Thursday, January 3, 2013

The University of Arizona Has the Nation's First Hip-Hop Minor

Posted By on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 6:02 PM

According to this release from the University of Arizona, they're actually the first school in the country to offer a hip-hop minor.

No, really.

While some might think hip-hop isn’t suitable for serious study, Alain-Philippe Durand, director of Africana Studies, disagrees. For decades, scholars have trained their academic eyes on the music, fashion, street art and dance that express a now global cultural phenomenon. They don’t study hip-hop for its catchy beats. They study it because it’s a river that roars through societies, shaping their cultural and political landscapes as it goes.

For students, that powerful force translates into serious questions. They may analyze the visual symbols in a graffiti mural, but they’re also challenged to think about graffiti in the context of German sociologist Jurgen Habermas’ ideas of public space as a social construct, Durand explains. They may unpack the lyrics of a familiar Jay-Z song, but they also have to consider how religious, ethnic and national identity overlap in the multi-lingual rap “Hamdulillah” (roughly translated from Arabic as “Praise to God”).

For UA undergraduate Gabrielle-Ann Araneta Torres, one of the most memorable assignments from her U.S. and Francophone Hip-Hop Cultures class was critical analysis of movies. “There were some obscure film choices,” she says, “but also some popular ones, like ‘Scarface.’ Looking at hip-hop from an analytic lens was new to me, and I definitely had to reach beyond my usual thought process while completing assignments.”

I'm surprised, really. Not because I think that hip-hop is unsuitable for study (honestly, it's a grand evolution of music and poetry, in my opinion) but because I would have assumed that schools such as North Carolina Central University, which has featured classes taught by hip-hop producer 9th Wonder, would have been among the first to offer such an emphasis.

For more information, see the story by UA here, or take a look at the curriculum here.

[Edited to include omitted portion]

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