February 1 – Course Introduction

February 8 – The Dozens
READING: Elijah Wald – The Dozens: A History of Rap’s Mama (Part One)
READING: Elijah Wald – The Dozens (Part Two)
PLAYLIST 1: The Dozens
PLAYLIST 2: The Dozens in Rap

February 15 – The Origins of Hip, The Practice of Signifying
READING: Khephra Burns “Word from the Motherland”
READING: John Leland – Hip: The History (PLAYLIST)
CLICK HERE to hear versions of the three classic toasts discussed by Khephra Burns

ASSIGNMENT: Signifying Paper  (MORE INFO)
RESOURCES for paper:  RapGenius SongMeanings WhoSampled

February 22 – NYC in the 1970s; Graffiti Art
READING: Peter Shapiro “The Rotten Apple”
READING: C.J. Sullivan “There’s Hope For the Bronx”
READING: Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon – The History of American Graffiti (PT 1)
READING: The History of American Graffiti (PT. 2)

GUIDELINES: Seminar+ activities

March 1 – The Old School

READING: Brewster & Broughton “Adventures on the Wheels of Steel”
READING: Brewster & Broughton “Planet Rock” (PLAYLIST)
VIEWINGWild Style (1983) — Q: Why is this film important?  A: READ THIS

PLAYLIST: Gil Scott-Heron
PLAYLIST: Your Signifyin(g) tracks

March 8 – The First Golden Age

THE VIBE GUIDE TO HIP HOP: Sugar Hill Records / The Second Wave / B-Boying / Battling / The Juice Crew / Ladies First / Run-D.M.C. / LL Cool J / Beastie Boys / Salt-N-Pepa / Eric B & Rakim, Slick Rick / BDP & KRS-One / Hip Hop Radio

BREAKSBEATS: “Apache” “Funky Drummer” / “Amen”
PLAYLISTS: Sugar Hill Records / The Second Wave / The Juice Crew / Ladies First / RUN-D.M.C. / LL Cool J / Beastie Boys  / Salt-N-Pepa / Eric B. & Rakim and Slick Rick

CURRENT AFFAIRS: The Harlem Shake phenomenon / Lil Wayne controversies

March 15 – The First Golden Age (cont.) / The Birth of Sampling

RESPONSE PAPER: Paper Guidelines — Due in class (required length: 2 pages, give or take a bit)
VIDEO: Digging in the crates
READING:  Public Enemy / Native Tongues
READING:  Sampling

PLAYLISTS: Public Enemy / Native Tongues

March 22 – Rap as Poetry



PROPOSAL GUIDELINES (due over the break)
 (as a reminder)

April 5 – Hip Hop Musical Aesthetics

READING: “Digging in the Crates” from Schloss Making Beats
READING: Lethem “The Ecstasy of Influence” from Miller Sound Unbound
READING: Keller “The Musicians As Thief”
READING: Lanier “Where Did the Music Go?”

CASE STUDY: Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique (1989) — LISTEN
ARTICLE: De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising (1989) — SAMPLES
ARTICLE: Public Enemy Fear of a Black Planet (1990) —  LISTEN

The birth of sample-based pastiche: Steinski’s Lessons 1-3
“Thou shalt not steal”: The Biz Markie copyright lawsuit

April 12 – The rise of the West Coast and Gangsta Rap

READING: Jeff Chang Can’t Stop, Don’t Stop– part one / part two / part three
READING: The 2 Live Crew obscenity trial — download

PLAYLIST: Listening Quiz Pt. 1 / Listening Quiz Pt. 2
PLAYLIST: Poetic Devices (heard in class) / NWA Straight Outta Compton (1988) / 2 Live Crew As Nasty As They Wanna Be (1989) / Ice Cube Death Certificate (1991)

SUPPLEMENTAL LINKS: Stagger Lee: The Godfather of Gangsta / Ice-T “Cop Killer” (with lyrics) / Ice-T addresses the controversy / Dan Quayle: “They can’t just hide behind the constitution”

April 19 – New York: The Comeback
READ: Wu-Tang Clan Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993) / Nas Illmatic (1994)  [BONUS: track-by-track breakdown /  The Notorious B.I.G. Ready To Die (1994) / Fugees The Score (1996) /  Jay-Z Reasonable Doubt (1996)
PLAYLISTS: All the above albums are streamable on Spotify.
BONUS TRACK: Jay-Z versus the Sample Troll

 April 26 – Hip Hip and Politics

READ: Angela Ards “Organizing the Hip-hop Generation”
WEBLINK: Rap vs. Ronald Reagan

BONUS WEBLINKS: Bush & Quayle vs. Ice-T / Bill Clinton vs. Sista Souljah / Obama: From “the bomb” to “the man” / Obama: Dirt Off His Shoulder / Mark Rubio woos hip hop fans for 2016

BONUS VIDEOS: “Planet Rock: Hip Hop and the Crack Generation” / The CIA, Iran-Contra, and Crack Cocaine“Uprising: Hip Hop and the LA Riots” / Al Capone: American GangsterMartin Scorcese: The Gangster FilmScarface: Origins of a Hip Hop Classic / Scarface: 1932 and 1983 film trailers / Wealth Inequality in AmericaThe New Gilded Age

From a couple classes ago, the samples heard on Beastie Boys “Shake Your Rump”: The Paul’s Boutique Sample Show / Alphonse Mouzon in Weather Report / Harvey Scales “Love-itis” / Paul Humphrey on Lawrence Welk

Thursday, May 2 — Rebel Diaz Arts Collective presentation, 6-8 PM

The presentation will take place in Room 001, the  rehearsal room that’s on the same basement floor as our classroom (Room 002).

Please take a thorough tour of THIS PAGE and check out the links to videos, music, and text.

May 3 – Hip Hop Debates
READING: The Fall and the Re-Birth of the Gangsta — Tupac Shakur / 50 Cent
READING: Tricia Rose: “Hip Hop Demeans Women” and “There Are Bitches and Hos”

VIDEO: American politicians spit some game on hip hop

The Boston Marathon Bombing — TMZ: “Dead Bombing Suspect Heavy Into Hip Hop” / Washington Times: “The Boston Bombings and Dark Skinned Males” / The Washington Post: “The Tsarnaev Family: A Faded Portrait of an Immigrant’s American Dream” / The Guardian: “Why is Boston ‘Terrorism'”

TUESDAY, MAY 7TH — Kangol Kid at the New School (6-8 PM)

Make your reservations HERE

May 10 – Gender and Sexuality; Hip Hip in the 21st century

FYI, the first reading is carried over from last week. If you have time, also take a look at the short web articles below that address  recent debates and controversies over gender and sexuality in hip hop. Depending on time, we’ll be discussing some of these in class.

Also, see below for a description of this week’s assignment and for term paper guidelines. If possible, complete the assignment before class but NOT at the expense of doing the assigned reading. If you email it to me over the  weekend, or by WEDNESDAY 5/15 at the latest, it will not be counted late. Your term paper is due the week after our last class meeting on WEDNESDAY 5/22.

READING: Joan Morgan: “My Life As A Hip Hop Feminist”
READING: Vincent Stephens: “Eminem and Genderphobia'”
READING: Nikki Lane: “Missy Elliott Disturbing the Boundaries of Racialized Sexuality and Gender”

PLAYLIST for readings
GUIDELINES for readings


WEBLINKS: Jonah Weiner: The rise of “no homo” and the changing face of hip-hip homophobia
Alexander Billet: Frank Ocean: A Hip Hop coming out
EBONY: Rick Ross thinks rape is a punchline (Related link: Statement on rape provokes Internet lynch mob)
NME: Kitty Pryde says Danny Brown’s onstage oral sex incident was sexual assault
Dallas Observer: Danny Brown was not the victim of his on-stage blowjob, despite contrary reports
VIDEO: “Ex-Boyfriend” by Lil’ Dicky


ASSIGNMENT: As described in class, your assignment for this week is to create a “hip hop list” of at least 10-to-12 recorded tracks. The parameters of your list will be totally of your choosing. Your list should be accompanied by a description–one paragraph will be good–of your list’s parameters and the motivation behind choosing these parameters. Also, come prepared to play one of your tracks and discuss it in class. (you can choose something not on your list to discuss if that’s your preference).

There’s no upper limit to the number of tracks if you want to make a longer list. For an A+ you may chose to annotate (write something about) each track, but this is not required. Once the list is complete, send it to me—either as a Spotify playlist or as text. If you’re not able to email the list and paragraph-long description for some reason, bring a printed copy to class.

Check out the table of contents HERE if you need some ideas for a potential list.

May 17 – Project Presentations




February 8 — Bonus links
BONUS VIDEO: Kutiman “I’m New”
BONUS VIDEO: DJ Mark the 45 King (Bio)

February 15 — Bonus links
READING (not required): Ayana Smith “Blues, Criticism, and the Signifying Trickster”(PLAYLIST)
–I recommend the reading above if you’re still having trouble getting the concept of “Signifyin(g).”

March 1 –Bonus links


BONUS LINKS: The Bronx in the ’70s / The Bronx is Burning / South Bronx on film / The Last Poets “New York, New York” / Iceberg Slim / Iceberg Slim interview / 1971 Times article about Taki 183 / Ed Koch’s legacy in hip hop
BLAXPLOITATION FILMS: Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971)  Shaft (1971)  Superfly (1972) Trouble Man (1972)  The Mack (1973)  Foxy Brown (1974)  Dolemite (1975)  More about Sweet Sweetback’s and Blaxploitation / Melvin Van Peebles interview



BONUS LINK: An interesting piece on Al B., the inventor of the Harlem Shake dance
BONUS VIDEO: Five music videos featuring the actual Harlem Shake

BONUS LINKS: “Open-Source Music” (read if you have time):
SOPA/PIPA: Why All the Fuss? / The Internet Won / The Internet Hasn’t Won Yet
NAPSTER: What it felt like for a newbie / Metallica and Morality

4/26 Notes

***** The first is reading above focuses on hip hop and political activism. While the musical references are dated—they are contemporary to the era we’re focused on  now in class—I think most of the questions and issues are still very relevant today. The second reading, Tricia Rose’s The Hip Hop Wars, is focused on the consequences of hip hop’s massive marketplace expansion, and corporatization, in the 1990s and 2000s. The final reading looks at the still-raging battle between hip hop and Reaganism. Think about the following questions as you are doing the reading:

Do you think that hip hop—either the music or the culture—should be politicized? Are there artists you like and listen to that express political views? Has hip hop influenced your politics?  Do you think hip hop has influenced broader American politics in any way? In what ways do current rap artists reflect American politics and culture, and in what ways do they sometimes subvert “the establishment”?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s