Hip hop in the academic context panel

Andria Millie (UW student) opens by explaining that this panel is a spin-off from her thesis. The big questions @hip-hop in academia: the importance of documentation vs. ‘using’ artists/songs/the genre as ‘material’ without a commitment to community.There are about 20 people here (and four are wielding video cameras or digital recorders!). I’m already feeling a little weird about the ways that simultaneous blogging is pulling me in & out of direct engagement with whatever’s going on at the moment! [Please forgive in advance my inexact & uneven knowledge of people’s names as I proceed.]

Andria just asked how hip-hop is a tool for critical/cultural work. Olisa (?), a local teacher and musician, talked about she uses hip-hop to teach Shakespeare, overcoming her initial resistance to Shakespeare’s canonic authority. She just described how a student re-pronounced a character’s name with hip-hop/Africentric inflection, and she loved it—they “claimed it, owned it.” A young woman in the circle describes a hip-hop fundraiser at Carnegie Hall where the 1% were entirely familiar with the music—she argued that hip-hop is the Shakespeare on our time. Another woman noted that she worries that people don’t attend to the historicity of hip-hop—the profound changes that have occurred in it since the 1970s—and said she wishes some younger MCs and DJs better understood how dependent their work is on the previous generation’s. A woman, self-identified as “a Latina in my fabulous forties,” says she worries about what her daughter learns from hip-hop when the stories told are misogynistic… but she also remembers hiding her NWA cassette tapes from her parents as a teenager, “as I worked through my own rage.”

The twenty-something Asian American student just said that he loved getting women’s perspectives from Salt-n-Pepa!

Medusa just joined the circle, creating a little ripple of excitement and awe in the room…!

I’m looking around the room, Actually, I already did the thing that most people of color do the first thing we walk into a room: I inventoried. How many (any?) folks of color? Any women? Any Asian Americans? This is a stunningly diverse gathering. There are African Americans, Latin@s, Asian Ams (3!), Whites, and at least one self-identified Native American (Jeanette Bushnell). The ages range from @20 to @60. Women are in the majority. It’s been too long since I’ve been in this kind of a room.

They’re still talking about awareness of hip hop’s history. One young woman just said she thinks this is something valuable that the academy can offer—memory, consciousness. But Olisa immediately warned how easily this can morph into arrogance, and the young woman agreed, offering an example of a professor who ignorantly described a L’il Wayne song as plagiarism, missing the deep meanings attached to sampling, quoting, homage, respect, and intertextuality.

Great panel, with lots of thoughtful engagement!

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