Many of the academic and popular treatments of hip-hop overlook the complexity of the phenomenon. Hip-hop is often portrayed solely as a source of corruption and regressive tendencies or, alternatively, as a sort of savior for otherwise marginalized individuals and source of revolutionary power. This thesis situates hip-hop between these poles and draws out its progressive and regressive aspects for analysis.
Considering its vast global influence and a growing body of academic literature, hip-hop has been notably understudied in the field of psychology. Alternatively, educational theorists and practitioners have realized the power of hip-hop in revisualizing an emancipatory education that fosters critical consciousness. This project goes beyond other hip-hop education projects in that it attends more directly to the psychological phenomenon of identity. As youth develop a strong connection to social and political identity and increase their level of critical consciousness (an additional goal of this and most other hip-hop based curriculums) they are more likely to participate and have the tools to be successful at actions aimed at progressive social change.
This thesis grew out of a larger project titled Moving to the Beat, a community-based multi-media endeavor that includes both the Moving to the Beat documentary film and curriculum guide. The Moving to the Beat curriculum guide strives toward the goals of emancipatory education. The film and the curriculum guide stay near the experience of hip-hop identified youth while attempting to avoid generalizations and stereotypes. Further, the developments of the film, curriculum guide, and this thesis have been guided by academic literature from a wide range of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, cultural studies, and education.
The thesis focuses on two primary questions: (1) How do youth engage the Moving to the Beat curriculum guide and documentary film? (2) Do the Moving to the Beat materials facilitate the development of critical consciousness and/or social identity in youth? Two primary waves of data collection were conducted to answer these questions. At each location, Moving to the Beat was shown and an outside facilitator guided youth through the curriculum discussions and activities that centered on identity. During these workshops, multiple sources of qualitative data were collected, including participant observations, interviews, student produced lyrics, and feedback forms. These sources of data pointed to six primary themes across locations and sources of data: traditional gender roles, "everyone is all equal", "you doing you", the new hip-hop generation, development and maturity, and youth resistance. This thesis represents the first assessment of the Moving to the Beat documentary and curriculum, the results of which will be used to alter the curriculum guide and prepare it for publication.