May 13, 2014
North Carolina Central University is going to begin offering classes in rap music.
Dis bee da cultural, nigga.
From the Guardian:
9th Wonder, born Patrick Douthit, became a “professor” at the college when he was named Artist in Residence in 2006. Prior to that, Douthit was an assistant professor at NCCU for a Hip-Hop 101 course taught by Play of the legendary rap duo Kid-N-Play. But the idea of teaching was not new to him.
“I went to school any way to become a history teacher,” Douthit explains, though he did not complete his studies, instead going on to produce for artists like Jay Z, Chris Brown and Erykah Badu. “In the area where I live [Raleigh, North Carolina] there are a lot of people I went to school with who ended up being teachers,” he says. “They would ask their friend who had just worked with Jay Z to come by to talk to their students. Once I got back into the classroom and talked to these kids, I realized this was why I wanted to teach in the first place. But I wasn’t teaching something they were learning in school; I was teaching hip-hop.”
Douthit is a trailblazer, but he is not alone in mixing hip-hop and academia. In 2010, rapper-producer and Ruff Ryders figurehead Swizz Beatz became the first Producer in Residence at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. That same year, UGK veteran Bun B became a professor at Rice University for hip-hop and religion/humanities. In 2013, the de facto leader of the Roots, Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, became a professor at NYU for a course called Topics in Recorded Music: Classic Albums and currently teaches a course there on Prince.
“I started to see the deeper connection between hip-hop and the youth,” says Douthit, of his own research. “I started to look at the connection between the older generation and the younger generation and how I was the bridge for that. Then I started to look at vinyl sampling compared to literary licenses and I got deeper and deeper and deeper. While I was still making beats, I was still very much into the academic discourse of what hip-hop used to be and what it still is.” In 2010, he taught a course at Duke called Sampling Soul, flanked by Duke’s African American studies professor, Dr Mark Anthony Neal.
In addition to setting up the Hip-Hop Institute, Douthit is currently a professor at Harvard University, a three-year fellowship where he is conducting his thesis on the samples that encompass his Top 10 albums and teaching a Standards of Hip-Hop course. It’s documented in his film The Hip-Hop Fellow.