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Hip Hop Education defined: Dr Chris Emdin speaks at TEDxNYED

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Music was born in me.  Even before I realized it, music was my first language.  I loved listening to the radio and by the age of  I could change stations on our AM console stereo and change records on the player. I listened to what the adults listened to: Blues, R&B, folk, rock, pop, even classical. I listened to it all and I loved it all. After all, I come from the what is arguably most musical city of the world — Memphis, Tennessee! Music is in my bones, my veins. I even walk in Tempo.

So when my young ears heard hip hop for the first time, I consumed it like candy. Initially thought to be a novelty, any song with rap in it was marginalized by most urban contemporary stations.  Like sweets, I had it only sparingly, occasionally, often by sneaking and quick gobbling.  Craning my neck to hear the stereos of the older boys in my neighborhood, listening to music tapes of older cousins, and spending long hours hypnotized by music videos.  I was every bit of an 80′s baby whose identity was enmeshed in music culture, and hip hop was my big sister.  I idolized her. I wanted to go where she went. Meet the people she hung with.  See first hand all of the adventures she was having and telling me all about in her songs and pages of Word Up! Magazine. Oh, you have no idea how I dreamed that I would grow up (and fill out) and become a Fly Girl, the kind the Boogie Boys immortalized.  Oh, but alas, that wasn’t me. I was a nerdy girl with delusions of grandeur. *sigh*

Nonetheless, I am Hip Hop. True and thru. I found being a detailed observer of hip hop made me love and appreciate it more.  And it is in that/this role that I embraced hip hop, the hip hop in me and take it with me into the field, the lab and the classroom.  Little did I realize when I created SouthernPlayalisticEvolutionMusic that Hip Hop Education was a pedagogy, a movement in fact.  And if I dare say so, Dr. Chris Emdin, might be best described as the Godfather of Hip Hip Education.  He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he also serves as Director of Secondary School Initiatives at the Urban Science Education Center. He is also author of the book, Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation.

Stop it, you had me at Urban Science!

He’s a science educator and focuses on how to engage youth and hip hop audiences in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).  Just. Pure. AWESOMESAUCE! I tell you.  Here he is explaining breaking down what Hip Hop Education is.


It’s no surprise to me that he’s a finalist for Black Man Can Awards Higher Education category presented by Black Celebrity Giving.

More links about Hip Hop Education
Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation [Video] at NewBlackMan (in Exile)
Weekly Hip Hop Education Twitter chat. Tuesdays 9pm EST, #HipHopEd

DNLee About the Author: DNLee is a biologist and she studies animal behavior, mammalogy, and ecology . She uses social media, informal experiential science experiences, and draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups. Follow on Twitter @DNLee5.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. mggordon 7:33 pm 06/4/2012

    The title “Hip Hop Education defined” suggested that I mind find out a definition of “Hip Hop” and perhaps why anyone uses it in the same sentence as music.

    “…even classical” illustrates the chasm between the two.

    … no mention of “Country Western” which maybe even the author considers not to be music ;-)

    Link to this
  2. 2. DNLee 10:13 am 06/6/2012

    haha! I like country music too. I grew up on Hee Haw!

    Link to this

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