Hattie Charnley-Shaw has been working with us on the Hip Hop Collection project. Here she explains a bit about the project, about Hip Hop Studies and Hip Hop Education, and reflects on her work to date.
There’s no denying that Hip Hop is one of the most popular music genres in the world. Nor is there any denying that it has become a worldwide phenomenon in the realms of culture, fashion, and the visual arts too. Its existence in the world of education however, is far less widespread or acknowledged.
This was my initial thought process upon being asked to work on the Hip Hop Collection project at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relation Resource Centre. This project aims to develop a collection of Hip Hop resources (including books, magazines, historical material and teaching resources) to support Hip Hop studies and Hip Hop education in Manchester, and beyond. The project has been developed by Dr Eithne Quinn from the University of Manchester’s American Studies department, and is funded through the University’s Social Responsibility in the Curriculum Fund. My role has been to create the content for a ‘Hip Hop in the Library’ study guide, to accompany the new resources. Though I am not an avid Hip Hop fan myself and until recently knew very little about the genre, I am now very interested in Hip Hop Studies and the prospect of encouraging Manchester’s schools to engage with Hip Hop as an educational tool.
The reason for my interest, and for my being selected for this project in the first place, is a module I took in the final year of my undergraduate degree in American Studies at the University of Manchester, called ‘Hip Hop and Hollywood’. The course was taught by Dr Quinn, who is a prominent scholar in the field, and covered everything from Hip Hop music and film, to issues of gender, race, and class. In one session we looked at Hip Hop’s potential to transform education and inspire children to look at subjects from different perspectives. An example of this would be to analyse the lyrics to a Hip Hop track in an English lesson, rather than a traditional poem or Shakespeare sonnet.
After discussing the project and the study guide objectives with Hannah Niblett at the Resource Centre, I got to work. The main aim of the study guide is to make the resources more readily accessible. The target audience will be university students studying the field of American Studies (or Hip Hop Studies!), teachers looking to transform their classrooms, and hopefully secondary school pupils with new perspectives on learning! This said, I hope that the resource will appeal to people from every walk of life, Hip Hop fans, music enthusiasts, historians and scholars of race, politics or culture alike.
The guide so far includes a comprehensive reading list of selected books, most of which can be found in the Resource Centre, although some are spread across other parts of Manchester Central Library. The books include works by prominent scholars and educators already interested in the field of Hip Hop Studies, but also several more general texts. I am hoping to successfully categorise the books, in order to make them more accessible. At the moment, the dominant categories are Hip Hop Culture, Hip Hop Education, Film, Gender/Feminism, and US/World Race Relations. While the selected books lend themselves well to these categories, I have found some overlaps between them – although I see this not as a problem but more as proof that the field of Hip Hop Studies is very interdisciplinary, meaning it covers multiple aspects of culture and society within each area (which makes it all the more interesting!).
Once completed, the guide will not only include information about books, but journals, magazines, films, and online resources too, as well as connections to Hip Hop groups and organisations in Manchester.
It is easy to subscribe to the dominant belief that Hip Hop is a genre revolving solely around explicit lyrics, violent crimes, hyper-masculinity and sexualisation of women, but I am hoping that this collection of resources diminishes that understanding. While these characteristics can be found amongst the lyrics and videos of the genre, themes of individualism, entrepreneurialism, community and creativity are also extremely dominant.
I am currently working on a Masters in American Studies, and am hoping to continue studying the field of Hip Hop, and African American studies more widely. I am interested in black cinema, in particular the director Spike Lee, who is known for controversially portraying race in his films, many of which are heavily influenced by Hip Hop culture.
There are several books on Spike Lee in the Hip Hop project’s collection, which I will definitely be browsing in my spare time. I think the project will be a great success, and am looking forward to seeing it in action!
The Hip Hop in the Library study guide will be available online in the new year. In the meantime pop ‘Hip Hop’ into the library catalogue search, or come in and browse the Arts, Media and Sport section in person – there are more than 50 titles so you can’t miss them!