EXCLUSIVE: M.K. Asante Explains How Hip-Hop & Education Are A Perfect Match

Hip Hop Extra Credit Awards

Hip-hop’s journey from a house party in The Bronx to global dominance has proven its ultimate power – to inspire, to uplift and most of all, to educate. This was seen in full force in New York last week at The Hip-Hop Education Center’s first annual “Extra Credit Awards.”

Hip Hop Education Center's First Annual Extra Credit Awards

Curated by community scholar and educator Martha Diaz, the show honored the pillars of the genre and many others who have used hip-hop to teach healthy eating practices, science, music therapy, community activism, and more to children. The event was held in NYU’s Kimmel Center in Greenwich Village, where celebrities like Rosie Perez, Fab Five Freddy, Malik Yoba, Ralph McDaniels, and more presented awards to Afrika Bambaataa, Dr. Chris Emdin of Columbia University, Easy A.D. from the Cold Crush Brothers, Kanye West collaborator Rhymefest, and Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, mother of the late J Dilla.

Hip Hop Extra Credit Awards

With extensive training, community outreach and research, The Hip-Hop Education Center assesses how hip-hop can play an important factor in education. Currently, there are 300 international programs that use the genre to infiltrate social change in the minds of adults and youths.

The center has also created a petition to get the White House and President Barack Obama to recognize the genre as a national treasure, and for it to be implemented in public schools across the country.

NewsOne spoke to host, critically acclaimed author of Buck, and emcee M.K. Asante about the progression of hip-hop and how its presence in the classroom is a much-needed tool for students. The professor’s memoir tells the story of his hardships and struggle as a teen in Philadelphia and incorporates his everlasting love for music.

Hip Hop Extra Credit Awards

How did you get connected with the Hip-Hop Education Center?

“For starters, I’m a hip-hop educator, a professor at Morgan State University, a rapper and an author. I’ve done some Skyping in Martha’s class (Diaz is a professor at New York University’s Gallatin School) and I knew it was something I definitely wanted to be a part of.”

How do you think hip-hop ties into education?

“Hip-hop at its core is education. If you look at the etymology of hip-hop, you’ll see “hippy” is a [root] word, to open one’s eyes and see. It’s a term of enlightenment. “Hop” means to ‘spring forward into action,’ becoming ‘enlightened action.’ Even beyond that, what we’re talking about is the ability to transcend a situation and hip-hop is the best feature of that.”

Currently, hip-hop is being taught in places like NYU, Harvard, and other colleges all over the country. Do you think the elements of the genre can be taught in primary schools?

“It’s already happening in middle schools, high schools, and the reason why is student engagement. You want to retain your students and if you care about student retention, you have to care about hip-hop. That’s what brings them to the table. Once you get them to the table, we can teach and discover other things too. Even with my book “Buck.” A lot of kids who don’t read at all discovered “Buck” and were surprised. I’ve been told [by students after reading “Buck”] ‘a book can be more than I thought it can be.’ So now, they’re interested and when you show young people opportunities, they’ll realize this is education.

“Statistically, we know by keeping students out of prison, we have to have them engaged in the culture and education. We want to channel all that energy into a positive spirit and hip-hop does that.”

What else are you working on at the moment?

“I’m on the new Indie 500 project with Ninth Wonder and Talib Kweli that dropped recently. I have a song on there called “Bangers.” I think that’s part of hip-hop education, showing young people that I’m an emcee, I’m a rapper, but I’m a tenure professor too. It shows that you can do all of that. I’m working on the “Buck” movie with Sundance, new books, some new projects and spreading the light.”

Find out more information about the Hip-Hop Education Center here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, The Hip-Hop Education Center

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