Course Meeting Times
Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session
This course explores the political and aesthetic foundations of hip hop. We will trace the musical, corporeal, visual, spoken word, and literary manifestations of hip hop over its thirty-five year presence in the American cultural imaginary. We will also investigate specific black cultural practices that have given rise to its various idioms. Hip hop has invigorated the academy, inspiring scholarship rooted in black musical and literary traditions. We will also assess these sharp breaks and flamboyant versionings of hip hop style that have occurred within the academy.
Because "hip hop" is an ever-expanding area in formation, we will be concerned with the process of research circumscription. How are areas of popular culture to be explored? What research methodologies are useful in the study of popular culture? What are the discursive boundaries of something we can call "hip hop?" To pursue these questions, each student will work with groups responsible for leading the weekly discussion sessions with a presentation. The presentation should be conceived to interrogate the readings and viewings; to raise questions and issues around the material and its presentation; and to critique the relationship of the weekly theme, hip hop, and the popular culture we share at MIT and in Cambridge, MA.
Requirements for this course will comprise five components, as detailed below: weekly readings and music video listening/viewing, a free-write exercise, a performance review, two group oral presentations, and a final paper.
Watkins, S. Craig. Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the Soul of a Movement. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780807009864.
Forman, Murray, and Mark Anthony Neal, eds. That's the Joint!: the Hip-Hop Studies Reader. New York, NY: Routledge, 2004. ISBN: 9780415969192.
Other readings, listening, and music videos to be distributed.
Tickets to one live hip hop concert performance, to be determined.
Dyson, Michael Eric. Know What I Mean? Reflections on Hip Hop. New York, NY: Perseus Books Group, 2007. ISBN: 9780465017164.
Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780819562753.
Perkins, William Eric, ed. Droppin' Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1995. ISBN: 9781566393621.
Baker, Houston, Jr. Black Studies, Rap, and the Academy. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1995. ISBN: 9780226035215.
Eshun, Kodwo. More Brilliant Than The Sun. London, UK: Quartet Books Limited, 1999. ISBN: 9780704380257.
Fricke, Jim, and Charlie Ahearn. Yes, Yes Y'All: Oral History of Hip-Hop's First Decade. New York, NY: Da Capo Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780306812248.
Forman, Murray. The 'Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780819563972.
George, Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York, NY: Penguin, 2005. ISBN: 9780143035152.
Keyes, Cheryl. Rap Music and Street Consciousness. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780252072017.
Potter, Russell. Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postmodernism. New York, NY: SUNY Press, 1995. ISBN: 9780791426265.
Rose, Tricia, and Andrew Ross, eds. Microphone Fiends: Youth Music and Youth Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994. ISBN: 9780415909082.
- Approximately 50 pages of reading and 2 hours of music/video listening/viewing weekly.
- An initial "free write" assignment of 3-5 pages length. 10% of the final grade.
- Attend and write about at least one "hip hop" performance in the Boston area. 20% of the final grade. Your assessment of the performance should consider at least two of the analytical paradigms explored in class. The performance analysis is due in the 2nd session for Unit 12.
- Two Oral Presentations developed with different research groups. Each 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. It should also build on those concepts, either in consent or dissent, with additional musical and visual materials. Each student will create individual research notes for the presentation. 30% of the final grade (15% each).
- A final paper, of 7-10 pages length, on a topic other than the Oral Presentation topic. The paper should synthesize material covered throughout the semester. The final paper shall account for 40% of the final grade. Proposals for final paper topics are due one day after 2nd session for Unit 6. The final paper will be due in class after the review session. No extensions will be granted for the final paper.