Just days after rapstress Megan Thee Stallion earned Grammy awards for Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance, and Best New Artist, over 50 attendees logged into Zoom to talk about the effects of bringing Hip-Hop culture and music into the classroom.
Part of the School of Multimedia and Communication Studies’ Critical Conversation series, “If You Don’t Know, Now You Know: Hip Hop’s Impact on Communities and Classrooms” was moderated and organized by Assistant Professor of Intercultural Communication Dr. Marquese McFerguson, and paneled by professors and hip-hop heads from all over the country. For McFerguson, the panel was a way to bridge the gap between the experiences students have in and out of the classroom.
“There is something powerful about being able to see yourself in literature and the classes that you’re taking,” said McFerguson, “If you give the students a mic, they get a chance to speak back to those narratives that other people try to put on them.”
Assistant Professor of Curriculum, Culture and Educational Inquiry Dr. Bianca Nightengale-Lee spoke of her experiences producing a song inspired by 2Pac and Dr. Dre’s “California Love” with her elementary school students to engage them in local activism.
“It was a way to take something negative about the community, flip it, bring it into the classroom, and make it manifest in ways that were way beyond we could ever hope for,” said Nightengale-Lee.
Hip-Hop historian and panelist LeRon McAdoo explained how the lack of resources dedicated to public schools with high-minority populations and the conditions created by systemic racism helped position hip-hop to be the perfect vehicle for minority youth self-expression.
“[Hip-Hop] is for any people who are prohibited, but have creative juices,” said McAdoo, “That’s what hip-hop is about. In its genesis, it was about that same poverty that made [youth] want to create.”
Global Hip-Hop Ambassador Epiphany “Big Piph” Morrow spoke about using hip-hop as a tool to understand the power of narrative, even across linguistic boundaries in The Gambia, the smallest country within mainland Africa.
“Hip-Hop was just our vehicle for entry into understanding each other,” said Morrow, “When the beat came on, by the end of the three or four weeks, I swear we could understand each other better, just by the cadences and flows.”
During the audience Q&A, University of Colorado-Boulder Assistant Professor Dr. Danielle Hodge addressed the ways hip-hop culture and music has oppressed women and LGBT+ individuals within the Black community.
“How can you develop a kind of liberatory conversation or positionality that allows you to simultaneously enjoy the music, but also critically interrogate it,” said Hodge.
One attendee sent a question to McFerguson about whether or not Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s Grammy performance of “W.A.P” constitutes hip-hop.
“You can look at it two different ways,” said Nightengale-Lee, “I choose to look at it through a lens of using hip-hop as a resistance and saying, we are resisting this idea that we are resisting this idea of being docile and quieted just because we’re women.”
On the future of hip-hop, McFerguson says the limits are non-existent.
“There is no place hip-hop cannot go, whether Harvard or abroad,” said McFerguson.
If you missed the panel, or would like to use it for pedagogical purposes, you can view the full discussion here.