Hip Hop and Education Online Resource

Welcome to the Hip Hop and Education Online Resource

In the spring semester of 2010 the Outreach Center put on a workshop looking at Hip Hop in the Middle East region and Africa, and this Online Resource is one of the culminations of that interdisciplinary academic inquiry. The workshop particularly focused on emergent global forms of Hip Hop culture that provide unique points of access into contemporary socio-cultural currents in the Middle East region. Some of the inspiration for this inquiry and initiative comes from an appreciation for how contemporary art in general, and Hip Hop in particular, informs regional studies through a cultural studies lens. There is a broad range of applications and uses of Hip Hop for secondary school courses including inquiries into contemporary issues, youth culture, race and gender politics, national [and trans-national] identity, globalization and media, literature and linguistics, and art and culture.

Introduction to Hip Hop

“Hip Hop” and its multi-leveled artistic and cultural forms are increasingly taking on global dimensions. With historical and cultural roots in urban America, Hip Hop has been adapted and re-formed in a variety of global settings, not the least of which is the Middle East region and Africa. The universal themes of Hip Hop – urban life, social criticism, political language use – can be seen in these new settings and regional languages, but the meaning of these expressions is deeply contextualized. In order to appreciate and teach about Hip Hop culture in the Middle East region, it is imperative to get overall sense of Hip Hop's legacy in America. To help provide a historical context, a treatment of Hip Hop's major expressions and categories, as well as a nuanced narrative of Hip Hop's dramatic leap from an underground urban movement to global mainstreams, we would like to introduce the following lecture by Professor Josef Sorett, Department of Religion, Columbia University.


Going Deeper: Appreciating Hip Hop Culture in order to Understand its Unique Presence in the Middle East Region

Another way of approaching Hip Hop as broader social world, beyond five elements (Mcing, Djing, Breakdancing, Graffitti, Knowledge) and the notion of Hip Hop as way of life / identity marker ("I am Hip Hop"), is through thinking of Hip Hop as encompassing three interpenetrating spheres: 1.) artistic expression, 2.) media discourse, and 3.) the discourse of Hip Hop fans and activists. This framework, suggested by Jannis Androutsopoulos in his article from the book, Global Linguistic Flows, creates a template for appreciating the diversity amongst global Hip Hop communities and the ways that Hip Hop within the Middle East region is always in dialogue with global Hip Hop artistic models and practices while continually re-contextualizing those forms into significant local meanings and expressions.

Artistic Expression (producers): Hip Hop lyrics are a central site for understanding and appreciating a Hip Hop community's self-formulations, core values, and socio-political messages. Artistic expression also includes the aesthetic presentation of the culture, from dance moves, postures, dress, musicality, to the style and conventions of the language used. In a study on the way language is used by Egyptian Hip Hop Artists, Angela Williams demonstrates how Egyptian artists appropriate metaphors, tropes, and even verses from American Hip Hop culture while transposing and translating the meanings to local concerns and issues.

Media Discourse (mediators): The means of dissemination and presentation of Hip Hop culture, including the cultural circulation and transmission of its various forms, is largely configured and conducted via technological mediums, both commercial and otherwise. Commercial mediums include such outlets as television, music videos, magazines, concert tours, marketing and advertising, recording studios and distributors, radio, and the internet. Outside of globalizing corporate forces other media counter-forces are becoming prominent in the growth of Hip Hop culture worldwide, and this includes the sharing and performing of Hip Hop through social media (facebook, you tube, twitter, myspace, etc), blogs and grassroots websites, file sharing, as well as parties, street gatherings, and other non-commodified venues. A fascinating study by Adam Haupt entitled, Stealing Empire, describes the ways Hip Hop communities in South Africa have resisted mainstream media outlets and defined themselves as active, creative agents in a consumerist society. 

Discourse of Fans and Activists (audience): In Hip Hop culture there is a fine line between fan, producer, and artist; much of the reception of HIp Hop is active and could include participation in producing underground radio shows, documentaries, sharing mix-tapes and playlists, commenting on You Tube videos and consuming Hip Hop commodities. Fans and activists also arrange shows, benefits, protests and recreational gatherings that feature and utilize Hip Hop performances and they represent the pulse beat and real-time metric for judging emergent Hip Hop productions. The use of social media to connect people globally has created a new forum for reception and one of the ways that Hip Hop artists from the Middle East region have connected with fans has been through You Tube and other social media. Particular videos that feature relatively unkown and un-signed artists have the potential of going viral and generating momentum and fanbase that present unconventional pathways to broader spheres of listeners as well as international tours.

Other important cultural forms of Hip Hop that are often less commercially oriented are the practice of Freestyle and the Battle. Both of these activities can take place in a formal configuration (known as a "cipher") of Hip Hop artists and fans where an enclosed gathering creates a central focus for exchanges and expressions that are spontanously created on the spot.