Group Presentation

The oral presentation should be a group project, developed in collaboration with all the members of each group. The group will assemble an hour-long presentation on the topic at hand for that week's session. The presentation should reflect an understanding of key concepts proposed by the readings; in fact, it must refer to at least some part of the readings. The presentation should also build on those concepts, either in consent or dissent, with additional musical and visual materials. Performance is welcome! The most successful presentations will include critical analysis of required and supporting materials, media examples drawn from beyond the course syllabus, as well as a performance of some sort. If you decide to include music in your presentation, you must provide lyrics for the entire class. Two fairly reliable lyric resources are The Original Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive and The Free Lyrics Depot Archive.

The presentation should last no more than an hour, so that there is time for discussion and response.

Before the presentation, the group should meet often to create a pathway through the material. On the day oft he presentation, each student must email the instructor individual research notes for the presentation. These notes should detail the individual contribution to the group presentation; they should also provide documentation of the point of view pursued by the individual in the presentation. Your notes should document what you chose to present, and more importantly, why. You should account for the choices in the presentation and offer some context for the presentation from your point of view as one of the discussion leaders. Each presentation will account for 15% of the final grade.

Performance Analysis

Attend at least one "hip hop" performance in the Boston area. Considering at least two of the analytical paradigms proposed in class, write a 3-5 page analysis of the performance. Note: You should approach two different paradigms than the ones for your group presentation or your final project. Your analysis might offer a close reading of performance and its context, or it might suggest future avenues for research. Your analysis should offer a close reading of the performance and its context in terms of your chosen lens. For example, if you decide to write about anarchy/activism and dance, you might offer an interpretation of specific lyrics that suggest an activist impulse, and how those lyrics relate to beats. You might continue your analysis to question the implications of dances that the artists and audience do in response to these lyrics/beats. Does the dance allay the potential impact of an activist message? Does the dance suggest a sort of physical anarchy? How do you know, or why do you think that?

Your analysis should refer with direct quotation to course materials, either media or literary. Please submit your performance analysis electronically by the end of session for Unit 12. The performance analysis will account for 20% of the final grade.

Final Paper

Working in consultation with the instructor, choose a topic for your final 7-10 page research paper that addresses a topic other than those of your Oral Presentations. While your paper may be on any topic related to course materials; it must synthesize material addressed throughout the semester. For example, if you decide to write about visual culture of hip hop, you should probably refer to Tricia Rose's arguments about "preferred transcripts" suggested by music videos and Todd Boyd's conception of "hyperreal" cinematic imagery.

Your paper should also incorporate research that extends beyond the boundaries of materials on our syllabus. You should also be sure to construct an argument and offer a critique of assumptions surrounding your argument. The most successful papers will allow the "messiness" of researching popular culture to foreground contradictions implicit in your arguments. For example, if you want to argue that misogyny is less of a concern in 2004 than it was in 1995 because many of the gangsta rap groups responsible for "bitch-ho" rhetoric have disbanded, you would probably want to underscore the pervasive lack of feminist female representation in any hip hop idiom in 2004. In other words, less gangsta rap has not meant more positive heterosocial conditions for the production of hip hop.

This is a research paper, and it will be graded according to standards of college-level humanities writing. Your paper must be typewritten, double-spaced, and thoroughly edited for spelling and grammar. Composition counts! For compositional guidelines, you might consult a guide for writing research papers in MLA style.

The final paper shall account for 40% of the final grade. The final paper shall be due one day before review session; early submissions are welcome. No extensions will be granted for the final paper. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the course instructor.

And now an AD from the writing center: Free, one-on-one, professional advice about all types of writing and oral presentation is available to you at the MIT Writing and Communication Center. You can get advice about any issue – from thinking of a topic to revising a draft, from deepening your ideas to overcoming writer's block, from punctuation to professionalism. All the Center's consultants are published writers and experienced college teachers who can give insight into all types of academic, creative, and professional writing. Go to MIT Online Writing and Communication Center and click on the yellow sunburst. If you cannot find an open appointment slot, do not despair. There are always cancellations on the day of the appointment (sometimes as many as 15 cancellations in one day). Click on the Wait List (the blue strip that says "Is the time that you want already reserved?"). Whenever a cancellation occurs on that day, you will be automatically notified by email. Because several people might receive that same message, go online ASAP to schedule that open spot; 96% of clients who want an appointment end up with one if they use the Wait List. If you can't find an appointment, try the Online Tutor.

Example Student Papers

Following are some exemplary student papers, presented courtesy of the authors and used with permission.

2007 Class

  • "The Uprising of Ibilys: A Violent Fantasy" by Sarah Dupuis (PDF)
  • "Can Hip Hop be the Same With White People in the Game?" by Irene Headen (PDF)

2006 Class

  • "Possibilities for Peace: Israeli and Palestinian hip-hop as tools for achieving a stable, long-term peace in the Middle East" by Jonathan Krones (PDF)