While hip hop and the university appear to operate within radically different social (and socioeconomic) spheres, we nevertheless see increasing overlap between the two that demonstrates a mutual interest and perhaps desire between the two. With the rise of hip hop studies on the one hand and a remarkable array of hip hop songs and films that address the university space and/or university education on the other, these two discursive spheres produce knowledges that are both complementary and contradictory. By analyzing several texts—major academic works of hip hop scholarship; films on hip hop and the university, especially Method Man and Redman’s 2001 How High; and the rap oeuvres of Kanye West and J. Cole—this article examines the ways in which the epistemologies of hip hop and the university interact and conflict. By examining these texts, I show that academic epistemologies, or what I term “book knowledge,” inadvertently impose a hierarchical and colonizing frame on rap and hip hop, such as the practice of “close reading” rap as poetry. Instead, I argue that we can learn how to ethically inhabit and transform the university space by drawing from hip hop’s commitment to producing the radical, decolonial, and embodied practices of “street knowledge.”
Hip Hop and the University: The Epistemologies of “Street Knowledge” and “Book Knowledge”
Sara Hakeem Grewal is assistant professor in the Department of English at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Michigan in 2016. Her research interests include global hip hop, race and ethnicity studies, South Asian and world literature, translation, and historical poetics. She has published in The African American Review, South Asia: A Journal of South Asian Studies, and has co-edited a special issue on “West-East Lyric” in Comparative Critical Studies. She is currently working on a monograph titled Ghazal and the Urdu Imaginary, which examines the canonization of the Urdu ghazal through generic and linguistic translation, as well as a co-authored monograph on Panjabi hip hop in the diaspora.
Sara Hakeem Grewal; Hip Hop and the University: The Epistemologies of “Street Knowledge” and “Book Knowledge”. Journal of Popular Music Studies 27 August 2020; 32 (3): 73–97. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jpms.2020.32.3.73
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