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Cultural History of Rap

Cheryl Keyes
University of California, Los Angeles
Before 2005

This course will explore the roots of rap from its African bardic tradition to African American expressive/oral traditions; examine the development of rap as a musical genre; analyze the musical, verbal, and paralingual-musical aspects of rap music as exemplary of an urban street/hip hop aesthetic; discuss its influence on musical technology (i.e., sampling) and cultural influences in the mainstream; investigate the philosophical, political ideologies, and concepts of authenticity; review controversies surrounding rap music (i.e., censorship, copyright infringement, homophobia, misogyny, gangsta rap); review hip-hop culture on the silver screen; and examine the global impact of rap music/hip-hop culture. To further enhance one’s comprehension of rap, musical examples and video documentaries are appropriately used to coincide with class lectures and discussion, and hip-hop industry personnel, where possible, may be invited to the class as well. Although this course does not advocate a particular stance on rap music per se, its main objective is to foster an in-depth understanding of this musical genre and, more importantly, to locate rap as a part of a continuum of American popular music.

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