If there is any university or college out there that would let me, I would absolutely love to teach a History of Hip-Hop class. As alluded to in the title, it would be an upper-division history course that would focus on the development of hip-hop from the early 1970s up until now. I feel I’m pretty qualified to teach a class like this, as I have a degree in criminal justice and will soon have a law degree. I’ve also been learning about hip-hop and listening to rap for close to 20 years now.
Each class would begin with listening to a rap song that I feel is relevant to what the lecture topic is that day, or just a good rap song. I definitely want to dedicate at least one class to discussing Parental Advisory warnings and the use of profanity in hip-hop and get the kids talking about whether the profanity is acceptable to them or not. I also would spend at least one class discussing the spread of hip hop to foreign countries, during which we would listen to hip-hop from Europe, Australia, and Africa.
Textbook: “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation” by Jeff Chang
Textbook in song form: Murs – The Science
A lot of kids would take this class thinking it would be an easy A. Oh how wrong they would be. Each lecture would examine the social and political conditions both on the local and national scale that led to the development of different kinds of hip-hop. We would learn about the war zone that was the Bronx, and also the gang culture of LA that led to the rise of NWA and others. To be clear, I’m not talking about rap music. Rap music is the genre that comes with the hip-hop movement. There are actually four aspects of hip-hop culture; rapping, break dancing, DJ-ing, and graffiti writing. Each element is just as integral as the last, and there were important historical figures that contributed through each element. My students would learn about DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy, and Tracy168 among others. I do want to focus more on the music aspect, but graffiti will have at least two class periods spent on it.
Final project: Students have to write and perform a rap that is at least over a minute long. They can have an accompanying beat if they want, but it would be optional. The rap can contain profanity, but it has to be about some sort of social or political issue. If a student raps about cars, “bitches”, or bling then they will get an automatic F.
Final exam: Students will have to name and describe the four elements of hip hop and how they relate to and compliment one another.
Students will have to name the holy trinity of hip-hop (Herc, Flash, Bambaataa) and describe how each individual/group contributed to the spread and proliferation of the hip-hop culture.
Anyone want to help me pitch this idea to a university?