Communication and Culture | Current Topics in Communication and Culture (Topic: Word(s) Up: Race, Rhetoric, and Rap in Public Culture)
C334 | 5062 | Craig, B.
M-F, 9:30 AM-10:20 AM, SY 004
Instructor: Byron Craig
Office: Mottier Hall 265
Phone: (812) 330-9338
Rapping is both a way we communicate and a musical genre. Rap and
hip hop are arguably two of the most highly contested genres of
music in the current public culture, locally and globally.
Additionally, the media, including the internet has become a place
where those a part of a hip hop culture can communicate with one
another on a wide variety of topics using the terms of rap. Many
argue that we are now moving away from the necessity to have a
dialogue concerning race and racism. However, if we are to
understand that rapping and rap/hip hop culture function as a means
of communication for those in and outside of the African American
community, it becomes essential to be informed about the ways in
which rap and hip hop function within the tradition of African
American orality further problematizing a specific set of oppressive
ideologies as well as the way(s) in which rap and hip hop are
constitutive of a rhetoric of race in a post modern, post-Civil
In this course we will examine the role rap/hip hop has played in
both the African American community and the larger public cultures
response to race. Key here is the notion that rap follows in a
tradition of African American orality hence we will ground our
knowledge of rap and rap lyrics within the framework of this
tradition. Next, we will examine the way(s) in which rap functions
within a culture of literacy as it has become technologized; further
expanding our notions of rap and racial vernaculars. This course
will examine some key artifacts that tie race and hip hop to
technology such as websites, video games, etc. Finally, we will
finish our semester off by discussing and presenting work that
illustrates the ways in which we understand rap/hip hop to
constitute rhetoric(s) of race and/or racist ideologies in the
current public culture.
Class Requirements: Each week we will address issues of race as
rap/hip hop culture informs and becomes constitutive within the
current public culture. In order to achieve this goal, you will be
required to, along with reading and discussing the assigned
readings, survey video games that have an African American
aesthetic, attend in-class screenings of videos and scenes from
films that are indicative of rap and hip hop culture, and visit
websites that are specifically designed to attract the interest of
African American communities such as blackplanet.com. As we will
discuss race, we will respect all voices as we seek to achieve a
high level of tolerance for alternative point of views.
In assigned groups at the end of each week, students will lead a
discussion based over the week’s readings and in-class screenings.
These discussions will include, but are not limited to questions of
race, racist ideology, hegemonic domination, film as text that
informs race, etc. Students must include in their presentations
significant theoretical and foundational framework from the readings
and may use the in-class screenings as examples and/or bring in
other forms of material rhetoric to assist in leading the discussion
on their assigned week.
We will watch music videos, examine the texts of rap lyrics as they
function within the current public culture, and view a full-feature
length film. As such, be forewarned that these are often laden with
language and/or graphic violence. Please take into consideration
that we are viewing these texts to explore notions of race and
racist ideology formation in the United States public culture.
Required Text: (a course reader) Readings will include but are not
limited to Bryant Keith Alexander, Houston A. Baker, Jr., Keith
Banks, Donald Bogle, Celeste A. Fisher, Henry Louis Gates, Paul
Gilroy, Keith Harris, Patricia Hill-Collins, bell hooks, Randall
Kennedy, Cheryl Keyes, Walter Ong, Elaine Richardson, Tricia Rose,
Geneva Smitherman, Cheryl Watkins, Eric Watts, Howard Winant, and
• Students will turn in four (4) critical reading responses. These
responses should be thoughtful reactions to the readings and/or in
class screenings. Students are expected to turn in at least two
pages of clearly, well-written responses that provide some
discussion of the main themes from the readings and those covered in
class discussion. These are worth 10% of the final grade.
• Weekly Group discussions will be conducted by assigned groups.
These discussions will cover the main themes as discussed from the
week’s screenings and readings. Each week groups will seek to lead a
discussion by leading with provocative questions either discussed in
class or that the group believes were overlooked during our
discussions. Groups are encouraged to be creative during these
weekly discussions. The weekly group discussion is worth 25% of the
• Final Group Presentations will take place at the end of the six-
week session. Presenters will address issues in their presentation
from one of the topics covered during the class. Students will
conduct creative presentations that provide some current relevant
issue such as rap/hip hop and the NBA. The topic must relate back to
one of the main issues as covered in the course. For instance, the
issue of rap/hip hop and the NBA could be discussed within the realm
of African American masculinity, etc. This project is worth 25% of
the final grade.
• You will turn in a final paper that provides further analysis of a
topic either covered during class or one that is pre-approved.
Papers will be no shorter than eight pages and no longer than ten
pages and will incorporate academic sources used during the course
as well as additional sources. Topics are expected to be approved no
later than by the end of the second week of classes. We will have
scheduled conferences where students will be expected to defend
their paper topic and be able to discuss some of the sources they
will use for their paper. The final paper will be turned in prior to
final group presentations and is worth 25% of the final grade.
• Your active and critical participation will be expected throughout
the semester. In order to be an active participant, you must be
present and actively engaged during the class. Your participation is
worth 15% of the final grade.