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Breakbeat Pedagogy

Hip Hop and Spoken Word Beyond the Classroom Walls


Brian Mooney

Breakbeat Pedagogy provides a groundbreaking framework for the inclusion of hip-hop culture in schools. Looking beyond the previous model of hip-hop-based education, Brian Mooney argues for school-wide hip-hop events, such as poetry slams, as the ideal site for students to engage in the elements of hip-hop culture. Working from the perspective of a classroom teacher, the author reflects on the story of Word Up!, a hip-hop and spoken word poetry event that began with students in a New Jersey high school. He makes the case for a pedagogy with the potential to transform urban schools and the way we think about them. This is essential reading for any teacher committed to social justice and culturally relevant education.
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Chapter 10. Future Breaks


← 114 | 115 →

. 10 .


Dear goddess, we made this break beat just for you / As an offering, can you hear us now? –Saul Williams

Brian Mooney looks on as a guest poet facilitates a writing workshop with students. ← 115 | 116 →

It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop (–Based Education)

When Kendrick Lamar read an earlier version of the previous chapter, which was first written as a blog post, he contacted me and said that he would like to visit our school. It goes without saying that my students and I were beyond excited. After months of brainstorming, planning, and holding production meetings with colleagues, administrators, and security, we decided to stage a schoolwide event, featuring a panel of scholars, teachers, and students in conversation with Kendrick about his work. Several of the student-poets introduced in this book performed work inspired by To Pimp a Butterfly at this event. These poems dealt with topics like race, beauty, and police brutality.

It would have been easy to invite Kendrick to come speak with a small group of students in my classroom, spit some bars, take some pictures, and leave, but we imagined something bigger, potentially more powerful, and accessible to the whole school community. This was a challenge because the only space able to hold the entire student body at one time is the field house, a large warehouse-like building where students take gym classes. This...

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