The Power of Hip Hop

close up photo of Young Mc Bust a Move vinyl album

Hip Hop Minor explores how the art form transcends different genres of music to forge human and cultural connections.

For nearly 50 years hip-hop has allowed generations to creatively express themselves. The longevity and international appeal have proven hip-hop is much more than a music genre. It reflects society and gives people a chance to be heard.

“Wherever people don’t have a voice, they have hip-hop,” said Skye Paine, associate professor and chair of Modern Languages and Cultures department. “The power of hip-hop comes from the fact that it is so easy to make and it comes from words. When it is based on words people get to say what they really feel.”

SUNY Brockport students have the opportunity to study it through the College’s undergraduate Hip-Hop Minor, which began in the fall of 2019.

Paine likens hip-hop to the sport of soccer when making a point of its mass appeal and availability.

“Hip-hop exports effortlessly. Rock-and-roll doesn’t export effortlessly because you need to have a guitar, a drum, and an amplifier. You need all these things,” explained Paine. “Classical music doesn’t export effortlessly because you need to have a violin. The metaphor I like to use is that rock-and-roll is hockey and hip-hop is soccer. All you need is a ball, all you need is a microphone.”

Hip-hop is not limited to a music genre as its origin is tied to four components including emceeing, deejaying, graffiti, and break dancing. That’s why the SUNY Brockport undergraduate minor, which began in the fall of 2019, offers courses in various subjects like African & African-American Studies, Foreign Cultures in English, Music, and Dance.

“The hip-hop minor presents African American response to poverty and racism through the study of this musical genre,” said Douglas Thomas, PhD, associate professor and Chair of African & African-American Studies, “and the historical forces that created the conditions for its birth.

“It is now a global force in musical art form used to protest all kinds of injustices throughout the world. Students need to know that there is more to what they hear on the radio and in their parties. The music is a response to life.”

Paine agrees and referenced how hip-hop encompasses so many facets of life including society, culture, politics, sexuality, language, dance, and history. With this wide range of topics, the hip-hop minor provides students a well-rounded education.

“A hip-hop education is so interdisciplinary, so new, you can show up at a job interview and they look at your transcript, they might see you majored in business but that you minored in hip-hop. ‘Huh, what’s that like?,’” said Paine. “Then you’re able to explain that it’s more than just sitting around listening to music. You can really show an innovative education that shows creativity, and an ability to see things in a deeper way.”

In Thomas’ words the hip-hop minor is beneficial to students because, “Studying hip-hop expands the thinking and thereby produces ideas that are conducive to creating wealth.”

Whether students are looking to expand their cultural awareness, gain a creative edge, or explore the impact of hip-hop, Paine emphasizes how enjoyable the minor is. Although hip-hop is far from simple, the rationale behind how exciting the subject content is: “Hip-hop is a fun thing to study. That’s the point of art. It is to entertain.”

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Author: Kevin Stiner


Posted: August 10, 2022