WORDS BY YONI REINHARZ
When Clarence 13 X split from the Nation of Islam in 1963 to form the 5% Nation, he developed spiritual lessons, including a form of numerology he called “Supreme Mathematics.” These lessons provided the framework of what would coalesce as one of the most important fundamental elements of hip hop: Knowledge of Self. These philosophies empowered a generation of innovators and legends, from Rakim to Method Man.
Hip hop education has emerged as a shining light in an increasingly overburdened and under-resourced public school system. Meet three educators reaching youth and making an impact in our communities.
Jason “J-Sun” Noer
Noer is a practitioner of street and hip hop dance forms which he teaches, choreographs, and performs. He is also the artistic director of the MIXTAPE, a group of hip hop choreographers, musical artists, and videographers. MIXTAPE’s mission is to serve the Twin Cities hip hop dance scene by breaking down barriers to resources and helping to cultivate an artistic ecosystem. J-Sun is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota and Disciplinary Head of the Hip Hop Dance track.
What was one of your favorite live performance experiences?
Definitely, Spitkicker Tour in Los Angeles because we (West Coast Rockers) lied to get backstage. Common saw us dancing in a cypher and came up to me with his hand-knit blue flower beanie and big sunglasses and said, “I want you to dance with me onstage.” This was right after I kicked DJ Hi-Tec in the head because he walked through the cypher! I’ll never forget De La Soul, Talib Kweli, Guru, and so many of my favorite rappers just chillin’ and watching us dance.
How would the kind of Hip Hop Education that you help facilitate have changed your scholastic experience as a youth if you had access to it?
I facilitate learning through a dance lens, specifically through Breaking, and it would have changed my world if I had this type of instruction. Nearly any subject can be taught through movement, which then makes it possible to think about how different bodies are treated in different situations. Perhaps we could then consider how difference is a way to understand people, not similarity.
WHEN YOU GO
Rock with Jason and crew at MIXTAPE VI: Cypherspace is May 6 & 7 @ The Cowles Center for Performing Arts
Zulu King Reies
Reies is a hip hop activist, DJ, educator and restorative justice facilitator. Member of Omega Zuluz Twin Cities (Zulu Union), James Dewitt Yancey Foundation, Mni Sota Hip Hop Museum, Freedom School.
What are some go-to hip hop songs you use in education, and why?
‘I Can’ by Nas
‘U.N.I.T.Y.’ by Queen Latifah
‘Fight The Power’ by Public Enemy
‘Dear Mama’ by 2Pac
These are just a few of my favorites when I teach hip hop song analysis. We study, interpret lyrics, meaning, context, and relevance. We also watch the videos, which brings visuals to the lyrics and experience of the song.
How would the kind of hip hop education that you help facilitate have changed your scholastic experience as a youth if you had access to it?
I think it would have been helpful for me to appreciate the music more, to understand its importance in our history, and how powerful of a tool hip hop can be for empowerment, mental health, and a deeper context of soul searching.
Dominique “Mr_Neek” Pierre-Toussaint (ICA – Your Community Connector)
Pierre-Toussaint was born August 7, 1973 four days before the birth of hip hop at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. Dom P was raised in the projects of Edgemere Far Rockaway in Queens, where he saw Grandmaster Melle Mel perform in the gym of his middle school. He moved to Maryland to attend Howard High School in 1989, where he befriended hip hop’s legend, Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets. Dominique was also a bodyguard for Prince in the late ’90s.
How would the kind of hip hop ed that you help facilitate have changed your scholastic experience as a youth if you had access to it?
I was fortunate to have three mentors in junior high school that immediately took me under their wings as the crack epidemic ravaged my neighborhood. My art teacher, music teacher, and community center director provided me with a platform to express my art through graffiti, poetry, breakdancing, and beatboxing. The only thing that I lacked was adequate resources to reach my full potential.
Tell us about the song you did for Hopkins Schools.
My Society_101 crew created an Anthem for the City & School District of Hopkins titled: ‘The H,’ featuring DJ Xeno thé Kid, Dominick Just, CAM, and Hooks. Our new platform GEN – Generation Enhanced Network (Society_101) will be providing our Minnesota communities with an opportunity to share their passion for the arts!