HipHopEd: The Compilation on Hip-Hop Education

Volume 2: Hip-Hop as Praxis & Social Justice

by Edmund Adjapong (Volume editor) Ian Levy (Volume editor)
©2020 Textbook VIII, 160 Pages
Series: Hip-Hop Education, Volume 2


This second volume in the Hip-Hop Education series highlights knowledge of self as the fifth and often forgotten element of hip-hop. In many cases, a connection to hip-hop culture is one that has been well embedded in the identity of hip-hop educators. Historically, academic spaces have had misperceptions and misunderstand the authentic culture of hip-hop, often forcing hip-hop educators to abandon their authentic hip-hop selves to align themselves to the traditions of academia. This edited series highlights the realities of hip-hop educators who grapple with cultivating and displaying themselves authentically in practice and offers examples of how hip-hop can be utilized in educational spaces to promote social justice. It provides narratives of graduate students, practitioners, junior and senior scholars who all identify as part of hip-hop. The chapters in this text explore the intersections of the authors’ lived experiences, hip-hop, theory, praxis and social justice.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction: Authenticity and Knowledge of Self for the #HipHopEducator (Edmund Adjapong and Ian Levy)
  • Part I Hip-Hop as Practice
  • Chapter One: Hip-Hop as Practice and Beyond (Edmund Adjapong)
  • Chapter Two: “I am Both, Yet I am Neither”: Exploring the Fifth Element of Hip-Hop as Spiritual Social Justice Praxis through Spoken Word Poetry (Crystal Leigh Endsley)
  • Chapter Three: Waiting on “My Song” in Early Childhood: Exploring Hip Hop Play in Preschool and Kindergarten (Anthony Broughton)
  • Chapter Four: “Can I Kick It? Yes You Can!”: Imagining Hip-Hop Cultural Centers on College/University Campuses (Ian D. Zamora, Daniel J. Cardenas, and Caz J. Salamanca)
  • Chapter Five: Creating a Shared Energy through Hip-Hop to Advance the Pedagogy of Math Pre-Service Educators (Marti Cason and AV the Great)
  • Chapter Six: Hip-Hop Development: The Roots 4 Positive Youth Development and Engagement in Education and Health Prevention (P. Thandi Hicks Harper and Asari Offiong)
  • Part II Hip-Hop Education as/for Social Justice
  • Chapter Seven: Decolonizing Traditional Education Spaces: A #HipHopEd(ucators) Guide (Ian Levy)
  • Chapter Eight: Imagination, Power & Brilliance: Hip-Hop Mindfulness as a Politic of Educational Survival (Toby S. Jenkins)
  • Chapter Nine: Rapping, Recording & Performing: Amplifying Student Voice to Reclaim a Community (Bianca Nightengale-Lee and Nyree Clayton-Taylor)
  • Chapter Ten: A Hip-Hop Pedagogy of Action: Embracing #BlackLivesMatter and the Teacher Strikes as Pedagogical Frameworks (Noah Karvelis)
  • Chapter Eleven: Peace, Love, Unity and Having Conscious Fun: Hip Hop Dance Education Can Move with Swag and Consciousness (Aysha Upchurch)
  • Contributors
  • Series index

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Authenticity and Knowledge of Self for the #HipHopEducator

edmund adjapong and ian levy

@KingAdjapong and @IanPLevy

For the second volume of The Compilation on Hip-Hop Education, we continue to highlight the voices, stories, and narratives of educators and scholars who approach their practice and research using a framework anchored in hip-hop culture. Similar to the first volume of this series Volume 1: Hip-Hop as Education, Philosophy, and Practice, this edited volume includes chapters from veteran scholars, emerging scholars, and teachers. As co-editors, our goal is to continue to support and share scholarship that is rooted in hip-hop culture that provides new practical and strategic insights for scholars, practitioners, students, community members, and policymakers as it relates to working with groups who have faced systemic oppression.

This volume of The Compilation on Hip-Hop Education series highlights knowledge of self, the fifth and often forgotten element of hip-hop. The chapters in this text highlight the intersections of the authors’ lived experiences, hip-hop, theory, and practice. While engaging in any research, researchers must identify their positionality as it relates to the study. As hip-hop educators, many of us enter the field of hip-hop education with the unique positionality of being participants of hip-hop culture prior to entering any formal academic space. In many cases, this connection to hip-hop culture is one that has been well embedded as a part of our core identity. Historically, academic spaces have had misperceptions and misunderstand the authentic culture of hip-hop. Within educational spaces, hip-hop is not recognized as a form of knowledge and is oftentimes viewed as unintellectual (Akom, 2009). Academia’s perception of hip-hop often forces scholars, educators, and practitioners who identify and embody hip-hop culture to hide an integral part ←1 | 2→of their identity as they approach work in their respective field of education. This forces many to experience a “double consciousness” a phrase coined by philosopher W.E.B. DuBois (1903) that describes an internal conflict experienced by marginalized groups in an oppressive society. As hip-hop educators, many of us enter the field of education with a unique positionality and understanding of hip-hop and youth culture, and a particularly strong knowledge of self. This unique positionality in many ways strengthens our understanding of young people and influences our work in communities. We commend and recognize the many #HipHopEducators who work in institutions that fail to recognize the power of hip-hop, especially when incorporated in educational spaces (Akom, 2009; Baszile, 2009; Emdin, Adjapong & Levy, 2016; Hill & Petchauer, 2013; Irizarry, 2009; Love, 2012).

Institutions that do not see the power of hip-hop in educational spaces have a clear misunderstanding of the realities of youth, educators and scholars who may exist in that space forcing them to mask their hip-hop identity. Hiding or masking ones hip hop identity in order to emerge as a researcher or practitioner is of particular concern when we consider Rogers’ (1957) notions of self-actualization. Similar to the double-consciousness discussed by DuBois, Rogers purports that self-actualization is an individual’s path towards reaching their full potential. This process involves the marriage of two versions of the self, the real self, and ideal self. An individual’s real self is the manifestation of their unadulterated thoughts and feelings. In contrast, the ideal self is how an individual sees themselves in the world. The more these two selves overlap, the more “congruent” an individual is said to be, and the less distress or “incongruence” the individual is said to have. In other words, as a person works on presenting an ideal self that is reflective of their real self, they are embarking on the path towards self-actualization. However, being fully self-actualized, meaning a complete overlapping of the real and ideal self is theorized to never fully occur (Rogers, 1957). Therefore, individuals are always operating with some level of incongruence. Our goal in this work is to highlight the realities of hip-hop educators who grapple with incongruence on the path towards self-actualization.

Image adapted from Ismail and Tekke (2015, p. 31)

For the hip-hop generation, survival in all levels of the educational system has been contingent upon one’s ability to forgo displaying their real self, and the journey towards self-actualization all together, to publicly embrace an ideal self, defined ←2 | 3→by White American values. In a sense, education systems, across the lifespan, promote incongruence. This the problem. Education systems, by virtue of hegemonic structures, inherently do not support the congruence of hip-hop educators and scholars mainly due to stereotypical perspectives of hip-hop culture (Emdin & Adjapong, 2018). In response, Emdin (2016) argues that “students must use what emerges from the enactment of their culture in schools to help navigate worlds beyond the classroom that have traditionally excluded [them]” (p. 176). Emdin (2016) acknowledges the difficulties youth will face when they leave high school, with regard to functioning in spaces that do not value their real selves when stating, “to validate the codes of young people in the classroom and then fail to arm them with the tools they need to be successful across social fields is irresponsible” (p. 176).

Herein lies the importance of knowledge of self, for both #HipHopEducators and youth who constitute the hip-hop generation. To support self-actualization, or knowledge of self, we present #HipHopEducators with three responsibilities: (1) Engage in the necessary self-work to understand hip-hop culture and your connection to hip-hop culture, (2) Identify ways that you can bring your real self/hip-hop self into your educational institution, no matter how big or how small, and (3) Advocate for historically marginalized groups to support them in the display of their real selves within educational systems. In sum, if we as #HipHopEducators are not on the path towards self-actualization, or true knowledge of self, if we enter a space to work with marginalized groups where we feel the need to hide our real selves, then we are complicit in demonstrating that our real self and ideal self should remain separate, therefore living in a state of complete incongruence.

When considering knowledge of self as a creative element of Hip-Hop culture, it’s the least commonly known and understood element. Afrika Bambaataa is a DJ and is known as the grandfather of hip-hop. He is best known for creating the first sounds that first influenced the creation of Hip-Hop music. Bambaataa defines knowledge of self as a central component of hip-hop culture. In support of the knowledge of self as a creative element of Hip-Hop, Bambaataa states,

We got to get people back to the knowledge. Too many are caught up on the partying…they are not dealing with all the elements of Hip Hop; they’re just dealing with the rap side of Hip Hop. We got to let them know that it’s a culture, and come back to the knowledge because this is what controls and holds everything together. (Conzo, Bambaataa, Esquire, & Chang, 2007, p. 57)

Bambaataa argues that the hip-hop generation has been overly consumed in rap music, which in many ways controlled by White record label executives and is not engaging in hip-hop as a culture. Rap music is a small fraction of hip-hop culture, which is known to have been commercialized and therefore slightly removed from being nested in the authenticity of hip-hop culture. Knowledge of self in hip-hop ←3 | 4→can be interpreted as real self as demonstrated by Rogers (1957). For the hip-hop generation, engagement in any element without knowledge of self-connotes inauthenticity. As suggested by Bambaataa above, engaging in rap without knowledge of self is not an authentic representation of hip-hop culture. Similarly, engaging in hip hop scholarship without knowledge of self is an inauthentic representation of #HipHopEd. Bambaataa along with many hip-hop purists believe that knowledge of self is central because participants of hip-hop culture must remember that hip-hop was created as a social-political movement. Essentially, knowledge of self is central to hip-hop as it encourages participants of hip-hop culture to be aware of who they are, be authentic to themselves and be confident in oneself to make a positive social-political change for their communities. At its core, hip-hop culture was birthed as a means to push back against the existing systemic inequalities in 1970s post-industrialized South Bronx community in order to provide an outlet and voice for urban youth.

Based on hip-hop’s social-political nature, hip-hop was created to promote the narratives and experiences of marginalized groups of people to disrupt hegemonic society. Consequently, to be an effective #HipHopEducator on the path towards self-actualization (knowledge of self) it is necessary to find and use your voice and pedagogy to disrupt, in order to then assist the next generation of young people and scholars in using their voice to challenge hegemony. In this text, authors provide exemplars focused on using hip-hop as pedagogy and practice, and using hip-hop for/as social justice as well as share narratives and approaches with the intention to advocate for groups of people that have been historically marginalized.


Akom, A.A. (2009). Critical hip hop pedagogy as a form of liberatory praxis. Equity & Excellence in Education, 42(1), 52–66.

Baszile, D.T. (2009). Deal with it we must: Education, social justice, and the curriculum of hip hop culture. Equity & Excellence in Education, 42(1), 6–19.

Conzo, J., Bambatta, A., Esquire, B., & Chang, J. (2007). Born in the Bronx. New York, NY: Rizzoli International Publications.

Du Bois, W.E.B. (1968). The souls of black folk; essays and sketches. Chicago, A.G. McClurg, 1903. New York, NY: Johnson Reprint Corp.

Emdin, C. (2016). For White folks who teach in the hood…and the rest of y’all too: Reality pedagogy and urban education. New York, NY: Beacon Press.

Emdin, C., & Adjapong, E.S. (Eds.). (2018). # HipHopEd: The compilation on hip-hop education: Volume 1: Hip-hop as education, philosophy, and practice. New York, NY: BRILL.


VIII, 160
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (August)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. VIII, 160 pp., 3 b/w ill., 5 tables

Biographical notes

Edmund Adjapong (Volume editor) Ian Levy (Volume editor)

Edmund Adjapong is an assistant professor in the Educational Studies Department at Seton Hall University. He is also a faculty fellow at The Institute for Urban and Multicultural Education at Teachers College, Columbia University and author of #HipHopEd: The Compilation on Hip-Hop Education Volume 1.  Ian Levy, a NYC native, is an assistant professor of school counseling at Manhattan College and a former high school counselor in the South Bronx. Levy’s research explores the school counselor’s use of emotionally themed mixtape writing, recording, and performing as a small-group counseling intervention.


Title: HipHopEd: The Compilation on Hip-Hop Education
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