Hip-Hop: Version 1
Professor Nkiru Nzegwu
Adjunct Lecturer Toni Blackman
DEPARTMENT OF AFRICANA STUDIES
Initially an U.S. black urban expressive culture, hip-hop has become a formidable global cultural phenomenon. In going global, hip-hop has taken the angst, hope, social and political conditions of life in the inner cities to the global stage. It has become an anti-establishment culture, spawning its own special mode of communication, dress styles, and fostering a culture of resistance to institutional dominance, class exploitation, and middle class values. This course will study the development, history, communication style, dance form, moral framework, and processes of globalization. It begins by asking what is hip-hop. Next, it outlines the relationship between rap, dub, and hip-hop, and determines who are the key figures of this global movement. In reconstructing the growth and key moments of this life form, we will examine the myriad dimensions of this culture, through its music, lyrics, spoken word poetry, music videos, dance styles, films, and political messages.
This course satisfies the oral communication (O) requirement. It teaches knowledge of and appreciation for the arts. It encourages creative expression and effective personal expression in the oral mode. Active participation in oral discussion of music videos, performance analysis, freestyle rapping, kinetic/locomotional art, and art production is worth 30% of the final grade. Students will monitor hip-hop trends, and must come to class prepared to discuss the assumptions, visions and social ideologies underlying the conflicts. Additionally you are expected to complete each assignment and assigned reading prior to class. You will heavily use the web to procuring materials and undertake research. Each class will commence with briefings of human rights events, reinforced with analysis and comments from assigned readings.
A least fifty-percent of this course is based on oral presentations and evaluation of speaking and creative styles. Extra-credit assignments will not be given.
Rap Workshop: 30%-- at the end of this workshop conducted by a hip-hop artist, students must formally present their ideas through spoken word poetry and rap. The works will be evaluated, and critiqued.
Mid-term 20% -- Juried project/performances by students peers.
Final Examination 50% -- Juried project/performance-rap, break-dancing, graffiti art-by a panel of external judges
A mix of three formats for in the three-hour class.
A] This will be a lecture hour in which we trace the history of hip-hop and the political motivations behind the use of spoken work poetry-dub and rap-in musical settings. All the students will take this class collectively.
B] In the second hour the class will be broken into two groups of 20 students each for a hands-on workshop to be led by the visiting adjunct professor (a recorded rap artist and founder of Freestyle Union). The section will focus on various aspects of freestyle improvisation, voice projection, performance techniques, maintaining rapport with audience, and jamming. The instructor for the class (me) will oversee one group as the students creatively explore the ideas--either individually or collectively--that were assigned by the visiting professor. In the meantime, the second group will work intensively with the adjunct in terms of learning the principles of performing, writing poetry pieces, attending to the importance of rhyme, engaging the audience, studying locomotional techniques, video analysis, etc. After 30 minutes, the visiting professor and instructor will switch places for the adjunct to critically review the efforts of the students in the second group in terms of the standards in the hip-hop industry.
C] The third hour will be devoted to students' formal presentations of their work. Faculty (professor and adjunct) and students will review and critique these efforts (either solo or group) utilizing such criteria as--clean language i.e. avoidance of sexist commentary and profanity, rapport with audience, voice, projection, originality of ideas, and improvisational and performance skill. Recorded videos of artists will be used to amply the points of critiques.
A one page written critique of song lyrics or photo-essay. Best will be selected for posting on http://www.africaresource.com.
Light, Alan. The Vibe History of Hip Hop. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999.
Nelson George, Hip Hop America. Penguin USA, 1999.
Vibe Magazine (Editor). Hip Hop Divas, Three Rivers Press, 2001.
Print Magaines: Source and Vibe
Doula: The Journal of Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture
*NOTE: Bring CD's and cassette tapes, and MTV videotapes to class for discussion.
Introduction to class. Objectives, expectations, and rules. Definition of terms. Hip-Hop and Culture: What is hip-hop and how is it distinguished from rap? What is hip-hop's significance in American culture? In-Class Video: Free Style Union, Japan and Hip-Hop. Overview of Styles (Lyrics and Musical Features).
Hip-Hop 101: "Name that Tune": So you say you know Hip-Hop? Historical and Social Context, The South Bronx: What were the social, economic and political circumstances that gave birth to hip-hop culture? Urbanization, immigration, etc.
Cultural Roots: From the Griot to the MC Battle. Africa and the African Diaspora (oral traditions, performance styles and musical genres): How is hip-hop connected to a cultural and musical continuum of Africa and the African Diaspora?
It's not where you are from: Stylistic Diversity: In what ways does hip-hop reflect diversity in African American lifestyles, music and cultural traditions? East Coast, West Coast, Dirty South. What musical influences shaped these styles? How has regionalism impacted on society?
Hard Core Hip-Hop I: Gangsta and X-Rated-Real or Imagined: What are the social roots of Gangsta and X-rated Hip-Hop and how can we relate these forms to African American folk traditions? In-Class Videos: Interviews with Gangsta and X-Rated Rappers.
Hard Core Hip-Hop II: Message/Conscious Rap & Concepts of Black Nationalism: How does hip-hop represent both a social and political commentary and a voice of resistance? How is the message or consciousness of hip-hop related to the ideology of Black Power and the concept of Soul?
Keeping It Real? Issues of Authenticity: Violence, Misogyny, Homophobia &Censorship: Economic Issues: The Commodification of hip-hop. Concepts and changing definitions of the "Old School." What are some of the issues related to the representation and exploitation of rap music? In-Class Video: Rivera Live "Gangsta Rap." Lyrics analysis: online lyrics.
DJ as an artist and musician: DJ History; Turntabalism as an art. Rap Fusion: R&B to Hip-Hop, New Swing Jazz, and other branches of the hip-hop tree. Old School in Transition (1982-1984). New School Hip-Hop, 1984-present.
Issues of Representation: Women as Subject and Object in Hip-Hop: How are women represented in hip-hop and how do they represent themselves? What is the role of spirituality and/or religion in hip-hop culture? Music videos: Segments from interviews with women rappers.
Latino Culture: How has hip-hop influenced new expressions in Latin culture and music? When and how did hip-hop music become a cross-cultural, mass-marketed commodity?
African Cultures: Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Japan, Holland: How has hip-hop influenced new expressions in Nigerian culture and music? Listening session of music samples from around the world. A discussion on hip-hop culture as one of America's largest exports.
May 6: Last Class
Who owns hip-hop? Issues of Representation and Identity: How has hip-hop culture and music influenced new forms of youth expression throughout the world? How do we discuss notions of cross-cultural artistic (re)production? How has hip-hop influenced mainstream America? What is the role and responsibility of the white rapper? What role do consumers play? The business of the record company.
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