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Rhymin' since day... curious is a multi-tasking microphone vandal. Hiphop poetry is the dish of the day. Whether served fresh acapella or over baking hot beats, the elements of this feast are best enjoyed raw. Catch a portion of curious online or on stage, spitting like a pig on a spit roast. Check in to keep updated...peaCe

Monday, 22 July 2013

UK #HipHopEd Seminar 4: Keepin it Real"? - Authenticity, Race, Gender and Hip-Hop Education in the UK.

Curious snapshots from the first 4 UK #HipHopEd Seminars.

Each Uk HipHopEd seminar has had a different energy brought to the room due to the subtly profound changes in dynamic that different people bring. Avoiding the obvious Barrington Levy puns, a hallmark of the seminars to date, is that the range and depth of the debated topics have been both broad and deep. Each day existing as an example of academic cyphering that is as authentically hiphop as it is academic. However, despite the breadth and depth, each has distinct characteristics and uniquely defining moments that leave snapshots in the mind to be recalled like cerebral backdrops to future conversations and reflections. Here are my snapshots from the first 4 #UkHipHopEd seminars...

The first seminars energy came mostly from the newness of it all. The journey from the Twitter timeline to the Institute of Education seminar suite was a short and fast one. The potential in the room was palpable; teachers, youth workers, poets, academics, film makers, photographers occupying every seat. @rapclassroon (Darren Chetty) continued the natural leadership that had driven the original chats and hosted a day of performance, presentation, discussion and debate with a bit of live Skype to manage also! Amongst the eruditus and empowered eloquence (*strikes B-boy pose), the snapshot moment of the day will remain (in my mind at least,) that of the newly-formed group, forged into union, huddled diminutively, waving goodbye under the widescreen-projected god-head of Prof. Chris Emdin, at the end of our Skype chat; bridging LDN and NY's physical and educational divides in a supportive and inspiring way. The connection to the 'parent' movement gave a sense of authenticity and validity to this initial meeting of artist/teacher tweeters and the mythic retelling of how the US HipHopEd movement successfully and sustainably opened 2 Hiphop schools in the motherland of rap was inspiring. The spirit of reverence was apt. Onward towards a manifesto...

Additional Reading:

Seminar 2 should have been simple. Repeat a proven formula with a few different people and new themes. Enter Shay D. Female Iranian rapper with the Lyrically Challenged hiphop collective and hiphop workshop leader. Shay D brought a passion to the proceedings. She participated confidently and challenged some of the ideas about race and representation in the room vigorously. The snapshot moment of Shay D and Chris Mentalist going toe to toe (chair to chair), battling over a disputed comment; with the rest of the room either scrambling to defuse the tension or sitting back waiting for the storm to die down will remain the defining and most hiphop moment of the day, and stand as testimony to the belief and passion that exist within the HipHopEd movement; and like true battle MCs it was all love afterwards. This is not a snapshot of the movement’s greatest success, rather one of its passion, honesty and ability to push the boundaries of both the academic discussion format, and the hiphop cypher (perhaps battle is more apt in this instance) and find resolutions that stays true to the spirit of HipHopEd. This is where ideas and beliefs are cogeneratively forged in the fires of disparate notions of discourse and decorum; but where reality and theory collide with experience and instinct. This is bumpy ground, but well worth the ride.

Additional reading:

If Shay D brought a more contemporary hiphop voice to the room, Seminar 3 let Uk hiphop royalty in the building. TY has been delivering conscious hiphop to the UK hiphop scene since before people said 'conscious hiphop' and TY is used to working a crowd. Bridging the hiphop/ed gap was Poisonous Poet turned teacher Reveal and rapper/music teacher Awate. Further to the 'ed' side, Dr Patrick Turner from London Met led the day with a presentation that sparked the debate about racial representation and identity that dominated this seminar. Himself an ex-member of a hiphop crew, Patrick was joined by his teenage son. From my position, the young man had TY challenging and leading the discussion to one side and his father feeding the debate on the other. This image reminiscent of the angels and devils (but with a less polar opposition) of cartoon folklore brought 3 fundamental strands of the movement into one space - hiphop; the educator and the young learner. A perfect example of praxis? This was the theme of Seminar 3; that awkward and much misunderstood merging of theory and practice; education's version of circular breathing. The space where all that is said and thought is done. Where, where, will, won’t, what, why and how collide to form experiences that can be as beautifully chaotic and deceptively complex in their fluid expressions as sub-aquatic lava flows. HipHopEd is built for praxis.

Additional Reading:

Whether it was the choice of Gender as one of the 3 themes of Seminar 4 that encouraged or inspired  more women to attend (and maybe men to not?) is less important than the fact that there were more women at this seminar. The UkHipHopEd movement has never been exclusively male.  Kate Ryan's pivotal role in the original cohort of tweeters has provides the only ever-present female voice, but Shay D in seminar 2 and Anne from 
www.rapgenius.com in seminar 3 (amongst others) have ensured that there has been a strong and committed, plural female voice throughout. I don't know whether the participation of a larger number of women changed the debate or not, but it certainly felt more 'authentic' as a representation of educators (and humans) to have a larger female presence; if not yet, a more 'authentic' representation of hiphop.
Ironically, my snapshot of the day is not provided by one of the female participants, but instead it is the image of both genders watching a white neo-nazi rapper from Germany perpetuating every rap video cliché you saw perfectly parodied in The Roots, 'What They Do' video; and then debating it's authenticity as a representation of whiteness. A 25-strong debate about the rantings of a young white supremacist, living out his black rapper fantasy, isn't what I expected to be engaging with in a primary school hall on a warm and sunny Saturday, 3 days before the end of the academic year, but it is more useful than trolling comment boxes on YouTube for challenging such surreal and dangerous co-options of Hiphop culture.

Additional Reading:

The UkHipHopEd movement continues to build links between the sky high (and often pie in the sky) research of Hiphop academics; Hiphop educators working in schools (colleges, youth centres, theatres etc) and our young people, growing up to a Hiphop soundtrack in an ever- shifting capitalist landscape, where reality and authenticity are hard to pin down, but where creativity and knowledge are 'hard currency' for 'growth'. You can only win the game you're playing and all games have rules. All rules can be broken. Break rules.

This movement is ready for your surprises.

Can't wait, won’t wait for Seminar 5.



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