Hip Hop Definition

Topic: Hip Hop Definition


Paper details:

You should imagine this final write up to be your evidence-based definition of hip hop after having done the readings (and watched the films) for this class. Has it changed? How so? What specific readings influenced your revised definition? You may use parts of your first definition, but this is not a revision of that particular paper. This is a revision of your ideas about the definition of hip hop. Please email me and let me know if you’re confused about this. I’m not looking for a conversion narrative here (“I once hated hip hop, but now I see the light!”) Please try to avoid this. In fact, try to to limit your use of “I” as much as possible and instead position yourself in company with the experts we’ve read this quarter, supporting your final definition with evidence. Sounds easy, but believe me, I realize it’s complicated. I noticed that a lot of people started their first paper with some version of the sentence: “Hip hop is difficult to define. It means different things to different people.” Please try to avoid this. I’m looking for a perspective, a way into a longer conversation about hip hop that’s been informed by our particular set of readings. We’ve read a lot of material this quarter about the relationship between history, structural inequality and cultural politics. We’ve also watched several documentaries about how people have challenged institutionalized oppression and fought for a more democratic society. You may want to explore how these previous movements inform (or might inform) hip hop in its present form. In other words, it’s fine to “stretch” your papers beyond just reciting and defining the four elements of hip hop and instead find a way into the conversation from a particular topic or viewpoint (like hip hop feminism). Or you might want to organize your essay around a particular artist or song (like Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” and the Black Lives Matter movement). These are just two examples, but the possibilities are endless. It’s totally up to you how you want to organize your paper (I’m open to creativity), but it’s equally important that you have a claim and that you support it with evidence from our class materials. Your paper should be 4 pages in length and incorporate quotations. You do not have to have a certain amount of quotes, but it’s a good idea to shoot for 2-3 per page (minimum). Also, please keep in mind that I continue to teach this class because I believe the mainstream discourse on hip hop in the popular media has become extremely limited over the last three decades and often refers singularly to rap music, rather than hip hop culture. It’s so difficult (but vitally important) to be critical about popular culture, to approach it as a site of struggle over meaning, and to try to avoid repeating the dominant discourse. I’m not at all saying that we need to praise commercial rap music (that’s just as bad as demonizing it), but I am absolutely saying that we need to be critical and try our best to understand the power of popular culture in shaping every other aspect of society.

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