Hip Hop and Politics of Race

Hip Hop and the Politics of Race encourages students to situate hip hop and rap music within broader discussions of race, gender, and sexuality in the 20th and 21st centuries. Our FIG is composed of Hip-Hop Music: History, Aesthetics, Culture (MUS 360), Introduction to Ethnic Studies (ES 101), and the College Connections course (MUS 199). This is a challenge FIG, which means you are taking an upper-division class (MUS 360). Taking an upper-division class as a freshman is a wonderful opportunity, as it gives you the chance to be in a class that has a more focused topic along with upperclassmen.

College Connections Faculty: Loren Kajikawa

Photo of College Connections faculty for Hip Hop and Politics of Race, Loren Kajikawa.

Hi! My name is Loren Kajikawa and I teach courses in music history, musicology, and ethnomusicology for the University of Oregon's School of Music and Dance. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA (Go Lakers!) and moved to Eugene just five years ago. Although I earned my Ph.D. in musicology, I was an Ethnic Studies undergraduate major, and my current book project examines the relationship between rap music and race in the 1980s and 1990s. So this FIG, which I helped create three years ago, brings together two subjects that have been important to me for some time. Spencer and I are putting together a set of projects and activities for this FIG, including a summer assignment (more about this below). If you’ve got questions, ideas, or music to share, my door—OK, my e-mail inbox—is always open. I'm looking forward to meeting you in person this fall.

FIG Assistant: Spencer Smyth

Please send me an email using your UO email address so I can keep you up to date with new info. If you need to contact me with questions regarding the FIG or what to expect in your first year, shoot me an email at ssmyth3@uoregon.edu. Having been a freshman myself, I know you have a lot of questions as I did when I started attending UO. Have a great summer, I look forward to meeting you this Fall!

Summer Assignment

Your assignment is to get a copy of Jay-Z’s book Decoded and answer the following questions. Copies are available for less than $20 online, or you might try visiting your local public library. Please type and print out your answers and bring them to our first meeting. This assignment is intended to get you thinking about the themes we will be discussing in our FIG. It’s a relatively quick and engaging read, and we hope you enjoy yourself while learning something new. Please answer the questions in full sentences and, when applicable, use concrete examples from the reading. Please type, print out, and bring your answers to our first meeting.

  1. What kinds of things does Jay-Z explain rapping and rap music offered him as a youth growing up in Brooklyn?
  2. Jay-Z writes, “Those [hip hop] songs changed things in the hood. They were political commentary, but they weren’t based on theory or books. They were based on reality” (Pg. 203). What reality is Jay-Z talking about? Has music influenced your view of the world? If so, how?
  3. On page 255, Jay-Z remembers early hip hop culture, stating “Everything was fresh, even though it was built on ruins.” Explain what you think he means by this.
  4. Assuming you have heard Jay-Z before reading this book, did having the lyrics written out and explained for you bring any new perspectives for you that you didn’t have before? More broadly what did you gain from reading rap lyrics that you don’t get from listening to them? Also, what do you get from listening to them that you don’t get from reading them? If you hadn’t heard a Jay-Z song before reading this book, please listen to one of the songs that he breaks down in the book and answer the above questions.
  5. In your opinion, did this book give a worthwhile introduction to the subject of hip hop and the politics of race? If so, how? If not, how? Would you recommend this book for future FIG groups? (This is a great time for you to give your honest opinion about the summer reading; we want to know what you think).

Week of Welcome FIG Meeting

The first meeting for the FIG is Friday, September 22nd at 10:00 am in Columbia 150. Please arrive on time as we will be relocating shortly after.