(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. 

how can i move the crowd? (activity BOOK)

The most common feedback that we received from our professional development workshops is from teachers wanting to know more about how to activate some creative activities in their classrooms. We hear questions like, what are some great icebreaker activities to use to engage my students more? What are the best interactive and engaging activities I can add to my lesson plans to make my classes more engaging? Or which activities should I use when teaching different themes and concepts related to academic subjects to better resonate with my students? We hear you all loud and clear and we are excited to share a resource that we know will be helpful to some if not all of these needs.

For us, using activities and games in our lesson plans is the difference between our students memorizing the content versus actually knowing and embodying it, because it was introduced to them in a familiar way that allowed them to engage with the academic content more. We learned that the willingness of our students to engage has a lot to do with the students being able to see themselves in the work. Continuing to stay creative in the classroom allows us to witness activities like using drama, acting things out, or creating in other ways to help our students think for themselves more freely and problem solve more independently. 



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.

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.