Hip-hop literacy, a lot of it focuses around developing critical consciousness, by bringing thought and action together

Hip Hop Psychology (www.hiphoppsychology.org) is the study of the psychological meaning of Hip Hop discourse (emceeing/rap, dance, visual arts, music production, spirituality, culture and education) and human development as it applies to educational and therapeutic contexts.Recently, Peddro's Salsateca (PDST), Kolkata in collaboration with Hip Hop Psychology,USA organized a workshop in Kolkata.   Abhijit Ganguly spoke to Lauren Gardner, Debangshu Roychoudhury, and Debanjan Roychoudhury of Hip Hop Psychology on the sidelines of the wokshop and performance. Debangshu is the Artisitc Director, while Lauren is the Operations and Organization Specialist and Debanjan is the Youth Organizer and Marketing Specialist for The Hip Hop Psychology Performing Arts Movement. 

Hip Hop Psychology…..

Hip Hop Psychology basically breaks down to three prongs:

It has to do with scientific research in the areas of psychology, human development and education – on how urban arts, particularly hip-hop and the various variations of hip-hop, including dance, music, the culture, graffiti, the verbal aspects of hip-hop art, how that influences youth development, and how hip-hop art can influence things such as literacy, psychological well-being, and social-emotional development.

The second prong has to do with consulting services, which means going global, interacting with hip-hop culture that we see as based in New York City and bringing that to other places in the world, as a form of diplomacy to create a hip-hop based infrastructure, creating schools that can utilize hip-hop arts. 

The third one, our favorite, is entertainment.  We go around and we perform pieces that capture the spirit of Hip Hop Psychology, which has to do with experiences, emotions, expression, social justice, and taking an activist stance.

Hip-hop dance in terms of health……

Some of our students have created different dance pieces to talk about domestic violence, experiences in their homes/communities/classrooms, about feeling lost, confused, not understanding their identity, coming out as gay, etc.  Some of the girls were saying, at school they were always fighting and arguing – and that they felt it’s ridiculous and need to stand together and do something. The young ladies suggested they should dance together, and so express solidarity.  So in terms of health – there’s the physical, mental, but also spiritual aspects of health.

Hip hop literacy…… 

Hip-hop literacy, a lot of it focuses around developing critical consciousness, by bringing thought and action together. It is also about utilizing hip-hop to increase literacy, to have people be critically conscious about not only the consumption of media, but also about the production of their own media, creating conscious consumers AND producers.
With hip-hop, over time, you want to see an increase in vocabulary usage, because the more you rap, the more you engage in the use of vocabulary.  There’s a thing, when you rap, it’s called “multi-syllabic uses”…..it’s a lot of syllables, so you should be seeing a greater amount of syllable usage per sentence, and obviously a greater amount of syllable usage belongs in words that are much more profound or abstract.
One of the things you should also see is a truncation of an argument, because hip-hop is written in a more truncated manner – it’s four beats per bar, so “June one-seven ninety-four dropped from Heaven” – right – so making an argument using 4 beats allows for a more truncated and articulate argument.


I think that one of the things, when people say that Hip-hop has misconceptions, we mean one strand of hip-hop, and that is a corporatized commercial iteration brought out by a few major companies, which probably only represents 1% of the entire global hip-hop culture.  So it is like boiling down all of Indian culture to one Bollywood movie. Both forms of commercialization are focused on profit, not developing culture.  But when we look at the global hip-hop culture which we saw today through our collaboration with Peddro’s Salsateca, it is much more complex.  Some of the things that come across as negative are just real expressions of the issues that are happening in life. We also are able to see how youth across the globe, especially here in India, express their hopes, dreams and plans for the future given the rapid changes and the fact that the majority of youth are being left behind economically.

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