(John Robinson & Jason Rawls)

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.

The Pedagogy

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.

YCP Virtual PD

Participants are introduced to the concept of #HipHopEd and some of its biggest proponents. Specifically, the concept of youth culture is presented as a means to procure, nurture and maintain healthy teacher-student relationships inside and outside the classroom. Participants will be guided through activities that are built on youth culture and are given tips on how to use these activities to facilitate learning and strengthen engagement. During the professional development, Robinson and Rawls (who have a long history of live performance on stages around the world) use their book and album, YOUTH CULTURE POWER: A #HipHopEd Guide to Building Teacher-Student Relationships, to create an experience which will have participants on their feet, energized, inspired and excited. In this professional development, teachers are taught to re-envision “best practices” in the areas of classroom management, lesson planning and instruction through performances and crowd participation.


In our schools, Hip-Hop culture is the dominant culture among the students. In Youth Culture Power: A #HipHopEd Guide to Building Student Teacher Relationships and Increasing Student Engagement, Jason D. Rawls and John Robinson, educators and hip-hop artists with experience in the classrooms of urban schools, focus their efforts through Hip-Hop Based Education (HHBE). They argue that Hip-Hop culture could be useful in building relationships and building student engagement.

The approach to achieve this is Youth Culture Pedagogy (YCP). In this volume, the authors lay the groundwork for YCP and how they envision its use within the classroom. YCP is based in a foundation of reality pedagogy (Emdin, 2014), culturally responsive pedagogy (Ladson-Billings, 1995), and HHBE (Hill, 2009; Petchauer, 2009). We define it as a pedagogical approach which uses students own culture to create scenarios to facilitate learning.

In Youth Culture Power, the authors put forth their C.A.R.E. Model of youth pedagogy to help teachers create a positive learning environment by building relationships and lessons around students' own culture. Instead of forcing students to give up the things they frequent, they feel teachers should discuss them and when possible, use them in lessons. The purpose of this book is to present a fresh take on why educators should not discount the culture of youth within the classroom.

Youth culture power (album)

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.