Who are Jay ARE?
Educators and hip-hop kids turned musical maestros are just two of the roles multi- hyphenates Dr. Jason Rawls (bka J Rawls) and John Robinson play, yet they are the essential roles in their formation of Jay ARE. Although their paths crossed in the music industry for decades, it was during their second collaboration that Rawls and Robinson were inspired to merge their message and music into more than entertainment. That merger birthed Youth Culture Power — equal parts ear candy and a lead-in to their philosophy on education: Youth Culture Pedagogy (YCP). Further still, co- composing this project sparked the question, “What if we not only used the album to introduce, define and categorize our theoretical perspectives, but also wrote a book which could be used by educators worldwide?” The answer—multiple ways to get on board.
Welcome to the Revolution
Many principles of teaching claim to be child-centered and culturally responsive, but to what culture are they referring? While cultural competence is fundamental when communicating with multicultural students and families, translating that awareness into instruction can pull a teacher and a classroom in several directions. What if one culture existed that spoke to all youth, regardless of racial, ethnic or socioeconomic status? Our Youth Culture Pedagogy (YCP) functions on the premise that we can reach all youth in the classroom by tapping into and collaborating with their unique culture—Youth Culture. A closer look and listen at the fundamentals of YCP, Youth Culture Power exemplifies that the heart of this culture is hip-hop.
Hip-hop is more than a genre of music; it’s a lifestyle. Today, combined with pop culture and social media, that lifestyle speaks to and for several generations around the globe. It’s no coincidence that the innovators of this lifestyle and music continue to be our young people. What better way to reach them, than through something they inherently understand? As students of the culture and the music, we both recall learning timeless lessons about our history and the state of the world as we lived in it, through song. Correspondingly, we believe that YCP will maximize students’ full potential for success and promote lifelong engagement in learning. So how do we use this universal form of communication in the classroom? The first step is listening.
Building on the pillars of Marc Lamont Hill’s Hip-Hop Based Education (HHBE); Dr. Christopher Emdin’s Reality Pedagogy; and seminal thought-leader of culturally relevant teaching Dr. Gloria Ladson - Billings’ Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, Dr. Jason Rawls and John Robinson’s Youth Culture Pedagogy (YCP) will add a pivotal, unexplored element to the ongoing revolution of education in urban schools. Their use of proven methods like integrating student-centered points of instruction and strengthening educators’ cultural competence is galvanized by their reframing and expanding of students’ cultural toolkits.
Naturally, before educators can incorporate a new approach into their classrooms, teaching styles and existing curriculum expectations, they must fully grasp its significance. As both teachers and life-long students who know these struggles firsthand, Rawls and Robinson packaged their ideas with the intent for use in guiding instruction. Whether you’re a current, future, or contemplating educator, they’ve created a groove for every piece of the puzzle needed to elevate the education process for underserved urban youth.
A counterpart to the auditory experience, Youth Culture Power in book form dives deeper into the theory of Youth Culture Pedagogy (YCP); detailing the many ways that youth in marginalized schools identify with hip-hop culture, as well as the ways that culture can be used as a tool and asset in education. Each chapter corresponds to a track from the album, and throughout the book are scenarios of application in various situations to which all educators can relate.
For listeners, Youth Culture Power by Jay ARE consists of J Rawls produced, jazz-infused hip-hop tracks over which the emcees rhyme poetic on the state of educating inner city youth today. Rawls and Robinson list the many challenges; like culturally-biased standardized tests, the whitewashing of history in textbooks and the cutting of resources, but counter with a wealth of solutions; like relating to students, implementing new techniques in the classroom and simply being attentive to the happenings of their lives. The wordplay within every verse is weighted with the tenets of Youth Culture Pedagogy (YCP), and sound bites from educators and scholars with foundational schools of thought, like Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, Dr. Jocelyn Wilson, Martha Diaz and Dr. Christopher Emdin, are laced throughout this musical journey. The project stays true to their musical craft as well as their educational message, welcoming longtime fans of their music in addition to educators and administrators.