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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 9. Pimping Butterflies and Teaching Stars


← 104 | 105 →

. 9 .


This is the funky outline around a classic breakbeat –Aesop Rock

To Pimp a Butterfly–inspired artwork by a freshman student. ← 105 | 106 →

The Master Narrative

Although most of my research focuses on the extracurricular spaces of the Slam Poetry Club and Hip Hop Lit course, I’ve also integrated the study of Hip Hop into my traditional daytime courses in which I teach freshmen and sophomores. One unit in particular is worth reflecting on in order to demonstrate the ways that Hip Hop and traditional literature can be in conversation with each other in meaningful ways. This chapter is an extended adaptation of a blog post that I wrote in April 2015.

At that time, Kendrick Lamar released his sophomore album, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), while I was in the middle of teaching a unit on Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye (1970). My freshmen students were grappling with some big ideas and some really complex language. Framing the unit as an “Anti-Oppression” study, we made special efforts to define and explore the kinds of institutional and internalized racism that manifest in the lives of Morrison’s African American characters, particularly the eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove and her mother, Pauline. We posed questions about oppression and the media. After looking at the Dick and Jane primers that serve as precursors to each chapter, we considered the influence...

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