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Listening differently: youth self-actualization through critical Hip Hop literacies

Lauren Leigh Kelly (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 6 May 2020

Issue publication date: 11 August 2020




This study aims to refocus the field of Hip Hop based education on youth identities and epistemologies rather than on the tangible artifacts of Hip Hop culture. It argues that centering classroom pedagogy and curriculum on youth self-actualization best supports the critical literacy development of students grappling with social and structural inequities within an ever-evolving youth and media culture.


Building upon previous literature on critical literacy, Hip Hop pedagogy and adolescent identity formation, this paper shares data from a semester-long teacher–researcher case study of a high school Hip Hop literature and culture class to explore how young people develop critical literacies and self-actualizing practices through a critical study of youth culture.


For youth engaged in Hip Hop culture, co-constructing spaces to discuss their consumption of popular media and culture in class allows them to openly grapple with questions of identity, provide support for each other in dealing with these questions and reflect more critically upon their self-constructed, performed and perceived identities.


This form of English education challenges traditional notions of teaching and learning as it positions students as co-creators of curriculum and as part of the curriculum itself. Building on research that frames Hip Hop pedagogy as a culturally relevant tool for engaging urban youth, this paper argues that educators should approach critical Hip Hop literacy development as a means by which young people across diverse educational and social backgrounds come to know themselves and others as part of the process of self-actualization and critical resistance.



Kelly, L.L. (2020), "Listening differently: youth self-actualization through critical Hip Hop literacies", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 269-285.



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