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A Scholar’s Ambition: Hip-Hop & Higher Education

By Chantè Russell, Culture Staff Writer
Posted 12:20 PM EST, Sat., Nov. 12, 2016

Words Beats & Life, an organization dedicated to empowering hip-hop culture and artists, hosted a panel entitled “A Scholar’s Ambition: Hip-Hop & Higher Education,” in the Locke Hall auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 2.

This event was a part of Words Beats & Life’s inaugural Hip-Hop festival, which primarily took place at the Kennedy Center. The panel consisted of poet and senior english major, Angel Dye; assistant professor of the English department, Dr. David Green and Professor Kyle Murdock of the School of Communications. The panel was moderated by Dr. Dennis Winston. The conversation started with Hip-Hop’s role at Howard and reminded attendees that the first Hip-Hop conference to ever take place was hosted at Howard University.

Dr. Green was asked to talk about his book, “Visions & Cyphers” –a required text in First Year Writing courses. Green said that the “cyphers” in the book were directly inspired by Hip-Hop Culture because just like in a rap cypher, the essays in the book create conversations focused on topics that don’t usually get much attention. Green said that he also brings Hip-Hop to the classroom by analyzing different artists and their work.

Professor Murdock also brought music into class when he began working at Howard. He said that he used his production experience to “overhaul” his Multimedia Audio Production class and bring it up to date. Moreover, he uses Hip-Hop to form a relationship with students through tactics such as an icebreaker assignment modeled after the song “I am I Be” by De La Soul.

Being a current student, Angel Dye was able to attest to the benefits of combining Hip-Hop and formal education.

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“I write against a Hip-Hop background,” said Dye. She went on to say “Having a knowledge of both Hip-Hop and more formal literature help to feel like I always have something to say.”

In the Q&A segment of the panel, a question about tension between old school and new school artists prompted a discussion on the evolution of Hip-Hop, and the importance of finding the similarities throughout the history of Hip-Hop music. This led to a conversation about how Hip-Hop has found its way into many other genres because of its evolution.

“If we understood our history, then we might be able to utilize what we own,” Dr. Winston in defense of sampling and crossing genres.

The panel ended with Dr. Winston telling students that if they are concerned with the state of hip-hop at Howard University, then they should speak to their advisers and department heads about how they can get more of it in their classes. Finally, there were performances by rapper, Heim, and producer, Andy Capps, who both showcased their individual talents before coming together for a freestyle collaboration. The crowd was definitely enjoyed the artists, many even joined in reciting some of the lyrics during Heim’s solo performance and nodded their heads to Capps’ beat. From the discussions to the performances, this was a great night for Howard’s hip-hop heads.


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