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Kanye West has built a career on being a college dropout, and Cam’ron has complained that attending university would only get in the way of his Lamborghini habit, but the historically contentious relationship between hiphop and higher learning is easing. In an effort to further convince aspiring rappers that book learning can complement street knowledge rather than cancel it out, Howard University is looking into establishing a minor in hip-hop.
The campaign to create the minor, which would be the first of its kind in the country, is being waged by Joshua Kondwani Wright, a Howard University graduate student, who hopes it will be offered within the next 3 to 5 years. Toward that end, Wright organized the March 30 Hip Hop and Higher Education Symposium, a daylong event that brought in such hip-hop insiders as WKYS-FM radio personality Jeannie Jones and video director Lil X. Wright says sessions such as “Hustle and Flow: The Economic and Political Impact of Hip Hop” were designed to be the basis of possible future course offerings.
Wright, who began working on establishing the course of study at the beginning of this semester, says that historically black colleges and universities like Howard are behind on the hip-hop-education trend.
“Doing research I found [hip-hop courses] at Stanford, a number of Ivy League and state schools, but not too many HBCUs—�it was kind of shocking. More are starting classes, but it still seems that HBCUs should be at the forefront of this push.”
Dr. Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, a professor of history who teaches the course “A History of Hip Hop” along with Howard alum and former 106th and Park host AJ Calloway, maintains that hip-hop has been at the center of Howard courses since the early ’90s, but says that a minor focusing on the genre would be a part of a “cultural continuity” at the university.
“I think it’s very possible and, I stress to say, very probable,” Clark-Lewis says. “Howard has always taken the lead in terms of African history and African American history.”
Although the minor is still a few years off, Wright is already looking to go major. “One of the quotes I said [during the seminar] was from Big: ‘Who ever thought that hip-hop could take it this far?’ One professor is doing a graduate seminar at Georgetown in hip-hop this fall. In 1980, no one ever thought that Georgetown would have a graduate seminar in hip-hop.
“In that sense, there’s no reason [Howard] can’t have a minor in a few years and no reason why, maybe, it couldn’t be a major.”