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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 2. A Nuyo Love


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Breakbeats have been the missing link connecting the diasporic community to its drum woven past. –Saul Williams

Student rappers perform at Word Up! in the Black Box Theater. ← 17 | 18 →

Spoken Word Democracies

I suppose the present story begins at New York University, where I took a course called Hip Hop & the Teaching of English. It was academically rigorous, thought provoking, and instantly blended my love of Hip Hop with my growing passion for young people and education. We read Paulo Freire, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Bakari Kitwana, Samy Alim, and many other scholars and cultural critics.

I soon discovered a discourse for teachers using Hip Hop and spoken word poetry in classrooms across the world. “Spoken word” is the art of performance poetry. Typically, this kind of art is performed at “poetry slams,” competitions that ask members of the audience to help score poems and eventually crown a winner. The poetry slam has its roots in the 1980s in Chicago, where construction worker Marc Smith devised a clever way to get people into a bar to listen to poems (Aptowicz, 2007). Essentially, it was a ruse because the scores were irrelevant. It was the storytelling that mattered. Eventually, the poetry slam grew in popularity and came to New York venues such as the now-iconic Nuyorican Poets Cafe on the Lower East Side.

Several of my NYU...

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