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Joshua Rowsey, 27, has always been a teacher in almost every aspect of his life. Rowsey graduated with a business degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013, but knowing it wasn’t his real calling he now pursues a degree in teaching.  He hopes to influence the younger generation about the positives of hip hop culture. His impact on these kids has just begun.

He first started teaching his peers at UNC-CH at the UNC Cypher. UNC Cypher is a freestyle rap community which raps in the Pit every Wednesday at 9:19 PM in Chapel Hill, N.C., and is still alive today. The UNC Cypher is an all-inclusive group which encourages people in the audience to participate in rapping as well.

Rowsey also makes his own music and puts a lot of thought into his lyrics. “I’m trying to get any kid that listens to me to think about advancing their education.” Rowsey said. “It doesn’t even have to be college—it could be trade school, anything.”

Rowsey wants to make a larger impact on a national level. He’s in the process of getting his own show on PBS Kids, a company he’s been involved with for over a year. At the PBS Kids’ Block Party on August 25, 2018, Rowsey surprised the kids with a creative verse involving PBS cartoon characters. “A, E, I, O, U,” Rowsey raps, “we love reading with Read-A-Roo.” Rowsey got the whole crowd involved, making parents and children very happy.

Rowsey gets frustrated when he hits creative road blocks or feels as if he’s not making the impact in the exact way he wants; however, it’s the power of community that keeps him going. “That’s really what it’s all about,” Rowsey said, “bringing people together.”

Rowsey helps Xaveon Wiles, 12, pick out words in the dictionary to shout out. This is one of the ways Rowsey has made an impact on the Durham community. He started the Durham Cypher, which meets at 9:19 PM on Fridays in Durham, N.C. The reason they meet at that time is a reference to the Triangle area zip code. Through mentoring young rappers, musicians, and poets as young as the age of 7, Rowsey has truly demonstrated that hip hop is more powerful than it seems. “Who knows what these kids would be involved in if it weren’t for the Cypher,” Rowsey said. “I do this for the kids—to give them an outlet.” Rowsey is now about to release an album he’s created with input from kids and adults in the Durham community.

Rowsey brings along a dictionary which audience members use to shout out words that must be immediately incorporated in the freestyle. “I had been studying the dictionary for a while to improve my rap skills and I just started bringing it to the Cypher.” Rowsey said. “It gave me the ability to take any root word and flip it.”

Rowsey teaches in a unique way using a different platform, but that’s what makes it so impactful. He connects multiple generations with multiple communities. “I love that the cypher is multigenerational. We have little kids stepping into the circle and rapping,” Rowsey said. “We have parents bringing their children and holding their babies in their arms.” Rowsey engages the whole crowd especially during his rap battles.

Rowsey wants to bring his impact to an international level after receiving his degree in teaching.
“I’m to the point where I’ve tested myself enough and I’m ready to execute on the highest level.” Rowsey said. “I’m excited to pursue teaching hip hop culture in communities other than N.C. education and the Triangle—this is just the beginning.”

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