The Cipher

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Join Our Cipher

The Cipher builds the capacity and impact of organizations, emerging community institutions and individuals 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 89.3FM 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.

Annual Cipher membership costs $75 for individuals. Universities and other organizations, state and private, can become members of the Cipher for $250. This fee covers the costs associated with admission to all public WBL events including the Teach-In.

Members get early invitations to events and 10% off any workshops or services purchased through Words Beats & Life Inc. Cipher Members also receive FREE WBL Merchandise, discounts on the sale of WBL Merchandise,  and an annual subscription to the WBL Global Journal of Hip-Hop, the one scholarly source for all things Hip-Hop.


Click to Join Our Cipher

The WBL Festival

Remixing the Art of Social Change is an annual international Teach-In hosted by Words Beats & Life. The Teach-In brings together organizations, artists and scholars that utilize hip-hop culture to promote social change and advance how hip-hop as a set of cultural practices and artistic forms. The Teach-In has previously convened in Chicago and San Francisco and this will be the 8th time in Washington D.C.

In previous years, the Teach-In has featured a number of well-known and important figures including rapper/producer David Banner, Jeff Johnson of BET, Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, editor of the Hip-Hop Reader, and Joan Morgan, author of When Chicken Heads Come to Roost.  Other past participants include Detroit artist/activist Invincible as well as hip-hop pioneers Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc, Kool DJ Red Alert, Popmaster Fabel and D.C.’s own DJ Kool.  We have also featured authors such as Adam Mansbach, author of Rage is Back, Samuel Sidel, author of Hip-Hop Genius, and one of the Department of State’s first Hip-Hop Ambassadors, Ms. Toni Blackman, jessica Care moore, Fab Five Freddy, Sonya Sanchez and well-known hip-hop scholar, journalist and activist Bikari Kitwana.  We are also proud to have hosted the D.C. premiere of “The New Muslim Cool” by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, “Black August” by Dream Hampton and “Graffiti Fine Art” by new filmmaker Jared Levy.

This year, WBL will organize a variety of panel discussions, film screenings, and workshops that build upon the efforts of the previous five DC Teach-Ins.  The 2015 Teach-In will be November 12-14th at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a world renowned venue recognized as a cornerstone of the Washington D.C. arts & cultural community.


#ArtistsDoGoodBetter (Regional/International Retreat)

#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

From Sifrs to Ciphers: Hip Hop is Muslim” is a multi-year initiative produced by Words Beats & Life that 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.


Decipher Radio

The hip-hop radio programming on WPFW 89.3fm. Words Beats & Life acts as an executive producer for the program and produce 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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