The Cipher

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The Cipher builds the solidarity, capacity, and impact of individuals and emerging organizations who work through Hip-Hop to advance social change. The Cipher also produces our annual teach-in called Remixing the Art of Social Change, The Global Journal of Hip Hop Culture, #artistsdogoodbetter retreats, and DeCipher Radio on WPFW 89.3 FM in Washington D.C. We curate research, convene members of our field, publish promising practices, and advocate for investment in the work of our field to members of government, foundations, individuals and corporate communities.

Get free access to all public WBL events, early invitations to all events, 10% off any workshops or services, free and discounted WBL merchandise (select options only), and an annual subscription to the WBL Global Journal of Hip-Hop; the one scholarly source for all things Hip-Hop. Annual Cipher membership costs $75 for individuals. Universities and other organizations, state and private, can become members of the Cipher for $250.

For over a decade, WBL has published the only peer-reviewed academic journal in Hip-Hop culture. The most critical topics impacting Hip-Hop around the world are explored through captivating articles, brand new visual art, and featured poems. You can purchase the first journal for free and explore the rest as hard copies or downloadable pdf’s at The Shop.

Click to Join Our Cipher

The WBL Festival is our NEW annual, international celebration held at The Kennedy Center promoting social change and advancing perceptions of Hip-Hop culture. #WBLFEST brings together artists, scholars, and organizations featuring a number of living legends, educators, and rising stars in Hip-Hop. Formerly known as The Teach-In convening in DC, Chicago, and San Francisco over the last decade, we’ve been joined by David Banner, Joan Morgan, DJ Kool Herc, Ms. Toni Blackman, and Fab Five Freddy.

#ArtistsDoGoodBetter is a regional quarterly convening that will be hosted in Washington D.C., Chicago IL, and Oakland CA to build local Hip Hop leadership, learn from each other, and share resources.

“From Sifrs to Ciphers: Hip Hop is Muslim” is a multi-year initiative produced by Words Beats & Life. Sifrs to Ciphers explores the intimate relationship between Muslims and Hip Hop culture through a series of performances, original productions, exhibitions and interactive dialogues. The project explores both historic and modern intersections from an American and global perspective. Primary funding for the initiative has been provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

The DeCipher Radio programming is on WPFW 89.3 FM. Words Beats & Life acts as an executive producer for the program and produces content such as the hip-hop calandar, “Hip-Hop Is” PSAs. The show is made up of 5 different radio crews each of which manage self contained radio shows that air every Saturday night from 10pm-12am.

Current Call For SubmissionsWaiverLengthStyle/Format and NotesIllustrations/Photographs/GraphicsAuthor(s) note, Abstract, and Key Words

Subscriptions and Back Issues
For questions about subscriptions and back issues, please contact or by phone: (202) 667-1192.


For all queries concerning possible submissions, interview ideas, etc., please e-mail
For visual artists, graphic designers and illustrators interested in collaborating on future issues, please contact WBL’s Art Director, Mia DuVall, at or by phone: (202) 667-1192.

Contributors to Words Beats & Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture express their own opinions, which should not be interpreted as the official views of any organization with which they are affiliated. The views expressed in the journal do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Words Beats & Life, Inc. With exception of fair use, no part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means either wholly or in part without prior written permission of Words Beats & Life, Inc. If you intend to use this publication for educational purposes, please contact us. Manuscripts, artwork and photographs can be accepted only with the understanding that neither the organization nor its agents accept liability for loss or damage.

For detailed information, terms and conditions, quotations and international inquiries, please e-mail or call (202) 667-1192.

  • Scholarly research papers: 3,000 words (minimum) to 8,000 words (maximum) (includes endnotes and reference list)
  • Critical essays: 1,500 words-3,500 words (maximum)
  • Scholarly reviews: 2,000 words (books, albums, films)
  • Editorials: 1,500 words (maximum)
  • Prose: 3,500 words (maximum; memoirs, narratives, fiction, etc.)
  • Poetry: 6 poems, author bio and photo
  • Artwork: 7-10 pieces, artist bio and photo (PDF, JPEG, TIFF)
  • Interviews: 1,500 words (maximum)

Authors wishing to submit manuscripts below or exceeding these guidelines must consult with the editor-in-chief prior to submitting work.


Manuscripts for scholarly research papers should be typed and double spaced with at least one-inch margins. They should be prepared for anonymous reviewing, with any self-identifying references removed. If a cover sheet including identifying information is sent, this must be a separate document/file.

For documentation, punctuation, capitalization and other style formatting, Words Beats & Life follows the APA style guide. This style calls for a References section, with parenthetical in-text citations of author/year of publication/page.

Authors must check, correct and bring manuscripts up to date before final submission. Authors should verify facts, names of people, places and dates, and double-check all direct quotations and entries in the References list.


Notes will appear as endnotes at the end of scholarly articles, but the numerical sequence runs throughout the article. These should be kept to a minimum (not normally more than twelve) and be identified by a superscript numeral. Please avoid using automatic footnote/endnote functions; simply append the endnotes to the end of the article.

Illustrations, photographs and other graphics can be included with an indication of placement in the text. Authors are responsible for obtaining permissions for all copyrighted materials. Sources must be indicated. All illustrations, etc. should be accompanied by a caption and an acknowledgement to the copyright holder.

Any illustrations, etc. submitted electronically should be at least 300 dpi (600 dpi is preferred) in .jpeg or .tiff format.

Author(s) Note

A brief note on the author is required, including name, title, institutional affiliation and contact information (preferably an e-mail address).


All submissions designated as scholarly require an abstract that should not exceed 150 words in length. The abstract should be written in a manner so as to make clear the significant findings of the article to readers from across disciplines.

Click the link for samples of good abstracts.

Key Words

All scholarly submissions should be accompanied by five key words

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