'I Am Hip-Hop' Author Welcomes Children Into Culture

Hip-Hop isn't just an adult phenomenon, one scribe charges.

I Am Hip-Hop, a new children's book by author Nicole Duncan-Smith and photographer Stella Magloire, challenges the notion that kids aren't a party to the cultural movement.

"I would like for children to get that Hip-Hop is not about what [possessions] you have. Life is not what you have. Hip-Hop is about who you are and how you express that notion--your swagger," Duncan-Smith told AllHipHop.com. "What actually makes Hip-Hop different from any subculture? Absolutely nothing, except it is an urban form of expression."

A former employee of Russell Simmons, Duncan-Smith has gone through a number of life-changing experiences, including having a child.

After an encounter with Magloire at her home, Duncan-Smith realized that Magloire was teaching her daughter how to read through rhyming words.

"We have lived through the highs and lows of Hip-Hop, kind of breast-fed off of boom bap," said Duncan-Smith. "But at a certain point I grew to realize that Hip-Hop as it exists on the radio and TV was not appropriate for my child."

The author also recognized that even in her own youth there were certain elements of Hip-Hop that she was forbidden to hear and others that she consumed.

This was manifested in ways like censored radio and edited song versions. Her daughter is immersed in Hip-Hop in a similar way.

"My daughter, 'the divine diva princess' Eden Sanaa, loves Hip-Hop. My husband used to be a DJ for KRS-One and did some mixtapes years ago," she explained. "Culturally, she's been to B-boy conferences, knows the difference between a burner and tags [forms of graffiti], and makes beats. And she rocks gear with a freedom that only Hip-Hopper trendsetters can understand."

Duncan-Smith admitted that she'll allow Beyoncé, 50 Cent, and Chris Brown in the home, but that she focuses more on artists that cultivate her daughter's young mind in a way with which she's comfortable.

I Am Hip-Hop photographer Magloire implores parents not to ignore Hip-Hop's influence and presence.

The book's images depict kids in several representations of Hip-Hop such as dancing, deejaying, emceeing, art, and live instruments, and even less overt activities like ballet, reading, and sports.

"How is Hip-Hop not a part of who we are and where we are at when every ad or song is using Hip-Hop or a nursery rhyme to reach to sell their products?" Magloire asked. "How can we not dare share the smiles of the young master minds to come? How can we ignore the sounds that came from the microphone?

"These children know they have something to share with the world and I thank their parents for allowing them to be so free," she continued. "Many children have gazed upon this book and have envisioned what part they would take in it."

I Am Hip-Hop publisher Deborah Battle Pointer, who is also co-founder of Def Poetry Jam, said the importance of relating Hip-Hop, poetry, and education was key in teaching kids in a way they could digest.

"As poetry becomes a part of a child's learning process and they begin to write their own original poems, there are no limits to their abilities to expand their creativity or advance their reading and writing skills--just like Hip-Hop."

Nicole Duncan-Smith is the principle of the Duncan Holdings Group, a privately Held company.