Pop Culture

The Poet & The Teacher: Hip Hop Classes I’d Like To See

I'll be Pres-o-dent.

So Dr. Michael Eric “I Use 100 Words When 1 Will Do” Dyson is teaching a class at Georgetown University on Jay-Z this semester. The class entitled “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z” focuses on the literary works and genius of our dear Mr. Carter. You know school is fun when Fade To Black is required viewing. (Not for nothing I think State Property could have an entire class in film school devoted to it.) Dyson is no stranger to the wonderful world of hip-hop having written popular yet terrible works on Tupac and Nas and even taught a class at UPenn onTupac. Seriously, Holler If You Hear Me might have been the biggest waste of words on Tupac ever.

Obviously, I’m no fan of Dyson and frankly think his books suck more a** than Jessica Grabbit. I’m also generally against the intellectualization of hip hop. Not because it doesn’t deserve it, but I tend to think that most of the books written about hip-hop by academics tend to be books written by fairly dissociated ninjas trying to sell hip-hop to a bunch of older white fogeys who would never give hip hop a real shot in hell anyway. No matter how much you focus on the poetry and inherent struggle present in SOME of the music, there’s no way to make “Laffy Taffy” an exercise in academia anyway.

But I would take any class on hip hop. Word.Booty. And I do think that people like Tupac and Jay are deserving of some sort of analysis given their accomplishments as people and the medium they chose to use. So despite the teacher, I’m glad these classes exist. And you know what? There are lots of other classes that I think would serve any student population well. Like what? Glad you asked.

Criminal Justice 104: Gucci Mane, DMX, and TI – Rapper Recidvism and the Prison Industrial Complex

This class would study the mentality of rappers who’ve made more money than they know what to do with but somehow cannot stay out of jail for sh*t. Specific blocks of the class would be based on probablity of Gucci Mane returning to jail every year (trick question: 100%) and why DMX seems to LIKE jail. Also, the stupidity of people with the world at their fingertips. See Harris, Clifford “Tip” Required Viewing: Tiny and Toya.

History 376 – The South Rose Again…But Not Like You Thought

This class would look at the South’s meteoric ascent to the top of the mainstream rap landscape with a specific focus on the loss of regionality in hip-hop with every song sounding like a Southern Anthem. New York’s yielding of power to the South would be examined to include an analysis of ASAP Rocky, a rapper from Harlem who seems like a Compton gangbanger who raps likes from Houston. Further discussion into the Southern backlash by northern rappers while making southern rap songs and going to Southern producers for their biggest hits. Required Viewing: MTV Jamz

Psychology 341 – Cam’Ron and DipSet: The Birth of A Nation

This class would look at the influence of The Diplomats on the psyche of America. Cam’ron’s ability to influence an entire nation of masculine dudes to wear pink and purple on purpose. It would also discuss influence of Harlem on hip-hop’s landscape and the DipSet influence in America specificaly from 2001-2006.Required Viewing: All DipSet videos and home video footage of American urban youth during those years

Business 402 – Independent Rap Labels and Trunk Muzik

Focus on No Limit, Rap-A-Lot, Suave House, and the rise of the indy rap labels that spawned a new business model for record companies. Required Viewing: Baller Blockin’, I’m Bout It, Foolish, Choices, Hot Boys

Sociology 119 – The Wire and You

An analysis of the reality versus the fantasy of The Wire and how the representation was a perfect mechanism for illustrating needs for certain social reforms in America’s urban centers. Required Viewing: The Wire…duh

Fashion and Design 224 – From Jansport To The Louis Vuitton Duffel Bag

The rise of the backpack as a fashion accessory of hip-hop artists. The travel bags omnipresent role in hip-hop. The origins of backpack rap and the profession to the to the Kanye West Louis Vuitton backpack accessories and dope boy LV duffel. Required Viewing: MTV Jamz/Sex And The City

Philosophy 843 – WTF is A Wacka Flocka Flame? The Genius and The Prophet

WWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACKAAAAA! ABCDEFGHIJK!!! FLOCKA FLOCKA!!!! WAAAAAAAACKA!!! The life and depth of the worst rapper ever to have 3 straight number one songs? Wacka Flocka – idiot or are we the dumb ones? Is Wacka really a genius? All these questions and more answered. Required Viewing: WorldStarHipHop

Those are some of my suggestions. Good people of VSB, show me what you got. What classes based on hip-hop do you think would be dope in academia??

Talk to me.


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Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • Iamnotakata

    Psych 411: The reality of Hip Hop Music Videos

    This course would discuss all the elements of Hip Hop music videos and what’s really going on to make these guys look like real thugs and ballers…Lesson 1 would start with appearance of excessive popping of bottles…video girls and the extensive procedures they went through to look the way they do i.e(air brush, surgery lots of make up), Rappers like Rick Ross are indeed not thugs, explanations about how Lil Wayne and Drake don’t actually own the 5 Rolls Royce and 6 lambos in there videos and so on and so on

  • Mo-VSS

    Soooo…yeah. Definitely gonna just comment on the comments cuz I got nothing.

    Oh, one thing. DMX needs to be medicated. That is all.

  • The academization of Hip-Hop is nothing new. And sadly, no improvement have apparently been made between Berkeley’s Tupac course in ’97, and this latest development.

    Now, while I’m loathe to admit that my adventures in higher education were still worthwhile, I’m a firm believer that where we truly learn is not always in a classroom, but can be in the public library, on-the-job during lunch hour, and even on the bus with some headphones on.

    Hip-Hop is distinguished from Rap music because it’s NOT something you can codify, juxtapose, and fit neatly into a syllabus for easy consumption by suburban kids just waiting for their next Dixie cup filled full of Natty-Ice.

    True Hip-Hop is far too revolutionary for that.

    However, if they ever offer a class discussing the obscure references of Aesop Rock, you can bet I’ll be front row center with my pencil-box.

  • Dc1913

    Psychology 317: Genius vs. Insanity: a study in what the hell happened to lauryn hill and research on how to reverse the process.

  • Newnanite

    Women Studies 210: Nicki Minaj (cross listed with Fashion 210: What Not to Wear and How to do It) and Psychology 210: Multiple personality disorders)

    Her “persona” is something else. Between the random growly voices and the clothes and the Barbie doll ambitions, I could spend an entire semester trying to figure her out.

  • lotusflower11

    I read an research paper about how young African American women’s views on sexuality are shaped through “scripts” in hip hop culture. Young women take on roles such as the “diva,” “freak,” or “Sista Savior”. Very very interesting.

  • Anonymous

    You need to go to Duke University then. Professor Mark Anthony Neal teaches many classes dealing with hip hop. One class I took was co-taught by Grammy-award winning producer 9th Wonder and dealt with hip hop and sampling (we discussed everyone from Ray Charles and Michael Jackson to Kanye West, Lil Kim and Beyonce). In this same class, we dissected Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat” video and it’s relation to JFK, and we discussed MJB’s performance of Led Zeplin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” He also taught a graduate level course (open to undergrads) where one of the required readings was Jay-Z’s Decoded. Great professor, great class.

  • The Hip-Hop Word Count Project is a real-life endeavor that’s pretty compelling. Its goal is to “lock in a time and geographic location for every metaphor, simile, cultural reference, phrase, rhyme style, meme and socio-political idea used in the corpus of Hip-Hop.”

    Here’s the link: http://staplecrops.com/index.php/hip-hop-word-count-intro-video/

    As for fake-life coursework, I’m going to abstain…for now.

  • organiker

    Actual course here:

    Religious Studies 311: Religion and Hip-Hop Culture (co-taught by Bernard Freeman better known as Bun B)

  • What is this trend of analyzing hip hop albums and artists as part of the school curriculum? What happened to headphones and a long walk home? This “new America” annoys me. I blame this all on Drake.

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