Religious Studies | Hip-Hop: Spirituality from the Underground
R202 | 3755 | Dixie
I met a critic, I made her shit her draws/she said she thought hip-hop was only guns and alcohol./I said, "Oh hell naw,/but see it's
that too/you can't discrimi-hate 'cuz you done read a book or two."
-Outkast, "Humble Mumble"
We aren't against rap music, but we are against those so-called "thugs."
-Rev. Calvin O. Butts, Abyssinian Baptist Church, New York
Hip-hop music is consistently portrayed in the media as a monolithic expression of urban moral and ethical decay that has seeped
past the city limits and threatens the very fiber of "American" youth. From the gansta genre popularized by West coast rappers to
the classic booty-shake tracks made famous by groups like Too Live Crew, the most recognizable face of hip-hop culture is weed
smoking, crack selling, gun toting, and baby making. Despite this public persona, are we to assume that hip-hop culture is without
any moral or spiritual foundation? The purpose of this course is to map out a tradition of a broadly-defined spirituality within
hip-hop culture. Over the course of the semester, students will read and hear material that outlines some of the cultural roots of
hip-hop's often virulent reaction to organized religion. At the same time, we will examine how certain faith traditions,
particularly the Nation of Gods and Earths (Five Percenters) and Christianity, have utilized the art form to propagate their message
to the masses of urban youth. Finally, we will explore the various ways some hip-hop artists represent a prophetic tradition rooted
in an electric spirituality that seeks wisdom from various faith traditions.