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The Politics of Hip Hop Culture (PAS 368)

Anthony Ratcliff
California State University- Northridge

This course traces the cultural and political history of Hip-Hop and the impact it has had on Black and Latina/o youth culture, North American society, and global culture industries in general. We will begin by examining the African, Afro-North American and Afro-diasporic cultural traditions, as well as the political and socio-economic environments, which were integral to Hip-Hop's formation and evolution. Through
readings, films, music, discussions, research, performance, writing, and "new media" we will investigate the many elements of the culture: from B-boys/B-girls ("breaking"), turntablism ("deejaying"), emcees ("rapping"), writing ("graffiti art"), and the human beatbox, to the fashion, language, and knowledge that its participants generate. From this in-depth examination, we will discover the richness and diversity of Hip-Hop, thereby challenging the narrow manner in which it is portrayed on commercial radio and television. By employing various theories and methods of Black cultural studies in analyzing Hip-Hop, we will explore issues such as representation(s)-race, class, gender and sexuality-difference, hegemony, ideology, reception, encoding/decoding, and media justice. Throughout the course we will also interrogate the literary aspects of Hip-Hop culture, by conducting close textual analyses of lyrics that invoke literary techniques (simile, metaphor, alliteration, allusion, intertextuality, etc.), all the while recognizing the social and historical contexts in which these lyrics were produced.

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