In my last post I talked about the innovative work of Dr. Christopher Emdin of Columbia University. I had the opportunity to hear him lecture about utilizing the elements of Hip-Hop as vehicles for science education.  The lecture was a part of the Ohio State University Hip-Hop Literacies Conference. The entire conference seeks to explore the dynamism of Hip-Hop as a (literacy) teaching tool. His lecture explored the power of tapping into the pain of urban youth that is expressed in the music and to utilize that pain as a tool for motivating them toward purposeful growth and development.  He calls it Reality Pedagogy. You can read the entire post here.

The more I listened, the more I was convinced that what this guy was saying was so deeply relevant for so many sectors as well as the church and evangelism.  It was almost like he could’ve been speaking to a room full ministers and church administrators. In his speech, he gave five keys to effective use of Hip-Hop culture as a teaching tool.  He calls them the

“5 Cs of Reality Pedagogy.”

The 5 Cs are as follows:

  1. Cogens – Cyphers/Cyphas
  2. Co-teaching – Crews
  3. Cosmopolitanism – City/Gang Imagery
  4. Context – Culturally Relevant Imagery
  5. Content – Truth

1. Cogens/Cyphers – Cyphers happen when when rappers/hip-hoppers encircle themselves in an informal creative “brainstorming” or “freestyle” session. One person carries the beat while others in the circle keep the rhymes going with unscripted rhymes and lyrics. Often times these cyphers are the sort of environment where rap battles can take place.

2. Co-teaching/Crews  Closely related to the cyphers are crews. A crew is like a cypher with a long-term commitment. No Hip-Hop artist performs alone. They all have crews/teams where they collaborate to make music and develop meaning and identity. 

3. Cosmopolitanism – This is the glue that holds the community together. It’s the unspoken rules of city/street life that are utilized for survival and engagement. Secret handshakes and other non-verbal cues, and even dress are specific-context specific details that let those on the inside know who’s in and who’s out.

4. Context – Closely related to cosmopolitanism is the significance of context. The city/street/ghetto is the primary prevalent frame of reference. One must intentionally utilize imagery that can be easily identified and interpreted from the urban perspective.

5. Content – Simply put, this is correct teaching, accurate information, truth. Hip-Hop, from it’s inception has always put a premium on gathering and sharing important information.  Even in cases where the information may promote illegal activity or immoral action it is always shared and collected for the sake of survival and prosperity in the given context.

Is it possible that the church can utilize these same vehicles to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ in a vibrant, refreshing, and authentic manner? Could our crews be small groups, and cogens the study/discussion sessions? Could cosmopolitanism suggest that we dispense with three-piece suits for worship? Could our sermons and songs regularly invoke the challenges and issues of everyday urban life in a way that sheds new light on life? And could we engage those issues in a way with the word of God that Hip-Hoppers might be able to see that God is indeed speaking words of life directly to and for them?

I think it’s possible. All things are possible to him who believes right?

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