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HipHopEd: The Compilation on Hip-Hop Education

Volume 2: Hip-Hop as Praxis & Social Justice


Edited By Edmund Adjapong and Ian Levy

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.

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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 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


Spoken word poetry (SWP) performance has been my reckoning, my accountability, my reflection and my pedagogy for the last decade. I remember struggling to bridge what felt like an immeasurable distance between my artistic performance as a spoken word artist and my aspirations for my scholarly work as an educator simply because I had no language for the spiritual experience that performance always is for me. KRS-One (2002) taught us all that the fifth element of Hip-hop, “knowledge of self,” is directly related to our ability as artists and cultural practitioners, because knowledge of self creates a chance to “know the universe and God.” According to this principle, the more we understand about ourselves, the more we can understand others and the Most High. The practice and cultivation of my work as a spoken word artist offers ways to deepen how I know myself and helps to stretch my imagination further than my current reality. Seeking this knowledge and exercising the imagination is the only way to radically shift how we approach those areas of life suffering from stagnation, and the fifth element situates spirituality as a critical component in the pursuit for social change. It is important to rest the concept of self as an always changing subjectivity—the fifth element...

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