way to get students interested in academics during the formal school day in math and science education, SAT vocabulary preparation, English as a Second Language (ESL) curriculum, current events, and, most commonly, English language arts. In addition to this widespread practitioner use, researchers in multiple disciplines, including education and linguistics, have studied how Hip Hop culture is being used for language and literacy learning around the globe (Alim, Ibrahim, and Pennycook 2009). These studies typically have looked at how what has been termed Hip Hop‒based education (HHBE) can be used to develop critical literacy, academic skills, language acquisition, citizenship, self-esteem, and other transferable skills in students (Hill 2009). Other examples of HHBE practices range from its usage as a culturally relevant teaching methodology, the use of Hip Hop to teach canonical literary texts, the utilization of Hip Hop aesthetics and creative practices as a way to analyze educational processes, and/or as the object of study (Akom 2009; Alim 2007; Duncan-Andrade and Morrell 2008; Fisher 2007; Mahiri 2004).

Surprisingly, there has been relatively little discussion of how the production of Hip Hop texts themselves can be used to develop critical media literacies with historically marginalized youth populations (Pirbhai-Illich, Turner, and Austin 2009; Turner, 2012). Like other forms of multimodal media production (MMP), the production of multimodal Hip Hop texts must be seen as a literate practice that necessitates an exploration of how the texts arise, an account for audience, as well as aesthetic and other features that make them coherent versus disjointed.

The proliferation of Hip Hop in higher education is further evidenced by the multiple Hip Hop conferences held each year on university campuses and the operation of institutionally funded educational think tanks and research centers dedicated to exploring Hip Hop in education. Notably, Cornell University established the Hip Hop Collection in 2008 and most recently in May 2012, New York University’s Hip-Hop Education Center (HHEC) announced a partnership with Columbia University’s Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) to continue conducting research on Hip Hop education and expand its use in New York City schools and across the nation (Diaz, Fergus, and Noguera 2011).

Hip Hop culture is being used as a culturally relevant pedagogical strategy to increase student motivation; however, Delpit (2001) and Rickford (1998) argue that African American Language (AAL), which is also referred to as Ebonics, African American Vernacular English, and Black English Vernacular, and which we extend to Hip Hop Nation Language (HHNL) (Alim, Ibrahim, and Pennycook 2009), must also be used to master the dominant discourse as well. From the perspectives of these scholars, students’ awareness of their own histories and language is critical to their success in learning, but (p. 605) engagement alone can leave students in limbo if it is not linked to the promotion of academic literacy development, civic engagement, and college access. Along these lines, Morrell and Duncan-Andrade (2004) were among the first to document their use of Hip Hop as a pedagogical strategy to bridge students’ engagement with their culture and the canonical texts they were responsible for teaching as part of the California state standards. In their landmark piece, the authors explore “how teaching [H]‌ip [H]op as a literary genre could help scaffold and develop the academic literacies of youth who have often been labeled as ‘non-academic’ or ‘semi-literate’ ” (247). Morrell and Duncan-Andrade’s (2004) decision to include Hip Hop pedagogy in their classroom reflects their understanding that it was their responsibility as teachers to reach all of their students and one way they could accomplish this goal was by building on the culture, language, knowledge, and literacy practices their students brought with them to school every day. Significant scholarship suggests that if teachers take what are already legitimate youth interests and relate them to the standards and larger issues of righteousness and social justice, youth will want to learn (Duncan-Andrade 2004; Jocson 2008; Morrell 2004).

32.2 Afro-Diasporic Roots of Hip Hop

While it is clear that many of the educational researchers engaging in this work are aware of the Afro-Diasporic roots of Hip Hop, what is less clear is their communication of these roots in their scholarship to the practitioners who take up these practices. For instance, the connection of Alim, Ibrahim, and Pennycook’s (2009) HHNL (and literacy practices) and AAL (and its literacy practices) is rarely explicated. Smitherman (1997) and Alim (2002) among others have made this connection explicit, explaining the similarities between the Hip Hop MC and the traditional African griot as well as the linkages between the Niger-Congo Bantu roots of the grammatical structure of AAL with HHNL, but a gap in the literature remains. This gap directly translates to how teachers and, by extension, students view Hip Hop as a relatively new cultural phenomenon with minimal reference to its historical and cultural roots. When students are left without a clear understanding of how Hip Hop culture—which has clear Afro-Diasporic roots, or what Osumare (2007) explains as the cultural aesthetic and traditional practices from the African continent and the Caribbean—is linked to their own familial histories, they are unable to make the deep connections related to their knowledge of self and self-image.

32.3 The Critical Multiliteracies

Although not all Hip Hop practices are explicitly critical, they do have the potential to serve as a site for the development of an ever-expanding set of literacies (Hill 2009; Stovall 2006) that are increasingly necessary to critique what Rose (2008) terms (p. 606) the “gangsta-pimp-ho trinity” promoted by commercial Hip Hop. The necessity for these new literacies have developed in the past thirty years alongside an explosion of devices used for communicating and have been termed multiliteracies (New London Group 1996). The New London Group (1996) and others have since defined (multi)literacies as varied and relative to the social context or discourse involved but inextricably linked with issues of ideology and power (Delpit 2001; Gee 2001; Kramsch 2004; Street 1984). New Literacy theorists have articulated a praxis that includes media production as a process that can link ways of thinking about critical literacy with the ability to decipher and produce empowering forms of media (Hull and Shultz 2002; Lemke 1998; Mahiri 2004; Morrell and Duncan-Andrade 2004; Sholle and Denski 1993).

This expansion of the definition of literacy is particularly significant for teachers who must now, in light of Hip Hop’s global commercial success and the corporate marketing of the gangsta-pimp-ho trinity, teach students how to critique media as text, change patterns of interactions with media, and, finally, produce counter-hegemonic media. Increasingly, the ability to evaluate the credibility of media sources by deconstructing multilayered (e.g., clothing, facial gestures, body art, sound, and dance) content involves a vital set of literacy skills that students can ultimately use to raise questions about the politics of representation for people of color in our hyper-mediated society (S. Hall 1997). Namely, what are the intentions of media producers, and how do they or do they not reinforce the racial, economic, sexual, and gender hierarchies that Hill-Collins (1990) calls a “matrix of domination”?

32.4 Afro-Diasporic Origins of Hip Hop: A Lesson from the Teacher

  • Yo, ’cause I’m a teacher
  • Boogie Down Productions is made up of teachers
  • Teachers teach and do the world good

KRS-ONE—My Philosophy (

32.4.1 African Aesthetics of Hip Hop

As established in the introduction to this chapter, Hip Hop culture and cultural practices offer a unique way to conceptualize language and literacy practices. Many scholars have focused their attention on the sociolinguistic practices that are embodied through Hip Hop culture. By firmly establishing that the origins of Hip Hop lie in West African oral traditions, an important link has been made to the historical development of Hip Hop in context of its Afro-Diasporic roots (Osumare 2007). An important development in the scholarship has been in expanding the scope to include not only African oral traditions but other aesthetic and performative practices that have also been transmitted (p. 607) through the “transcultural flow” of African cultures in the Americas (Osumare 2007). These “African aesthetics” provide a link that allows for “similar aesthetic principles [to be recreated] in new sociopolitical contexts [which] became absolutely crucial to the survival of people of African descent” (25). At the heart of Hip Hop culture lies this “African aesthetic” connecting Hip Hop culture firmly to these West African traditions and providing the context for re-imagining self in these new locations (Osumare 2007).

32.4.2 Hip Hop ORIGINS

Hip Hop culture is acknowledged by Hip Hop insiders to have originated in the South Bronx, New York, during the post‒Black Power movement of the 1960s (Chang 2005; Reeves 2008; Rose 1994). Hip Hop emerged in America during the tumultuous years of the 1970s and solidified its presence during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s. Over this time period, New York and the South Bronx, in particular, had come, in many ways, to epitomize postindustrial urban decay and was recognized nationally as synonymous with crime and poverty (Price 2006). This environment was the symptomatic expression of exclusionary urban planning, redlining practices, corporate divestment, reduction in resources to urban centers, and White flight. This was the legacy of the policies of post‒World War II America (Chang 2005; Forman and Neal 2004; Price 2006; Reeves 2008). Hip Hop originated in this environment, its origins in constant communication with its Afro-Diasporic and Black Power roots, manifesting what Reeves (2008) describes as a “revolutionary youth culture” (M. R. Hall 2011; Osumare 2007; Rose 1994). Hip Hop culture and practices can only be understood in the relational context of the conditions that existed in the communities from which it emerged. These conditions signify what Osumare (2007) terms “connective marginalities: various social and historical realms that form the context for youth participating in [H]‌ip [H]op” (69). These realms are defined, both domestically and globally, as the sites where many forms of marginalities are expressed: Afro-Diasporic cultures, the global poor, peoples who have experienced historic oppression, and youth culture in general (Osumare 2007). These connective marginalities help to explain why Hip Hop has become one of the most important vehicles for youth and oppressed peoples to express their humanity and resistance from Africa to China, and everywhere in between (Akom 2009; Alim et al. 2009).

32.4.3 AAL: Marginalized Variety of English

AAL is neither inherently superior nor inferior to any other language in terms of logic or functional utility among native speakers (Baugh 1983), yet it has been historically marginalized as a variety of English and its speakers shunned. Baugh (1983) explains,

Most of the early educational programs to help [B]‌lacks learn standard English began with the objective of eliminating street speech; this was seen as a dialect that (p. 608) should not be tolerated. This practice reinforced the negative impression of [B]lack speech that was already held by the dominant culture. (8)

Likewise, Morgan (1994) argues persuasively that crude, overly general descriptions of the African American speech community that ignore changing class dynamics, exclude women, and stereotype sexual attitudes in presenting linguistic data, reinforce the image of AAL as a sign of poverty and oppression and only help marginalize its speakers.

32.4.4 Language as Resistance

In one of the first academic publications presenting research on communicative practices within the Hip Hop Nation, Smitherman (1997) explores the link of these practices to AAL and demonstrates how HHNL serves as a language of resistance and cultural connection. Smitherman’s sociolinguistic analysis of the lyrics of several Hip Hop artists demonstrates several distinct AAL syntax and phonological features in the genre. Although her analysis is restricted to only one element of Hip Hop culture, rapping, Smitherman’s (1997) contention is that, because rap lyrics accurately portray “the pathologies, and resistance against White America’s racism and Eurocentric cultural dominance” (7), it makes an excellent vehicle for bringing conversations about these subjects into the classroom.

32.4.5 Linking HHNL to Education

In addition to Africanist aesthetics derived from Hip Hop’s Afro-Diasporic roots, Hip Hop is a multimodal form of cultural expression that has been at the forefront of technological innovation since the late 1970s, when youth of color breathed life into older technologies to invent artistic forms of participating in an entirely new transnational, hybrid culture. Therefore, Hip Hop “generationers,” as labeled by Kitwana (2002), are necessarily what Mahiri et al. (2007) call “digital natives.” The importance of the link between Hip Hop, the largest cultural phenomena in the world today, and the digital tools students are accustomed to using for composing multimodally cannot be understated and must be explored within the context of skills they will need in future social, civic, academic, and professional contexts. As Finnegan (2002) notes, youth today can instantly transmit MMPs throughout the world (sometimes in real time)—a capability that has never existed before but one that is becoming increasingly important as society continues the push to digitize (i.e., translate into numerical data accessible through computers) many of the operations previously done in person or with print copies (Manovich 2001). For an extensive treatment of how multimodal Hip Hop production can be used to develop these important information and communication technology (ICT) literacies, see Turner (2011).

Barely forty years old, Hip Hop is one form of MMP that youth continue to use to define, entertain, and defend themselves. Of course some of their styles may be (p. 609) appropriated and reproduced from what they see in the mass media, but it is important not to think of all media as unidirectional or something that youth do not interpret but merely receive passively (Buckingham 2003). Instead, it is important to hear and read how the production of multimodal media transforms youth, who, in turn, have transformed the very definition of being a media producer. Willis et al. (1990) call this transformation “symbolic creativity,” a process in which new meaning is inscribed on already commonly understood symbols—a fundamental practice in Hip Hop called sampling. Wu-Tang Clan’s sampling of dialogue from Kung-Fu movies and Das EFX’s references to cartoons in their lyrics (RZA 2005) are examples of this hybridized practice of producing situated new meanings. Bakhtinian (1981) concepts of discourse, heteroglossia, and dialogism are all relevant in Hip Hop because, by its very nature, it is intertextual, including references to other songs, artists, and spaces (e.g., hoods). The significance that Hip Hop is multimodal means its message is conveyed through many different stylistic elements (explained below), modalities, and with great illocutionary force to the audience.

32.5 Expanding the Cipha: Connecting the Multiple Elements of Hip Hop‒Based Education

32.5.1 Multiple Elements and Ciphas of Hip Hop‒Based Educational Practices

In his comprehensive review of Hip Hop‒based education studies, Petchauer (2009) defines three major strands of work in the field of HHBE: (1) using rap lyrics as curricular and pedagogical resources; (2) interpreting Hip Hop meanings and identities, particularly how youth construct their identities through Hip Hop; and (3) analyzing Hip Hop aesthetic forms, which refers to studies that conceptualize the learning produced by participation in the culture. Although these categories form a useful heuristic for conceptualizing the different types of scholarship in the field of Hip Hop education, it is less clear how this scholarship can be meaningfully integrated into a coherent pedagogical strategy. What are Hip Hop‒based pedagogy strategies that educators can apply to their practice that will develop greater knowledge of self among students and increased engagement in actions to transform current inequalities they face? For example, what are the connections between the areas of Hip Hop scholarship that can be leveraged to create a Hip Hop pedagogy that is critical and based on social justice? In this section we explore the connections between Petchauer’s (2009) three strands of Hip Hop scholarship with the aim of identifying which elements can inform future directions for a coherent whole. To do this, we explore the connections first between: (1) Hip Hop identities and HHBE; (2) Hip Hop identities and Hip Hop aesthetic forms; and, finally, (3) Hip Hop aesthetic forms and HHBE.

(p. 610) 32.5.2 Hip Hop Identities and Hip Hop‒Based Education

The relationship between Hip Hop and how African American, Latino, and certain Asian youth identify themselves is best explained by Osumare’s (2007) concept of connective marginalities (explained above). Connective marginalities are helpful in understanding why Hip Hop serves as the primary lens through which many youth view themselves and their world. The African aesthetic that Osumare refers to is predominantly found in African American and Latino culture, exerts an influence on everything from fashion to music choice, and is being mediated through Hip Hop culture. At every level of her connective marginality heuristic (culture, class, historic oppression, youth), both youth and adults connect with Hip Hop culture’s African aesthetic. Because HHNL is a primary language that students bring with them to school, and that sometimes emerges in the classroom, it is critical for educators to be aware of the centrality of Hip Hop culture to their students. This is why developing an understanding or having familiarity with HHNL is useful for educators looking to connect with students and/or parents and inform their own culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy.

32.5.3 Hip Hop Identities and Aesthetic Forms and HHBE

Although new words are created daily, some of the key features of HHNL such as signifying (creating new meanings for old words and signs) are based on African traditions that will not change (Rose 1994). These ways of being and participating in the cultural production of Hip Hop’s aesthetic forms follows Willis’s (1990) concept of symbolic creativity (the necessary work people do appropriating old meanings and making new meanings). For example, in a song written as part of a youth extended day program, a student named Gina starts off the verse to a song using the stylized lexicon of the “Hyphy Movement”2 such as “go stuwie uwie” and “ridin the yellow bus” but then moves into a critique of President George W. Bush centered on his (mis)handling of Hurricane Katrina within a larger context of Black death. This cultural work cannot be meaningfully separated from the identities of many of the youth and adults who educators work with in schools today.

In line with the literature that states that youth are engaging in literacy practices in out-of-school contexts that involve learning (Hull and Shultz 2002), the production of Hip Hop multimodal texts also has affordances for individual and community development. Hip Hop culture is produced by youth every day in the streets (and other historically marginalized spaces). From the language to the dances, Hip Hop culture is constantly shifting, variable, and morphing, and is generally how youth express themselves. Even Hip Hop artists go to watch the practitioners of the culture and then reflect their culture back to them in the music as a type of street ethnographer (Forman 2002). So it is in this context that engaging Hip Hop culture and the artifacts it produces as a curricular or pedagogical resource is so useful. As a pedagogical strategy, it builds on culturally relevant (Ladson-Billings 1994); critical pedagogy (Freire 1970; Giroux (p. 611) 1987); and cultural modeling (Lee and Majors 2003) approaches that argue education must begin by taking the students from where they are and utilize generative concepts to advance their thinking. Collectively, these educational theories have their roots in Vygotskyian ([1935] 1978) sociocultural theories of education that likewise argue for beginning the curriculum with the needs of the students and not the parameters of the discipline. Today, students are in desperate need of knowledge of self, which is why an understanding of Hip Hop culture and history can forge powerful conversations with students. This represents a pedagogical shift of meeting students where they are. It is important for teachers to have in-depth knowledge about the students they are teaching and the subject matter being presented (Ladson-Billings 1994). Educators are often not understood because their language is not attuned to the concrete situation of their students (Freire 1970). To ignore the existence of these problems in communication is a failure to provide equal education under the law (Morgan 1994).

32.5.4 Social Justice Education

Social justice education (SJE) offers additional resources to support educators in conceptualizing HHNL as a language of resistance (Akom 2009; Reeves 2008) and valuable literacy practices. By providing a pedagogical framework that theorizes oppression at the individual, interpersonal, and societal levels, SJE provides a framework that can appreciate and acknowledge the historical development of HHNL in the context of oppression and resistance to these conditions (Adams, Bell, and Griffin 2007). This process opens the possibility for educators to understand HHNL as a literacy practice that embodies the experience of marginalized communities (see discussions of Osumare above) and provides educators with skills that value reflection and an attention to the social relations of power in classroom spaces. The goal of SJE also enables the intentional “develop[ment] [of] critical analytic skills necessary to understand oppression and socialization within oppressive systems, and to develop a sense of agency and a capacity to interrupt and change oppressive patterns and behaviors” (Adams 2007, 2). This intentional focus on the development of resistance and agency is analogous to the development of Hip Hop culture and its practices (including HHNL) in the aftermath of the Black Power and civil rights movements. Among the other goals of SJE, the particular focus on power, resistance, and agency lays the foundation for a conceptual understanding of HHNL as a literacy of liberation, not a deficiency or pathology of the communities that engage in it. In other words, HHNL as a literacy of liberation can be what Alim (2011) terms an “ill literacy” where the “ill” represents a positive evaluation of “creative and/or counterhegemonic practices” (121).

32.5.5 Critical Pedagogy

The connections between Hip Hop and critical pedagogy have recently become a focus of those scholars who wish to emphasize Hip Hop culture as a location that supports (p. 612) a critical engagement with power, agency, identity, and in particular to conceptualize schools as a site for the reproduction of oppressive social relations (Akom 2009; Alim 2007; Hill 2009). Darder, Baltodano, and Torres (2009) explain that critical pedagogy has developed out of a tradition of educators who wished to continue the transformative works of Paulo Freire, Myles Horton, and others whose “radical principles, beliefs, and practices contributed to an emancipatory ideal of democratic schooling” (2). This tradition draws on a theoretical foundation that: values multiple perspectives, critiques power in the classroom, is dedicated to the development of individual and collective agency, intentionally works to create avenues for social transformation, and recognizes schools as sites for social and cultural reproduction of existing relations of power and privilege. Hip Hop culture, as described above, relies on a critique of the conditions that precipitated its own creation. These racialized and class-based oppressive social structures continue to exist in the communities that many students live in. These conditions continue to limit the life chances and opportunities available to youth from these communities. Hip Hop therefore offers the ability to engage the process of “textual analysis” (Hill 2009) of these existing conditions but also represents a “liberatory practice [that] is rooted in the long history of the Black freedom struggle and the quest for self-determinism for oppressed communities around the world” (Akom 2009, 53). If HHNL is indeed acknowledged as the dominant language of youth culture, then educators need some familiarity with the language. It is important to recognize these practices for their agentic and liberatory capacities. It is equally important to recognize the need for educators to reflect on their own power and capacity to either involve or marginalize HHNL users in their classrooms. Engaging with Hip Hop as a discursive practice in and of itself represents a critical pedagogy. Through a critical engagement with Hip Hop, educators can learn much about the critiques of schooling, classroom practices, desires and wants of students who utilize HHNL. Valuing the outside literacy practices of HHNL users provides multiple entry points to understand the critical capacities embodied through Hip Hop culture and cultural practices.

32.6 Conclusion: Future Directions for Hip Hop‒Based Education: Toward a Critical Social Justice Hip Hop Pedagogy

The literature is clear and has been for some time. High achieving students typically have high levels of self-esteem often originating from knowledge of self as in the case of students studying in the Chicano Studies program in Tucson, Arizona, featured in the film Precious Knowledge and recent research on Black high achievers who demonstrated a critical race achievement ideology (Carter 2008). The need for programs that can lead to (p. 613) these outcomes and then move students to action is evident, and Hip Hop culture is just one means for accomplishing this. Hip Hop culture can be utilized to create a classroom space where students feel they can bring up and address issues, such as: (1) inequality in urban education, (2) racial justice, (3) traumatic life experiences, and (4) popular culture as resistance. The production of Hip Hop multimodal texts can be used to involve students in critically thinking about their lives and expressing themselves using social and literacy practices that demand reading and writing. Inherent in students’ production of multimodal media artifacts are literacy practices they already engage in outside of school as well as others that help them cultivate a productive future for themselves and challenge injustice in their communities. Short of having voting rights for underage youth, MMP provides an opportunity for them to represent their perspective on the most pressing issues in our world today.

Hip Hop culture and practices, viewed in the manner that has been described in this chapter, are grounded in and reflect the social and cultural origins as well as forty years of global expansion. Hip Hop has supported an active and experiential process that supports the creation of possibilities for critical meaning-making, that is, as a way for people to not only understand the world around them but to discover ways of changing these conditions. Freire and Macedo (1987) define their conception of literacy as “learning how to write the world, that is having the experience of changing the world and touching the world” (49). With the increased emergence of HHBE programs, it is of increasing importance to look critically at the ways in which these programs are being envisioned, designed, and implemented. Hip Hop culture is complex; it is by no means a panacea—it cannot be everything for everybody. Hip Hop cultural practices and representations are both an expression of society and resistance to asymmetrical relations of power; these practices and representations likewise embody both the potential to reify oppression and to manifest liberation. This understanding is a key element that should drive the successful integration of Hip Hop into education. It is imperative that educational programs that purport to be Hip Hop or utilize Hip Hop practices and modes of meaning-making endeavor to embody the critical capacities of Hip Hop culture to work towards transformation and a more socially just society.


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                                                                                                                    (1.) Cipha: Originally represented the physical arrangement (a 360-degree circle) in which Hip Hop cultural practices were engaged, e.g., emceeing (rappin’) or breakdancing. In the context of this scholarship, the meaning has been expanded to include what Alim (2009) defines as the “fundamental unit of analysis” in Hip Hop. It does not only signify a physical formation but is representative of multiple ways of knowing and doing that are manifested globally through interaction, communication, and localization.

                                                                                                                    (2.) Hyphy: “Goin dumb,” “sideshows,” and “gettin hyphy” are all practices linked to the hyphy style of music and dance associated with San Francisco Bay Area Hip Hop culture. The terms were created by Bay Area rapper Keak da Sneak and have come to represent a style of music and dance associated with San Francisco Bay Area Hip Hop culture.