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A Critical Hip-Hop Pedagogy

By Gramshinji


No hope for a terrifying future, worrying consumption of drugs, fucked up mental health boosted by Covid-19: we are likely to be one of the most depressed generations of all time.

Basically I am a zoomer who has grown up in Italy, an interesting case study whose subtitle should be "No Country for Young Men". Exploitation, overqualification, skill mismatch, youth unemployment, lack of welfare: many are forced to emigrate due to the incompetence of old politicians who do not represent us.

Since I was a kid, I have been hearing many speeches from adults about the so-called "youth unrest". Some say that we are lazy (like in every generational turnover), some blame technology, some try harder to understand us. Some even apologize, but nobody gives us concrete solutions apart from the "you are the present and the future" bla bla bla.

Moreover, nobody talks about the enormous elephant in the room: capitalism.

1. Ideology and society

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was one of the most influential Italian revolutionaries of all time. He was the founder of the Italian Communist Party and his contribution to Marxist philosophy has been recognized all over the world.

Photo: Marco Borrelli

In particular, he has been celebrated for the elaboration of the concept of “cultural hegemony”, especially in his “Prison Notebooks” (1929-1935). This work was written during Gramsci’s imprisonment in Fascist jails due to his political role in Italian liberation.

Marxist materialist theory states that society is based on the so-called structure, the relation in the ownership of the means of production among different classes. In other words, the structure is the economic system. It deeply influences the superstructure, i.e. the cultural body of society permeated by the ideology born from the base and taught by pedagogy.

Following the contribution of Vladimir Lenin, who used the term "hegemony" to describe the need for the proletariat to ally with the peasant to take control of the State, the Sardinian intellectual splitted the superstructure into political society (police, courts, parliament) and civil society (media, educational system, NGOs). Althusser will call them respectively RSA (Repressive State Apparatus) and ISA (Ideological State Apparatus).

Political society uses the legitimate State force to repress, while civil society fabricates popular consent through intellectual pedagogical shaping, mediating between the State and the economy. The exercise of power that the ruling class operates through civil society is what Gramsci means by cultural hegemony. According to him, every relationship of “hegemony” is necessarily an educational relationship.

Later, the Freudian psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan developed the concept of the Big Other, which constitutes the Symbolic Order of a society through language, law and narrative. Following the theory of Oedipus complex, he identifies this concept with the Name-of-the-Father, that controls our desires and communication: we have to accept it if we want to interact with others.

We can never meet it because it actually does not exist, but it is fundamental to understand how social architecture works. Slavoj Žižek, a Slovenian Lacanian philosopher known as "The Elvis of philosophy", often uses this example: everyone in USSR knew that the bureaucrats were corrupted but the status quo was still maintained because of the illusion that the Big Other did not know about it.

1.1. Capitalist realism

Did the Big Other disappear after the crash of the Berlin Wall? Despite the post-historicism we have been living into in the last years, the answer is no.

Although multinationals spend tons of money to pretend to care about ESG (Environmental and Social Governance), we all know that they are not so different from the ruthless corporations in cyberpunk products (Tyrell Corporation in Blade Runner, E-Corp in Mr. Robot).

"Capitalism may not be the perfect economical system, but there is no alternative". How many times have we heard this statement? Let's change the word "capitalism" with "socialism" and you can get the mantra of the USSR. And isn't it ironic, didn't you think?

And after all, what sells more at MTV than a protest against MTV? An example is Kurt Cobain, described so by the critic Fredric Jameson on The Wire's pages:

In his dreadful lassitude and objectless rage, Cobain seemed to give a weary voice to the despondency of the generation that had come after history, whose every move was anticipated, tracked, bought and sold before it had even happened. Cobain knew that he was just another piece of spectacle, that nothing runs better on MTV than a protest against MTV; knew that his every move was a cliché scripted in advance, knew that even realizing it is a cliché."

Cobain. (Commons)

This is useful for our analysis for two reasons:

● in primis, as Žižek pointed out, ideology does not simply deny impossibility but restages our encounter with it in a way to make it appear resolvable. In Lacanian terms, it is precisely the lack that raises the desire because we have to keep it far enough from ourselves to be happy. This was represented perfectly by Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and Andrei Tarkovskij's "Stalker" in some sort of an opposite view: Beckett wrote about two characters waiting endlessly for a guy named Godot who never shows up. Tarkovskij directed the tragedy of actually achieving our inner desires;

● secondly, we are all ‘wired’: plugged into a basic profit-making matrix. This leads to the strong heritage of the neo-Marxist Frankfurt school, an important philosophical movement of the XX century. In this case we mainly notice Horkheimer and Adorno's thought: according to them, culture has replaced religion as “opium of the masses”, an expanding mass culture whose basic tendency is towards the banal and mediocre taste of the Marcusian "one-dimensional man", a puppet that wants the few on-demand answers he needs just-in-time. And this superficial tendency is insidiously political and capitalistic. Let's discover its roots.

1.2. The crisis of neoliberal pedagogy

In his essay “Capitalist Realism”, the Marxist contemporary philosopher Mark Fisher lucidly analyzes the postmodern reality of late capitalism. The chapter on neoliberal pedagogy is particularly interesting. Taking into consideration his experience as a teacher in the UK, he explains that colleges receive funds based on how much they can meet top-down bureaucratic targets such as exam results and attendance.

Moreover, the teachers’ role follows the shift of capitalism, seen through the perspective of the Lacanian Symbolic Father: before the capital was an authoritarian figure, now it is a more friendly/liberal one (Tony Blair), as Slavoj Žižek pointed out. In the TV series Modern Family(2009-2020) this contrast is represented through the characters of Jay (an old-fashioned ‘pater familias’) and Phil (a parent/friend). This means that professors are now trapped into the pedagogical dichotomy between “facilitators-entertainers” and “disciplinarian-authoritarians”, covering also the role of the absent parents because of precarious working conditions.

In the book “Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities” (2010), feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum highlights the fact that we are facing a crisis of pedagogy worldwide due to the tendency to cut off humanities, pursuing more profitable STEM subjects. Schools do not aim to form new citizens through pedagogical critical thinking anymore. Instead, they tend to produce new obedient consumers for an increasingly exploiting job market.

A metaphor of this situation can be found in the manga “The Promised Neverland” (2016-2020). Its story is about an orphanage where children grow up overwatched by the “Mother”, a woman who seems to take care of them. Instead, she is an employee of a group of demons and her duty is to make orphans develop the highest rate of intelligence possible, since it will increase the quality of their meat when they will be eaten by these demons.

The Promised Neverland

1.3. Repressive education in Truffaut

A few movies have influenced the history of cinema like Nouvelle Vague’s first international success, “The 400 Blows” by François Truffaut (1959). Deeply influenced by Italian neorealism, it tells the story of Antoine Doinel, a kid who is considered by adults to be a troublemaker.

Digging into his environment, it becomes clear that he is a fatherless victim of the repressive ping-pong of responsibilities between the family, with the remarried mother who did not want him and arbitrarily yells at him, and the school, which uses a punitive pedagogy until he is sent to the reformatory. A paradigmatic example is when he copies a passage from Honoré de Balzac in an essay and, instead of encouraging his passion, the teacher punishes him because he sees it as plagiarism, leading him to prefer working instead of attending school.

Antoine Doinel. YouTube

Antoine Doinel is an alter-ego of the film director, who struggled to find his place in the world until the meeting with the critic André Bazin, to which the movie is dedicated, not by chance. Indeed, he was the first one to believe in him. The rebel Truffaut was lucky to find someone who saved him from the street life, but what about the unlucky others?

1.4. The social disease in La Haine

The answer is blowing in the screaming wind of what was considered the heir of Nouvelle Vague directors, Matthieu’s Kassovitz’s La Haine(1995). Set in a shabby banlieue in Paris, where the dreams of the oppressed vanish in a colorless reality, it focuses on a day in the lives of three discriminated guys: Vinz (Jewish), Saïd (Arab) and Hubert (black). The brutality of the Police, which killed a friend of theirs the previous day, pushes Vinz to wonder about shooting a policeman until the final tragedy.

For the purposes of this article it is particularly useful to analyze the character of Hubert: he is the only one out of the three boys who tries to create an alternative to a future that would be otherwise characterized by criminality. However, the rioters destroy the gym he has struggled to build at the beginning of the movie. He is the only one that succeeds in making Vinz think lucidly, but la rue calls and he is pulled into the downward spiral of his friend in a similar way to Charlie Brigante in Brian de Palma’s “Carlito’s Way” (1993).

Kassovitz was ahead of time in many aspects, using the film the same way Lucio Fontana used his canvas to express the rage of the oppressed, which has been increasing with the inequalities of neoliberalism. An example is the role of hip-hop culture in the suburbs, represented iconically by the scene of Dj Cut Killer scratching for the banlieue with the Cypress Hill’s t-shirt on.


2. Hip-hop

Deepening hip-hop is particularly interesting because rap is the most popular musical genre in these years, especially among young people, as it can be described as the voice of Gen Z. It has been massively influencing XXI century popular culture, as testified in the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show.

2022 Super Bowl Half Time Show. YouTube.

We usually don't think about it because it is simply cool to us, but why did such an autoreferential genre, ethnically closed within the Afro-American community, basically a-melodical in the vocal parts and gross in its lyrics become the voice of our generation? In order to answer this question, we need a double step back both in its history and in its meaning.

2.1. Hip-hop history

Initially the philosophy of the genre was summed up by DJ Afrika Bambaataa and his group Universal Zulu Nation in 1973 with the motto “peace, love, unity and having fun”. It was born as a movement whose aim was to emancipate the oppressed Afro Americans in the ghettos, also enabling them to go dancing with little money in the block parties.

DJ Kool Herc at one of the first block parties in the Bronx in 1970 (Commons).

Its multicultural nature was born from the combination of black music (funk, R&B, jazz) and the Jamaican sound systems brought by DJ Kool Herc from Kingston. A brief

flashforward: due to its versatility, since the '90s it has also incorporated white influences like metal (Limp Bizkit, Korn) and electronic music (Massive Attack).

Coming back to the '80s, especially after the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and the crack epidemic, rap became an extremely powerful tool to shed light on systematic discrimination and abuses of the police with the power of storytelling, a heritage of the West African griots mediated by blues. There was no contradiction with the celebration of a hedonistic lifestyle: a perfect example of this were Run DMC, who made both social aware (“It’s Like That”) and less committed songs (“My Adidas”).

Photo: Ricky Powell

Police brutality, oppression and systematic racism were some of the topics sung in the ‘90s by artists like NWA, Public Enemy, Immortal Technique and Nas. They represented the reality of the state in all of its raw facets and to protest with their lyrical skills against an unfair establishment.

Another important topic was the celebration of a luxurious lifestyle through gangsta rap - whose icon is the duo Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg - bearing in mind the example of movies like the widely quoted “Scarface” (1983) by Brian De Palma.

Above all, the '90s were shaped by the East-West Coast rivalry, encouraged also by the show-business and motherfuckers such as the founder of Death Row Records, Suge Knight. It ended tragically with the violent deaths of the two kings of the game: 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. This event left the throne of the game empty, paving the way for the consecration in New York of Jay-Z's entrepreneurial rap.

Suge Knight while being charged with 28 years of jail for murder. (Commons)

In this male-dominated industry there was an important exception that paved the way for female rappers: Ms. Lauryn Hill. After the success as a member of The Fugees, her first solo album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” (1998) became an instant cult of hip-hop.

The ‘00s were the years in which rap exploded worldwide. Eminem broke the solely black association of the discipline like Elvis did of rhythm and blues, becoming the idol of a whole generation of white dudes. Grand Theft Auto's iconic soundtrack was also an influential factor.

Snoop Dogg on GTA San Andreas.

The ‘00s were also the years of Lil Wayne and Kanye West. The first can be considered as the father of contemporary rap - focused much more on the melodic form than on the content. The second heavily influenced hip-hop both as a musical and style icon, contributing with his colleague A$AP Rocky and his friend Virgil Abloh to bring streetwear to the high fashion.

A$AP Rocky. Dior Homme

The ‘10s saw the dizzying rise of Drake, the most streamed artist of the decade, who has challenged the paradigm of masculine rappers with his sentimental attitude.

Furthermore, he has definitely broken the barrier between rap and pop (including the use of ghostwriters) along with Post Malone, the most famous of the so-called “Soundcloud rappers''. Another one of them was Lil Peep, who mixed rap and pop punk before his tragic death due to overdose.

Trap, a nihilistic subgenre born in a crucial center of American drug-trafficking aka Atlanta, has been widely influential thanks to Gucci Mane and Migos. Young Thug, considered to be the artistic son of Lil Wayne, has been fundamental for spreading mumble rap, a type of rap in which words are deliberately hard to understand, and a genderfluid aesthetic, nevertheless still wrapped in misogynist lyrics. Although artists like Kendrick Lamar, J Cole and Joey Bada$$ continue the tradition of conscious rap, it is now a minority in the industry.

This is one of the consequences of the genre mainstreaming and its gentrification, which has become a major global phenomenon also thanks to movies like “8 Mile” - about the story of Eminem - and video games like “Grand Theft Auto”. It is the transposition in virtual reality of the ‘90s gangsta imagination and its hip-hop radios spreaded many classics among gamers.

On the other hand, for a long time, the genre has been accused of being misogynist and homophobic (e.g. Eminem himself). Nowadays, more female rappers are emerging - following the path of Nicki Minaj and Cardi B - as well as openly homosexual singers like Tyler, The Creator and Lil Nas X, in addition to a genderfluid aesthetic brought by Young Thug.

The cover of Young Thug's album "Jeffery" (Photo: Garfield Larmond)

Nowadays, the role of 90’s gangsta rap has been taken by ‘drill’, a subgenre of rap characterized by an extreme nihilistic violence in the lyrics and dark angry musical atmospheres. It was born in the neighborhoods of Chicago - called “Chiraq”, not by chance - by artists like Chief Keef, Lil Durk, and Fredo Santana.

It was later exported to the UK, where it was influenced by the native ‘grime’, a wave of rap deeply influenced by the vibrant electronic scene of London. The result has been ‘UK drill’, a type of rap that tells, without any filter, about the multicultural underworld of street syndicates in England, with several episodes of drillers wounded and/or killed by rival gang members (“opps”) and censorship by authorities, who started using them as proof in trials.

Also due to the explosion of Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke, who brought back UK drill to the US before being killed in a home invasion, UK drill has become a piece of the global voice of a generation, with millions of views from Ghana to Australia.

2.2. Hip-hop and culture

Studying drill music is particularly useful because this hellish sub-genre takes rap to the extreme consequences of its philosophy: let's see how.

In 1990 the publisher Ecco Press released "Signifying Rappers: Rap and Race in the Urban Present" by Mark Costello and David Foster Wallace, who would become one of the most important writers of his generation years later. Now he is only a student who is trying to explain rap to white people like him (they were the years of Beastie Boys).

Wallace. (Photo: Bridgeman Images)

According to the authors, rap is a subject that an intellectual with a good dose of listening should be very interested in since it is the most postmodern and poststructuralist genre ever. It provides new avenues of understanding for deconstructionists who don't ask anymore: "Why do rappers celebrate themselves?" but rather, after the suspension of judgment (epoché), try to understand how a rapper celebrates themself.

It is the explosion on the backbeat of auto referentiality and narrative, the priest of the power of the word against melody, the genre of the Other par excellence. All love songs need an Other, but in hip-hop this becomes an obsession: enemies (real or imaginary) along with their friends, police, mainstream radios, moralizers, gold diggers, former girlfriends, etc.

This is the oldest strategy of shaping political consensus: creating external enemies to weld the internal environment. Rap does not take sides against a defined target though: the problem is the whole rotten structure of society, in which it's unreasonable to trust someone.

Hip-hop is a keyhole towards an environment we pretend does not exist. This fascinates bourgeois sensibilities. The lens of a rap camera filming the streets is dirty indeed, like in a Tarantino's movie, letting us empathize with the rapper (unlike punk for instance), but keeping us far enough away from that hell. If the hip-hop world is a jungle as its ministers claim, we are voyeurists in a safari.

Moreover, an essential concept in hip-hop is realness. Quoting Simon Reynolds, one of the most important contemporary musical critics:

“To ‘get real’ is to confront a state-of-nature where dog eats dog, where you’re either a winner or a loser, and where most will be losers...

...In hip-hop, ‘real’ has two meanings. First, it means authentic, uncompromised music that refuses to sell out to the music industry and softens its message for crossover. ‘Real’ also signifies that the music reflects a ‘reality’ constituted by late capitalist economic instability, institutionalized racism, and increased surveillance and harassment of youth by the police. ‘Real’ means the death of the social: it means corporations who respond to increased profits not by raising pay or improving benefits but by what the Americans call downsizing (the laying-off of the permanent workforce in order to create a floating employment pool of part-time and freelance workers without benefits or job security)."

This fits perfectly in our society of spectacle, as described by Guy Debord: often, the beefs between gangs are voluntarily exaggerated to raise hype on social networks. This is encouraged also by questionable characters of the music business, heirs of Suge Knight.

Notwithstanding this, curiously enough it is the genre where featurings are most important.

The battle is not only over lyrics though: it is on the musical level as well. The identity of the genre indeed includes also the sampling, i.e. cutting parts of other music and bringing them on your track. This collides with the concept of intellectual property and there are many examples of trials against rappers because of this.

However, this prosecutorial attitude is quite pointless because:

  • it's a practice that has always been used in music, from Homerus to operatic repertoires, giving birth to most of the traditions we celebrate today;

  • mutilating mainstream music in order to create new meanings is precisely one of the factors that gave strength to the meme of hip-hop. Not by chance one of the only relevant cultural phenomena of the '10s was vaporwave, which included a huge amount of samples from all kinds of music and aesthetics, from classical statues to '80s technology

Vaporwave. (Commons)

This collage of different music, which resembles De Chirico's paintings, is precisely what Simon Reynolds and his pupil Mark Fisher, borrowing the term from the philosopher Jacques Derrida, calls hauntology, i.e. the persistence of musical references of the past in present discography. According to them, they are ghosts coming from the nostalgia of lost futures: examples are The Weeknd’s synthwave, the massive success of Stranger Things 3 and the remix of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” by Dualipa.

Strict copyright protection is anachronistic in the era of massive public culture. Modernism implies authorship whereas postmodernism, especially after the flood of cultural products due to the invention of the Internet, implies the overcoming of the myth of individual genius in order to appreciate the value of the structural conditions and influences that the artist shows in his/her artworks.

That’s one of the strengths of hip-hop: it is very common to rap over someone else’s instrumentals (the basis of mixtape culture) and TikTok remixes encourage this practice. Drill pushes this tendency beyond its limits: drill beats and flows are all very similar to each other and it cannot be a coincidence that the genre emerged during the era of YouTube type beats, high quality instrumentals available to everyone using an Internet connection and having decent skills in rapping. Many drill producers upload their beats for free, searching for someone to set them on fire.

Funny memes are a perfect example: there is no author, they are completely public, everyone can create their own pic for free and the majority of pages are non-profit (except for companies which use them for marketing). They are the most popular form of communication of our times indeed. Therefore, Walter Benjamin was right: the work art is in the age of mechanical reproduction, just as Andy Warhol’s pop art.

It's not only a matter of art though, it's a political urge. Take Covid-19 vaccines for instance: since big pharma companies have copyright over them, the Global South cannot produce the means for their immunization. In general scientific knowledge must be free for everyone, in particular now that we have to face deep crises and we desperately need everyone's effort, regardless of their economic conditions (yes Elsevier, I am talking about you and your competitors).

Necrophile hip-hop

If hip-hop was born as a constructive culture that struggled to build an artistic alternative to the violence of street life for the oppressed Afro-Americans, why has it reached this point of nihilism?

The average rappers’ narrative has always been about a “loser” in everyday life who often comes from disadvantaged realities but, representing his tough reality through his lyrical skills, succeeds in redeeming himself and in reaching the status of “winner”, identified as an millionaire alpha male who can afford a luxurious lifestyle, surrounded by “bitches”, drugs, weapons and high fashion.

Analyzing this patriarchal model of rappers, the phenomenon described by Paulo Freire in the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” comes to our mind: according to him, the oppressed are fascinated by the oppressors and dream about becoming like them as in a kind of Stockholm syndrome.

A dramatic example is Kanye West, one of the most influential black artists of this generation and an undisputable musical and fashion icon of the XXI century. He has always been neurodivergent and the pressure of a Hobbesian musical market worsened his disorders, as testified by the way he managed his very recent divorce from his former wife, Kim Kardashian. It comes as no surprise that during the 2016 elections he openly endorsed Donald Trump, the opponent of Barack Obama, sometimes called “the first hip-hop president in history”. In 2020 Kanye himself ran for president, advocating for Conservative positions such as anti-abortion and anti-welfare.

Photo: Pool/Getty Images

He is the symbol of the internalization by hip-hop culture of what Erich Fromm calls “necrophilia”, that is the obsession for possessing the world like Tony Montana in “Scarface”, not by chance one of the most quoted movies by rappers. Albeit hip-hop is a culture born from the oppressed to the oppressed. The mentality of the oppressors inhabits it as one of the poles of the Hegelian dialectic slave-owner.

The pedagogy of the oppressed

In the aforementioned book of Freire, the Brazilian pedagogist heavily criticizes banking education, the method for which teachers simply deposit notions inside their pupils’ minds. According to him, it is a reflection of a humanitarian philosophy that denies men their vocation to be more, considering them subordinates which have to be tamed.

The Freirean solution is what he calls coscientizaçao, a humanistic and consequently critical pedagogy which aims to really free students thanks to a horizontal pedagogy between teachers and them. In order to create a praxis that is able to transform reality, reflection is not sufficient though: it needs to be followed by action indeed.

Freire. (Photo: DIVULGAÇÃO)

A fundamental feature of this process is a true love for humans. Otherwise, the risk would be a revolution that would end up like in “Animal Farm” by George Orwell (1945): the opposition between oppressors and oppressed is not overcome but overturned against the same people that were meant to be emancipated at the beginning. This is a concept that the educator shares with bell hooks who in “Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope” (2003) points out that, to go beyond racism and sexism, an academic relationship based on love between teacher and students is necessary.

A point that Freire particularly stresses is the necessity not to impose prefabricated words, but to make them say their own. This is the result of the use of generative themes in class, i.e. concrete objective topics about which everyone in the room can tell his/her subjective experience. Students need to be able to connect topics with other themes and to stimulate the reasoning via case limits, for example using images and slides.

Critical Hip-Hop Pedagogy

What is a better tool to achieve critical thinking through word making than MCing? What is a better form of love than art, in particular one that does not require particular vocal skills? What is a better means to form problem solving than the improvisation of rhymes on an instrumental? What is a better way to fight racism than cultivating a multicultural culture?

The first artist to ever understand the potentially very successful partnership between critical pedagogy and hip-hop was KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme), a pillar of old school hip-hop mostly known for “Sound of da Police”, one of the most iconic rap songs of all time. He is one of the most important representatives of CHHP (Critical Hip-Hop Pedagogy), a form of CRP (Culturally Responsive Pedagogy) that links Critical Race Theory with the hip-hop industry, following Freirean methodology.

KRS-One. (AP)

Hip-hop and CRP actually have many common sides:

- both are protest movements born in the ‘70s, the decade that started the post civil rights era;

- both have developed a counter-narrative against a racist establishment, aiming to emancipate Afro-American communities;

- both have become a controversial global phenomenon;

- both have been often opposed by the capitalist establishment, which has been appropriating their most harmful parts.

This led to the C3 Project, a.k.a. Critical Cultural Cypher, which included a balanced sample of young participants by gender and ethnicity. By implementing critical pedagogy, the democratic dialogue established in the study units produced very interesting reflections about the problems of hip-hop culture, transformed as a mainstream system of control by the establishment.

A beautiful solution is embodied from Oakland by Hip Hop for Change, a very interesting organization I found out on LinkedIn. Their mission statement is "Hip Hop for Change uses grassroots activism to educate people about socio-economic injustices and advocate solutions through Hip Hop culture. We raise funds for local causes that enrich marginalized and historically oppressed communities." If you want to see something lit today, check them out here.

In Italy, this message is pursued by Amir Issaa, a historical rapper from Rome who brings this message of redemption both in the Italian and international school systems, with tours in universities from the US to Japan. Another example is Davide Fant, pedagogist and educator who is a member of the “Italian Institute Paulo Freire” and the author of “Pedagogia hip-hop. Gioco esperienza, resistenza” (2015).

Amir Issaa presenting his book in a high school. (Amir Issaa)


I have to admit that, while I was writing this article, my eyes were shining. Hip-hop is one of the things I have been loving most in my life because I have grown up with 4/4 in my headphones.

I will never be grateful enough to this culture. It has pulled out my anger when I have needed it, it gave me the opportunity to meet many people, it gave me the inspiration to write my first articles, it gave me something to believe in.

Many things have changed in the rap game, for better or worse. For sure I cannot bear these fakes who start rapping only to make money, clout chasing the latest trends without originality: in one word, fuckboys without any kind of respect for the culture.

Thus, discovering this reality has made me remember the reason why I love this music: it gives disadvantaged people the voice to tell their story, that otherwise would not be heard. All you need is a beat and a mic, regardless of your social and economic status.

In a period where inequalities are disgustingly widened and the social climate more fragile than ever due to accumulated elite-sourced divisions, we desperately need something that can teach us to love our neighbor, to be brothers and sisters against the challenges of our times.

In the night of critical thinking, we desperately need a light that can teach us how to be independent from hate and profit-driven information warfare that surrounds us in this era. In the age of commodified fake plastic feelings, we desperately need a fire of true passion.

CHHP can be a powerful answer and it’s time to spread it among schools in order to take control of a society in a free fall. Rhymes will not save the world but, according to Dostoevskij, beauty will. And the spark in the eyes of a kid who finds a future in music is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Photo: Gramshinji/Pinterest


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