Youth Culture Power

A #HipHopEd Guide to Building Teacher-Student Relationships and Increasing Student Engagement

by Jason Rawls (Author) John Robinson (Author)
©2019 Textbook XX, 114 Pages
Series: Hip-Hop Education, Volume 1


In our schools, hip-hop culture is the dominant culture among the students. In Youth Culture Power: A #HipHopEd Guide to Building Teacher-Student Relationships and Increasing Student Engagement, Jason D. Rawls and John Robinson, educators and hip-hop artists with experience in the urban classrooms, focus their efforts through Hip-Hop Based Education (HHBE). They argue that hip-hop culture could be useful in building relationships and building student engagement.
The approach to achieve this is Youth Culture Pedagogy (YCP). YCP is based in a foundation of reality pedagogy (Emdin, 2014), culturally responsive pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995), and HHBE (Hill, 2009; Petchauer, 2009). In this volume, the authors lay the groundwork for YCP and how they envision its use within the classroom.
In Youth Culture Power, the authors put forth their C.A.R.E. Model of youth pedagogy to help teachers create a positive learning environment by building relationships and lessons around students’ own culture. Instead of forcing students to give up the things they frequent, Rawls and Robinson feel teachers should discuss them and when possible, use them in lessons. The purpose of this book is to present a fresh take on why educators should not discount the culture of youth within the classroom.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword (Christopher Emdin)
  • Glossary of Terms
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. YCP (Youth Culture Power)
  • Say What?
  • What’s the Deal?
  • What’s the Science?
  • The Roots of Youth Culture Pedagogy
  • Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP)
  • Reality Pedagogy
  • Hip-hop Based Education (HHBE)
  • The 4 Tenets of Youth Culture Pedagogy
  • Culture
  • Affability
  • Relationships
  • Egalitarian
  • C.A.R.E
  • MC Notes!
  • Audi 5000
  • Chapter 2. Classroom Chatter
  • Say What?
  • What’s the Deal?
  • What’s the Science?
  • MC Notes!
  • Ideas to Use Chatter in Your Classroom
  • Facts or Nah?
  • Bag of Questions
  • Miscellaneous Ideas to Use Classroom Chatter
  • Audi 5000
  • Interlude 1: Words from Dr. Ladson-Billings
  • Chapter 3. Don’t Smile Till November
  • Say What?
  • What’s the Deal?
  • What’s the Science?
  • Relational Pedagogy
  • Care Ethics
  • MC Notes!
  • Introduce Yourself to Your Class
  • Starburst Game
  • Other Introductory Games
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Who Are You—Bingo and Jeopardy
  • Move Away from Teacher vs Student Mindset
  • Using Youth Culture in Your Daily Lessons
  • Audi 5000
  • Interlude 2: Free
  • Chapter 4. Generation XYZ
  • Say What?
  • What’s the Deal?
  • Things to Keep in Mind with Generation Z Students
  • Research on Generation Z
  • What’s the Science?
  • Hip-hop as a Tool for Transaction
  • MC Notes!
  • The Power of Performance
  • Hype Man
  • Call and Response
  • Fill in the Blanks
  • Audi 5000
  • Chapter 5. We Ain’t Failing
  • Say What?
  • What’s the Deal?
  • What’s the Science?
  • Redefine Intelligence
  • Revamp Assessment by Omitting Cultural Bias
  • MC Notes!
  • Building Community in the Classroom
  • Use What They Know
  • Use a Hook to Tie into the Lesson
  • Audi 5000
  • Interlude 3: No Phones, No Headphones, No Future
  • Chapter 6. B Plan
  • Say What?
  • What’s the Deal?
  • Lesson Plan Implementation and Delivery
  • Reasons to Adjust the Lesson Plan
  • Controllable Items
  • What’s the Science?
  • MC Notes!
  • Audi 5000
  • Chapter 7. Get on Board
  • Say What?
  • J Rawls
  • John Robinson
  • JayARE
  • What’s the Deal?
  • What’s the Science?
  • A Case Study
  • Expressed Care
  • Mutuality
  • Hip-Hop Mentality
  • Illustrations
  • Instructive Not Punitive
  • MC Notes!
  • Audi 5000
  • Interlude 4: How Did You Do That?
  • Series index

| ix →


Christopher Emdin

While cultural relevance in its many diverse and essential iterations has rightfully become part of the lexicon in schools of education and teacher preparation programs across the globe, teaching that reflects the culture of many of the most marginalized youth still remains absent or invisible. After decades of tireless work in advocating for culture, there has been an adoption of the language of cultural relevance and an overall acceptance that it has some role in teaching and learning. Unfortunately, this “progress” has been at the expense of populations whose culture holds tenets that challenge the very structure of schools. We accept only cultures that align to the existing structures of schools and search for justifications for why those that do not directly align are problematic. Cultural relevance then becomes the identification of cultures that maintain existing power structures or that makes power wielders comfortable. In particular, educators have not done much work interrogating the complexities of urban youth culture and identify its misalignment with the organizational and pedagogical structures of schools and schooling as a deficiency rather than a critique or alternate way of looking at schools. I assert that urban youth culture is not against education or being educated. It has rules of engagement and/or ways of knowing and being that support knowledge accumulation and creation. However, it is concurrently fundamentally ← ix | x → opposed to how knowledge is created, developed and transferred in traditional schools. In an era of linguistic allegiance to culturally relevant, responsive and sustaining pedagogies, educators operate with shared language but are divided on belief systems and practices even within a framework of relevance. This is why hip-hop culture and an understanding of its complexity is essential for culturally relevant educators. Hip-hop serves as the ultimate example of the complexities of culture. It has multiple signs and meanings which each require deconstruction and deep analysis. It teaches us to go beyond what we see because of all that lies right beneath its surface.

Not only is a consideration of hip-hop essential to claiming cultural relevance, one cannot engage in/with hip-hop culture without unearthing that it holds within it a number of models for both how to teach and what it means to teach. This is very different than teaching with artifacts or aspects of the elements of hip-hop culture. It is about a hip-hop philosophy of teaching, learning and engagement as separate from formal education, existing outside of traditional educational spaces, but possible to be used to reimagine schools. This is Hip-hop not for, or as a tool of education, but hip-hop AS education. To engage in hip-hop as education, one must identify if they are willing to engage with all of the culture. One cannot receive all that Jason Rawls and John Robinson have to offer in this text without accepting that the culture of hip-hop has as much value as (if not more value than) the culture of school. The work presupposes that school must align itself to and learn from hip-hop and not the other way around. This is a challenging perspective for educators that are deeply invested in an assimilationist perspective which expects that youth bend their cultures to the needs of school. An educator with the intentions to be culturally relevant who aligns with an assimilationist philosophy will enact violence on young people even with the use of hip-hop because a misuse of the culture or a rendering of a superficial aspect of their culture as the cultural anchor of the instruction will yield a defensive stance from the student.

Rawls and Robinson offer a response to the sophomoric critique of hip-hop in education that uses the negative themes in mainstream popular music as its anchor. It argues for the complexity of culture and a recognition that a negative lyric often comes out of societal conditions that induce a visceral response and guttural articulation that has truth value. Most importantly, the same culture that produces negative lyrics consistently critiques, responds to and reimagines them. Selected lyrics are not culture en masse and any attempt to simplify a complex culture to mainstream popular lyrics is disingenuous ← x | xi → at best. It is for this reason that this work takes up the challenge it does and expresses a more complex way to engage stakeholders in education.

This book is being released with/as an album to move us further towards reflecting hip-hop culture and its complexity in academic work. It is as much a sonic work as it is a text and is as much a sharing of information on how to teach as it is a critique of education. Rawls and Robinson offer a simple sophistication that is emblematic of who they have been in hip-hop for the last two decades. This offering of the self in written and audio formats represents a new direction for hip-hop education scholarship. It is a symbol of what Rawls offered hip-hop culture with his music production and creating/naming of Jazz-hop and its genre bending blending of Jazz and Hip-hop. In much the same way, this work moves the field and the culture towards what it professes to be—a space for all to share who they are in an authentic way while privileging the voice of youth and where they are in relation to schools and schooling.

| xiii →


A-Alikes: Two people who have the same behavioral characteristics. Often times they have similar personality traits, demeanor, taste and aesthetic.

Add on to the Cipher: To contribute valuable information to a conversation or project. To bring more resources to any situation in order to more productively build something.


XX, 114
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (June)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XIV, 114 pp., 1 table

Biographical notes

Jason Rawls (Author) John Robinson (Author)

Jason D. Rawls is an educator for Columbus City Schools as well as adjunct professor at Tiffin University, Ohio University, and Columbus College of Art & Design. He holds an Ed.D. in educational administration from Ohio University. Additionally, he is an accomplished hip-hop producer, artist, and DJ, working with such acts as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Beastie Boys, and Aloe Blacc and has released over 20 albums. John Robinson is an emcee, producer, entrepreneur, and educator. He has released over a dozen albums and toured the world. As a record label president, he has expertise in social media, online marketing, and web development. He currently works in education as a teaching artist in New York City public schools. John is also a partner in CodeScty which uses original Hip-Hop music, animated videos, youth culture, and more to teach computational thinking skills to underserved youth. Jay ARE is the hip-hop duo of Rawls and Robinson. The two met during the independent hip-hop era of the late 1990’s and formed the group after working on several projects together.Their first album, The 1960’s Jazz Revolution Again, was released in 2009. The album highlighted the history of jazz and its connection to hip-hop. Their second album, Youth Culture Power, coincides with this book as each song title matches a chapter in this book. While the book fleshes out the album with research, theoretical explorations, and autobiographical experiences, the album is intended to inspire, motivate, and entertain teachers, administrators, parents, and members of the community. The book and album introduce Jay ARE’s philosophy, Youth Culture Pedagogy, which is intended to strengthen teacher-student relationships and increase student engagement using youth culture as a catalyst.


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