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Introducing, Hip-Hop Can Save America! Mini-Episodes! Full-length, in in-depth interviews with individuals and organizations using Hip-Hop music and culture to uplift humanity are super important, and I'm honored to be able to do them. I have a bunch more on the way, but in the meantime, there are so many examples of innovative and inspiring events, news items, discussions, calls for papers, and all kinds of information that I think followers of this show would love to hear about, so I'm kicking off Mini-Eps to do just that. They'll also be available as videos on my social media platforms as well, to make sure the most people possible can find out about these Hip-Hop treats. Follow me on Twitter and our org at and tell us what YOU'D like to hear more about when it comes to innovative uses of Hip-Hop, and let me know what you think about these more frequent, information-packed mini-episodes. Thanks for your time and support!
On this episode of Hip-Hop Can Save America… Dr. Lauren Kelly teaches teachers how to teach using Hip-Hop -- We speak about why it works, and some things to watch out for. Plus, info on a brilliant, student-led Hip-Hop academic conference coming soon. A lot of our episodes delve into the wide world of hip-hop education. I’ve seen so many examples of how hip-hop music, culture, spirit, and perspective can lift up our young people in educational settings, so I will definitely continue to sing the praises of hip-hop based education. Recently, however, a journal article caught my eye, titled, “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: Enacting Critical Pedagogies of Hip-Hop in Mainstream Schools.” It was written by Dr. Don C. Sawyer III of Quinnipiac University and Dr. Lauren Leigh Kelly, Assistant Professor in the Urban Social Justice Teacher Education program at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education. I’ve known Dr. Kelly for a minute, and thought her contribution to the article represents a very important facet of Hip-hop based education. Sometimes, we focus so much on the victories, we don’t pay enough attention to when keeping it real, goes wrong, and if we are truly looking for long-term, effective ways to advocate for hip-hop in schools, it’s equally important to pay attention to how we can make these interactions the best they can be. I wanted to know more, and Lauren graciously agreed to come on the show to discuss it in a bit more detail. We also spoke about the incredible Hip-Hop Youth Research and Activism Conference, a student-led event that she founded, which will host its next iteration this May. Here’s my talk with Dr. Lauren Leigh Kelly.
Ben Merlis isn’t a Hip-Hop historian by nature, but he has had his feet in the music business for decades, and since his early days, has been a superfan of rap music, with a particular affinity to the iconic artist collective that emerged from Queensbridge, New York in the late 1980s -- the Juice Crew. Led by the late pioneering radio jock Mr. Magic and amplified into Hip-Hop canon by DJ & producer Marley Marl, this trailblazing crew - which consisted of household rap names like Roxanne Shante, Kool G Rap, Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane and more -- helped put the gold into rap’s Golden Era. While not as commercially successful as other well-known rap labels like Def Jam or Tommy Boy, the Cold Chillin’ imprint was arguably as influential as any in exploding the popularity of the genre. Ben Merlis saw that the story of this legacy was worthy of proper documentation, and has woven together a fascinating look at the inner workings of these game changers in his new book Goin’ Off: The Story of the Juice Crew & Cold Chillin’ Records. Under the occasional rumble of a passing subway train, I spoke with Ben at the Powerhouse Arena bookstore in Brooklyn, New York just before an author talkback session with the public that also featured Juice Crew members Masta Ace and Craig G. Here’s my conversation with Ben Merlis.
A renowned "hip-hop diplomacy" program called Next Level, run by the United States State Department, sends groups of hip-hop teaching artists to places throughout the world as cultural ambassadors. The program is designed to bridge cultural divides, facilitate understanding, and express and heal trauma, all through hip-hop music and culture. On this episode, we hear from its founder, author and professor, Mark Katz.
Jarritt Sheel is an assistant professor of music education at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. He is also a fifth-year doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University in the Music and Music Education Department. He is a professional musician who has toured the world and led youth ensembles in places like Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. He’s particularly interested in how hip-hop music, culture, and pedagogies should be applied in music education and teacher training. Jarritt co-founded the music resource website and is leader of the social media dialogue, #hiphopmusiced. Hip-Hop Can Save America! is brought to you by The Center for Hip-Hop Advocacy and is produced by Manny Faces Media.
On this episode, I'm speaking with Richard Achee. Richard works in Strategic Partnerships at Google, and through Google’s Code Next initiative and a partnership with Rapport Studios, created an initiative called Python MC that uses hip-hop music to teach young people the basics of computer coding. I’ve seen it action several times now, and it’s one of my favorite examples of the intersection between hip-hop and tech. For more about Python MC, visit Also, Rapport Studios creates #engaging & #immersive #learningexperiences harnessing the power of #tech, #media, & #pedagogy to scale empathy & inspire humanity. Visit them at Hip-Hop Can Save America! is brought to you by The Center for Hip-Hop Advocacy, dedicated to PRESERVING, PROTECTING, AND PROMOTING THE ABILITY OF HIP-HOP MUSIC, CULTURE, AND SPIRIT TO IMPROVE HUMANITY, FIGHT INJUSTICE, INNOVATE INDUSTRIES, AND SAVE LIVES. If you have a product, service, or story you want to get out to a rapidly growing audience of people like you, you can sponsor this podcast. We also accept tax-deductible donations to help make these podcasts and our other work possible. Visit to learn more, contact us, or contribute. The show is produced by Manny Faces through the award-winning podcast and audio journalism production studio, Manny Faces Media, producers of acclaimed social justice journalism podcast News Beat, as well as several other shows from across the worlds of business, marketing, culture, and more. Visit us at
For a few days, the Jay-Z / NFL deal was all that anyone in hip-hop or sports was talking about. It was polarizing, and many people felt many types of ways about it. But like a tornado, the ruckus seems to have disappeared as quickly as it came. I think we should be continuing to bring the ruckus.
An update on the future of our groundbreaking Hip-Hop Can Save America! podcast, plus, a quick take on hip-hop, social justice, and the one big mistake Jay Z made... Brought to you by The Center for Hip-Hop Advocacy and produced by Manny Faces Media
Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings' theories and research around culturally relevant pedagogy has been a foundation of forward thinking education circles, and many of today’s leading hip-hop educators are proving her work to be vital in improving how we teach our kids. She is, as some refer to her, the OG at this, and it is fitting that it is with Dr. Ladson-Billings that we wrap the first season of Hip-Hop Can Save America.
Tierney Oberhammer is the Director of Production for Flocabulary, overseeing content creation, working with rappers, singers and producers to make music that aligns with K-12 curriculum. She has helped create hundreds of videos ranging from math to social and emotional learning, and spearheaded a series on social justice.Tierney is a passionate advocate for hip-hop based education, and often writes and speaks on these topics, as well as the overall effectiveness of the Flocabulary program, and I was thrilled that she took time out to speak to me about how their brand of hip-hop education can mean so much more than just being able to pass a test.
Ben Oritz serves as the assistant curator for the Cornell Hip-Hop Collection, a part of Cornell Library’s Rare and Valuable Manuscript department. As someone who is very much of the culture, we hear about his work in this esteemed position, what the collection consists of, and why it is so important to archive hip-hop culture in an institution like Cornell.
On this episode, we return to the hip-hop education space, as I talk with Dr. Andrea Hunt.Dr. Hunt developed and teaches a Sociology of Hip-Hop Culture course at the University of North Alabama, and while she is very much involved with the regional hip-hop community, what I really like about her course and her work, is that she is bringing hip-hop into a school with a predominantly white student body -- and in a quote unquote “red state” to boot.Of course, we’ve seen educators using hip-hop in urban and predominant minority settings with great success, but I was curious to hear about Dr. Hunt’s experience merging hip-hop studies in this setting. And as I mentioned, Dr. Hunt also does a great job at extending her connection to hip-hop way past the walls of her classroom, using the culture and associated artform to improve lives in the communities where it’s needed most.All in all, I think you’ll be as inspired as I was to hear how she is using hip-hop to inform and inspire folks from all walks of life, in ways that I think can help contribute to an increase in cross-cultural understanding, and help repair some of the damage that has been done to our collective social fabric.
My guess is that if you’re listening to this show, you’ve heard of a lil ol musical called Hamilton. The unlikely mix of hip-hop and live theater caught many mainstreamers off guard with its multi-cultural, multi-genre approach to the stage.But what not enough people know, is that Hamilton is not a one-off. Hip-hop and live theater have a history that far proceeds and expands way past Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit show.In this episode, I speak with one of the innovators who has been rocking hip-hop theater for well over a decade in a very unique way -- merging intellectually deep, topical dives with beat, rhymes and performative art.From Climate change to evolution to religion to how the brain actually works, Baba Brinkman pens and performs incredibly memorable experiences pairing hip-hop music and culture with the most complex issues of our time, and does so with brilliance, humor, and a universal appeal that stretches from the block to Broadway.
On this episode, Manny Faces speaks to artist, educator and entrepreneur Gil Perkins, aka Sage Salvo who, founded a literacy program called Words Liive that helps teachers build standards-aligned lessons that integrate music and media, increasing student engagement and educational success.Sage details the core offerings of this groundbreaking program, and talks about how hip-hop music and lyrics can help students better understand complex literary works.
Kevin Kosanovich founded the College of William & Mary Hip Hop Collection dedicated to documenting and preserving Virginia’s hip-hop history. Kevin earned his PhD writing about the Bronx River Houses, the Zulu Nation, and hip-hop’s international expansion. He is currently the Content Archivist for StockX.
A veteran of more than a dozen international tours, including as a State Department Cultural Ambassador with the Music Abroad Program, Mikal Amin is someone I consider to be the epitome of a hip-hop teaching artist. He’s taught master classes, led workshops, lectured, published essays, produced and curated events, and most important, stood right by the sides of young people from all walks of life, helping them find their best selves through poetry, rap and music.
This episode, I speak to Mark "Metal" Wong and Steve "Believe" Lunger from Hip Hop Fundamentals. Based in Philadelphia, Hip Hop Fundamentals is an educational company run by breakdancers, whose mission is to “use the dynamic American art form of Breaking to effectively teach academic content, youth empowerment, and social issues.” With a roster chock full of talented, passionate teaching artists, the Hip Hop Fundamentals crew delivers memorable and inspirational workshops and in-school residencies through Pennsylvania and New Jersey -- as well as throughout the country.
This episode, Manny Faces talks with Dr. Ian Levy about hip-hop and school counseling. Dr. Levy was the 2016 New York State school counselor of the year and is currently Assistant Professor of School Counseling at Manhattan College.Levy, who has been recognized for piloting the development, implementation, and evaluation of a Hip Hop based counseling framework in urban schools, examines mental health practices in those schools, interrogating the role of the school counselor and other school staff to ensure the emotional lives of young people are adequately addressed.His work has been featured on CNN and in the New York Times.But most important. He has used hip-hop to help kids. Lots of them.
On this inaugural episode, host Manny Faces is joined by Dr. Bettina Love, an award-winning author and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. Her research focuses on the ways in which urban youth negotiate Hip Hop music and culture to form social, cultural, and political identities to create new and sustaining ways of thinking about urban education and intersectional social justice.Manny and Dr. Love speak about hip-hop in educational settings, as well as Dr. Love's recent work in the field of "hip-hop civics."
Comments (1)

Michael Doggett

This was really helpful for me. I loved so much of it. I always knew I loved the "multiple intelligences" aspect of hip hop, but I haven't heard it explained like this. I really appreciate this!

Oct 23rd
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