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Beats, Rhymes & Life: A Cultural History of Hip-Hop

African And African-american Studies 3456 - Spring 2020

Once thought of as a fleeting local fad set against the backdrop of New York's decaying1970s landscape, Hip-hop has since grown into a global phenomenon. After strong-arming a place at the center of American popular culture, Hip-Hop quickly found an international resonance that allowed it to be adapted and (re)mixed around the world. This course, Beats, Rhymes & Life, offers a cultural history of Hip-hop music in America. It begins in Hip-hop's earliest days when a small number of local DJs borrowed from transnational music technologies to provide the soundscape for park jams in the South Bronx. It then traces, the subsequent emergence of graffiti artists, breakers and b-boys, and the eventual rise of the MC as the central, iconic figure of the music. Taking students on a trip through music, the course will scrutinize lyrics, interrogate the art of beat-making, and highlight important cultural turns in history. We will examine the contours of key representative careers, canonical albums, pivotal debates, and unpack the histories of key institutions (including important nightclubs, sound studios, record labels, and radio stations). In addition, we will also discuss Hip-hop's influence on fashion, sports and other sectors of the global economy. Over the course of the semester students will engage with a wide array of traditional and multimedia sources, including articles, books, interviews, magazines, music (individual songs and full albums), films, music videos, lyrics, and photography. By the end of the course students will walk away with a working knowledge of the shifting sound, vocabulary and aesthetics of Hip-hop music as it has developed across America.

Section 01

Beats, Rhymes & Life: A Cultural History of Hip-Hop
INSTRUCTOR: Manditch-Prottas
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