If there were such a thing as an academic rock star, Duke University’s Mark Anthony Neal would be one. Neal is a professor, hip-hop scholar, and author, who is a highly-sought after cultural critic. News outlets like the Huffington Postand WUNC regularly tap Neal, Chair of Duke’s African and African American Studies and founder of the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship, for cultural commentary – as do we. Locally, Neal is known for developing The History of Hip-Hop,a popular course he co-teaches with critically acclaimed hip-hop producer Patrick Douthit, aka 9thWonder, at Duke.
Neal and Douthit have taught the class together since 2010. The course explores the social and cultural history of hip-hop and its current global, economic and socio-political impact.
On any given night, students might engage with a Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist like Rapsody or leading cultural preservationist from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Readers if you’re having a bit of FOMO– note that this course is open to the public.
One cold, rainy Wednesday evening last March, the Come Hear NC team traveled to the campus of Duke University to document the class. On that evening Neal and Duke political science doctoral candidate Nura Sediqe led a lecture about hip-hop and violence, ghetto pathologies, and misogyny.
Sediqe, who studies the political behavior of radicalized minorities, says “Hip-hop and the productions that emerge from it have been such an important source of knowledge for me. Political expressions emerge in meaningful ways in the lyrics, visual production and stories within the art. As political scientists, I think it’s important that more of us pay attention to hip-hop as a source to inform us of the various ways that minorities are politically conscious and engaged.”
Hip-hop, which began as a grassroots music movement in the Bronx, is now a global force, and throughout the semester Neal, Douthit and an assortment of guest lecturers unpack many facets of the genre’s history and current reality – which often tie into cultural and political movements beyond the music itself.
“Though the course is branded as a history of Hip-Hop—for most students the course serves as a history of 20th century Black cultural and political history,” says Neal
Take a look at the full course below.