ENGL 1800-100 American Ethnic Literatures: Hip Hop Cultures

Instructor: Adam Bradley

Ask people what hip hop culture is today and you’re bound to get a range answers. It’s Jay Z and Kanye West. It’s Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q. It’s Macklemore and Iggy Azalea. For some it will always be the 1970s South Bronx of hip hop’s birth or the New York-to-Los Angeles reach of rap’s 1990s Golden Age. Some will say that hip hop is dead, while others will point to its emergence as a global lingua franca of youth culture. Hip hop is many things, many cultures. Its disparate forms and styles will be the subject of this course.

This course explores the evolution of hip hop from its roots in the South Bronx to its worldwide influence in the present day. We’ll use the tools of close reading and literary analysis to study hip hop’s forms and themes. Our primary focus will be on rap’s lyrical craft, but we’ll also consider rap within the broader context of hip hop’s other basic elements—DJ-ing, breaking, and graffiti. Hip hop’s aesthetic culture is also a means to confront race, politics, gender, and sexuality. Through a combination of lecture and discussion, we’ll work together to develop a language for talking about the many cultures of hip hop.