|By: Teron Anderson
Mass Communications, University of Florida
On its road to mainstream success and recognition, Hip-Hop was often derided as the catalyst to the crushed dreams of urban youth nationwide.
Sometimes the culture is unfairly characterized as one that celebrates the degenerate, destitute, and deranged with no regard for education, the community or human life itself. Slang terms that rappers use are often cited as the cause for the unfortunately, unintelligible speech that is formed on the lips of the misguided.
Street tales of crime and mischief help corrupt the minds of young Hip-Hop lovers en masse, causing some to place more value in a gun than a book. Others heap praise and respect to those who have been incarcerated, and less credit to those who are college educated.
However, the wise understand that the pen is mightier than the sword, and it is a concept that is comprehended by many more proponents of Hip-Hop culture on campuses around the world. Contrary to the beliefs of many, Hip-Hop culture and the path to higher education are not so diametrically opposed ideas after all.
Since the early 1990s, colleges have offered hundreds of classes on Hip-Hop. At last count, Hip-Hop related books have appeared on more than 700 college syllabi, according to Erik Nielsen of The Huffington Post.
At a 2006 conference hosted by Stanford University, Hip-Hop legend, advocate, and Zulu Nation member KRS-One, once offered harsh words to journalists and the academics. The “Blastmaster” lived up to his name and called out those who attempt to provide commentary and critique on the genre of music, yet have no true knowledge of the culture.
“You can’t go to college and say you Hip-Hop. You better be a B-Boy, MC, graffiti writer, DJ, or beatboxer and you can call yourself Hip-Hop. How you gonna critique somethin’ you ain’t even doin’?” chided KRS-One.
Fortunately, Hip-Hop has seen a rise of individuals that are actively involved in the culture becoming representatives or ambassadors so to speak of the lifestyle on an academic platform. Reputable and respected scholars such as Michael Eric Dyson, author and professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, and Cornel West, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, have been advocates for the positive influences of Hip-Hop culture for many years.
Michael Eric Dyson had this to say to The Washington Post in regard to his college course held a few years ago, “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay Z:
“This is not a class meant to sit around and go, ‘Oh man, those lyrics were dope. We’re dealing with everything that’s important in a sociology class: race, gender, ethnicity, class, economic inequality, social injustice…His body of work has proved to be powerful, effective and influential. And it’s time to wrestle with it.”
Ivy League powerhouse Harvard has had artists such as Nas and 9th Wonder, who also doubles as an Adjunct Professor at Duke University, lecture at the Harvard Hiphop Archive & Research Institute. And organizations like the Hip-Hop Congress have active chapters on campuses all over.
And who can forget that in 2013, Hip-Hop heavyweights Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine donated $70 million dollars to the University of Southern California. The money established the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation, which is already serving as a breeding ground of innovation.
Even Dr. Dre’s protégé Kendrick Lamar got in on the invasion of the collegiate world last year. His 2012 smash debut Good Kid M.A.A.D City was used as the subject of an English class at Georgia Regents University.
“What if people had said, we shouldn’t study Toni Morrison or Hemingway or Emily Dickinson because they’re too new?” said Professor Adam Diehl told the USA Today. “Everything was new or too popular or too risqué at the time, but I just think that great stories last and the story of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, is lasting.”
I’d have to agree. In my opinion, King Kendrick’s debut has much substance to analyze and critique from a scholastic standpoint, ranging from social inequality to literary devices.
Even Kanye is playing a part: he was chosen to be the focus of a class at Georgia State University called ‘Kanye Versus Everybody: Black Poetry and Poetics from Hughes to Hip-Hop.”
“I think that young writers around the world—and especially young black writers—are more prolific than they’ve ever been,” Professor Dr. Scott Heath told Fader. “It just so happens that they’re writing to a beat.”
What we’re witnessing now is the byproduct of the growing acceptance of Hip-Hop culture in mainstream society. The appreciation of the genre from a poetic, artistic perspective is on the rise and worldwide, it’s sure to make college campuses just a little bit more interesting.
Let the invasion continue.