“Yo Nací Caminando”

Community-Engaged Scholarship, Hip Hop as Postcolonial Studies, and Rico Pabón’s Knowledge of Self


  • J Griffith Rollefson University College Cork




activism, applied ethnomusicology, community-engaged scholarship, decolonization, hip hop, knowledge of self, postcolonial studies, Rico Pabón


This article outlines an open, decentred and unfinished vision for community-engaged scholarship in hip hop studies. Employing examples from the Hip Hop as Postcolonial Studies initiative at the University of California, Berkeley, it elaborates in theory and method how (and why) hip hop's community knowledges might (and should) be better valued and leveraged in university contexts. The article argues that hip hop is itself a form of open (and vulnerable) scholarship; that hip hop's core praxis of "knowledge of self" (KoS) is an intellectually and artistically rigorous form of (counter)history; that hip hop is postcolonial studies. By examining artist-facilitator Rico Pabón's pivotal role in the initiative, the article elaborates how hip hop's performed KoS calls into question our reliance on the professorial structure of the university knowledge trade. Centring on a "questing" track that gives this article its title, it shows how the seamless and unfinished unity of Pabón's knowledge/performance, content/form and theory/method can model ways in which to decentre our scholarly praxis and bring our decolonial theory into a pedagogical form more befitting of postcolonial studies.

Author Biography

  • J Griffith Rollefson, University College Cork

    J. Griffith Rollefson is an established lecturer in popular music studies at University College Cork, National University of Ireland and author of Flip the Script: European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality (University of Chicago Press, 2017). He has served on the faculties of music at the University of Cambridge and at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also served as UC Chancellor's Public Scholar. His book Critical Excess: Watch the Throne and the New Gilded Age is forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press.


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How to Cite

Rollefson, J. G. (2018). “Yo Nací Caminando”: Community-Engaged Scholarship, Hip Hop as Postcolonial Studies, and Rico Pabón’s Knowledge of Self. Journal of World Popular Music, 5(2), 169-192. https://doi.org/10.1558/jwpm.37841