As hip-hop’s influence continues to spread through pop culture, it’s only right that the genre and culture that has provided so much to the world has its proper representation within the world of academia.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen increasing instances of this—9th Wonder, Bun B, Lupe Fiasco, Lil B and more have either taught college courses or spoken at prestigious universities. Recently, a professor at Armstrong State University announced a new course that will tackle the legacy of Southern hip-hop legends OutKast, 'OutKast and the Rise of the Hip-Hop South.'
Throughout the course, students will listen to and analyze OutKast’s albums as well as others in the genre and will examine contemporary movements like Black Lives Matter and how hip-hop can be used for political expression. - Savannah Morning News
Not only would I absolutely love to attend this course, but it got me thinking about some other themes within hip-hop that might be worth exploring at the collegiate level.
Even though I’m a high school dropout, as a student of hip-hop for over 15 years, I have some insight into what students might want to learn about when it comes to the culture I’ve dedicated my adult life to, so I’ve concocted five faux courses to get the wheels turning in the heads of some college professors that might be able to someday make these a reality.
The Wu-Tang Clan & Eastern Philosophy
Since their inception, the Wu-Tang Clan has been heavily influenced not just by the kung fu film genre, but even more so by the underlying themes of those films which are heavily rooted in Eastern thought. In this course, students will study the work of Wu-Tang within the context of Eastern philosophy, as well as literary works from RZA, The Wu-Tang Manual and The Tao of Wu, exploring the influence of Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucianist beliefs on one of the most influential hip-hop groups of all time.
It Was Written: Nas’ Invaluable Contribution to Modern Hip-Hop
Within the competitive landscape of hip-hop, Nas is arguably the most widely-praised emcee of our time. Through innovative rhyme schemes, shockingly vivid imagery, and a distinct artistic voice, Nas continues to influence the same genre he helped pioneer. This course will explore the depths of influence Nas has had on his contemporaries, as well as the events and influences that led to his domination of the genre at the young age of 21.
Substance and Success: The Achievements of Kanye West’s ‘The College Dropout'
On Kanye West’s debut album, the young Chicago rapper slash producer deftly introduced incredibly powerful themes and issues to the mainstream listener. The devaluation of African American lives, the dangers of unbridled capitalism, the dichotomy of religion in America—these themes run deep throughout The College Dropout while still maintaining its widespread appeal. This course will explore the musical and lyrical elements that combined to make College Dropout a huge commercial success while still being socially analytical.
Master P, Cash Money Records, & The Indomitable Spirit of Street Entrepreneurialism
In the early to mid-'90s, as hip-hop was beginning its dominance of the country’s attention, financial support for less established acts was still hard to come by. This led to a rise in the street-bred business tactics of hip-hop hustlers like Master P, Birdman, Bun B and Pimp C, using grassroots organizing and hand-to-hand sales to fund the initial startups of what would eventually become legitimate empires. This course will tackle the basic economic principles behind what these young entrepreneurs were able to achieve, as well as the effects their efforts have had on the music industry since their initial contributions. (If Birdman says he's going to give a guest lecture, however, please know that he's full of shit.)
The Anatomy of a Struggle Rapper
For as long as hip-hop has been deemed an art form worthy of commoditizing, there have been droves of wishful emcees hoping to use their perceived skill set as a means of making a living. Over the years, the idea of the “struggle rapper” has become more than just a descriptor, reaching almost mythological levels with universal themes underlying each individual case of struggledom. This course will help to identify those common attributes and personality traits, as both a historic retelling of the evolution of the struggle rapper and an examination of the tell-tale signs for students who may themselves be falling into the category of struggle rapper.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.