About WBL

Words Beats & Life began as a conference at the University of Maryland in the fall of 2000; our founders worked to create a vehicle to transform individual lives and communities through Hip-Hop.  Today, Words Beats & Life uses a holistic approach to youth, and community development that involves hip-hop artists, scholars, educators, activists, and allies.

Our Mission

We are unapologetic advocates for the transformative power of hip-hop culture in all its forms, empowering artists to relentlessly create and refine systems that demonstrate this notion of positive change through creativity. We embrace the sacred nature of our work and our roles as keepers and innovators of our culture.

Our Vision

We replace misery with beauty by creating alternative arts based educational experiences that equip youth, arts managers and scholars to move from theory to practice. We harness the power of the imagination to reshape the lives we live and the communities we serve.

Our Values

All our work is rooted in four values:

  • Education:  Hip-Hop is a powerful teaching tool because it engages people intellectually, creatively and socially.
  • Opportunity:  Educators, artists, activists and scholars in Hip-Hop require access to the tools and information necessary to build their skills, knowledge and experiences into tangible individual and community development.
  • Ownership:  Artists and communities should be the primary owners of the cultural artifacts they produce, archive and present.
  • Creativity:  Educators, artists, activists and scholars develop and protect environments of innovation.

Our Work

We fulfill our mission through public art creation, teaching courses in the core elements of Hip-Hop, publishing a global academic journal on Hip-Hop, sending artists abroad and hosting Teach-Ins and retreats to build the capacity of scholars, artists and arts educators and arts managers from throughout the country and around the world.

Hip-Hop Is

Hip-Hop is a community that work to master a set of artistic forms and cultural practices created to transform the lives of individual artists and their communities.  By engaging  Hip-Hop as a community of cultural practitioners, we affirm the value of both the art and the artists themselves.  At the heart of all we do is the belief that for its practitioners and participants Hip-Hop often acts as the path towards Self Mastery also know as Knowledge of Self.

Our Approach

Our staff and community partners work to develop curriculum, projects, and events geared specifically towards building individual and community creativity and resilience.  The Words Beats & Life Academy offers free, pre-vocational arts programming for youth ages 14-23 in the District of Columbia.  We know that mastering the skills taught in the Academy promote confidence and aspiration within our Apprentice Students.  In addition, our second program is  The Cipher, an international network of Hip-Hop based organizations, projects, scholars, and events, connecting and convening the field to share new ideas and best practices.

Our Audience

Our staff curate and manager a number of signature events designed to reach non-traditional arts audiences throughout the District and beyond.  These events act as bridges for WBL to develop collaborative partnerships with other non-profits, government, universities and corporate partners. These events act as primary inspiration for new individual donations and media coverage for our Apprentice Students, Staff and our community development work.


Throughout our history, we have partnered and collaborated with a number of non-profit organizations, scholars, artists and government agencies.  Collaboration is key to innovation and sustainability.  It allows more people to feel a sense of, as well as a vested interest in, the continuation of the project, program, or special event.  Collaboration always takes more work, but it also almost always produces a better project, program or special event.


Join our Cipher, become a volunteer or just keep up with the difference we are making in the world.  There is a level of engagement for everyone, and every level makes a difference.

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