A syllabus on Hip-Hop.

Hip-Hop: Version 3 (Undergraduate Course)
Professor Nkiru Nzegwu

Fall 2004
Binghamton University

Teaching Assistants:
Besi Muhonja, Nicholas Zigelboym

Course Description:

Initially a 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, and resilience of inner city life to the global stage. Within two decades, it has become a major music genre, producing mega millionaire artists and entrepreneurs, and spawning its own special value and communication systems of which rap, break dancing, and ghetto fabulous dressing are notable. The course will focus on the oral communication and public presentation aspects of this cultural phenomenon—ranging from but not limited to mc’ing, cipher circles, rhyming, freestyling, rapping, and songwriting. Students will monitor hip-hop trends, and must come to class prepared to perform and discuss the assumptions, visions and social ideologies underlying hip-hop.

Course Objectives:

This course satisfies the oral communication (O) requirement. At a general level, it teaches knowledge and appreciation of hip-hop. At the specific level, it teaches students presentation techniques, creative expression and effective personal expression in the oral mode. Students will monitor hip-hop news, and come to class prepared to discuss issues, trends, and events. You will use the web to procure materials and undertake research.


The following is the criteria for evaluating presentations: rapport with audience, voice, projection and audibility, clarity of purpose, originality of ideas, creativity, organization, and persuasiveness of presentation. No extra-credit assignments will be given.
Journal Report  30%
Attendance & Participation  10%
Mid-term 30% -- Group presentation
Final Examination 30% -- Public performance

Course Format:

Consists of a mix of four formats: writing rhymes/poetry; presentation of work (as individual and as a group); analysis of events, and music video evaluation.

Journal Report
You will write three (3) 5-page analyses (1.5 spacing, 1 inch margin, Times New Roman font 11). The first report is due on September 30; the second report on October 31, and the last report on December 1. Each report must center on an item that was published earlier in the month. The objective of this exercise is to sharpen your analytical skill. In your essay, focus on how hip hop is represented (or not) in the news story, discern how the story is told, raise questions about why it is told in a particular way, and write about how that perspective might affect both those represented in the story and those reading the story. You must cite a maximum of two articles and at least one video in each analysis. Acceptable publications are Source, Vibe and any other magazine as well as major internet sites. Blogs are not sources.

Course Outline:

August 30:    
Introduction to class. Objectives, expectations, and rules. Definition of terms. Hip-Hop and Culture: What is hip-hop? What does it mean to me? What is hip-hop’s significance in American culture?

September 6:
Labor Day No class.
September 13:
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.

September 20:
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?

September 27:
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?

October 4:
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?

October 11:

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 message or conscious hip-hop related to the ideology of Black Power and the concept of Soul?

October 18:
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?

October 25:
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:
November 1:
Issues of Representation: Women as Subject and Object in Hip-Hop: How are women represented in hip-hop and how do they represent themselves?

November 8:
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?

November 15:
How has hip-hop influenced new expressions in Senegal, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya: Listening session of music samples from around the world. A discussion on hip-hop culture as one of America’s largest exports.

November 22:       
Who owns hip-hop? Issues of Representation and Identity: How has hip-hop influenced mainstream America? What role do consumers play? The business of the record company.

November 29:       
What is the role and responsibility of the white rapper? 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?