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The Aesthetics of Hip Hop

Seminar Leader:
Edward Epstein


The late 1970s and early 1980s saw a flowering of urban music and art forms that would come to be known as “hip hop.” These included rap music, break dancing, and graffiti writers created masterpieces of the “wild style.” On subway cars as their canvas, graffiti writers created masterpieces of the “wild style.” On the street, new dance forms appeared, with innovators like Jimmy D and Crazy Legs from Rock Steady Crew battling one another to perform new feats of agility and stamina. Today, hip hop aesthetics dominate youth culture, with rap supplanting rock ‘n’ roll as the pre-eminent musical idiom among young people of many races, ethnicities and geographic regions.

In this seminar, we examined the origins of the hip hop style. We noted, for example, the debt rap owes to previous musical genres, including jazz, funk, soul, reggae, and African forms. We also looked at the post-modern universe in which hop hop emerged, the influence of pop culture, television, emerging digital technologies, and the fascination with borrowing (“appropriation”) that was very much a feature of 1980s art.

Unit TitleAuthor


Hip Hop Notions

Audrey J. Jackson
Keywords: African American painters, break dancing, Bronx, expressive performance, fashion, hip hop life style, hip-hop, Jamaica, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Kingston, listening, rap music, rhyming, speaking, Visual Art, visual graffiti, writing, youth culture

Bridging the Gap: Hip-Hop and the Second Generation English Romantic Poets

John J. Grob
Keywords: contemporary era, English, Hip-Hop Rap poets, inquiry-based project, poetry, Second Generation English Romantic poets


Karen L. Brinkley
Keywords: analyze and critique, comparative analysis, Critical thinking, Ghana, hip-hop, importance of music, movies, past traditions, primary source documents, rap music, sankofa, Technology, Twi language

Harlem, Hughes, and Hip-Hop

Leslie Carlis
Keywords: 12th grade, acting, analyze, drama class, educational websites, graphic organizers, Harlem, Harlem Renaissance, hip-hop, Hughes, interpret, Langston Hughes, perform the production, power point presentations, public speaking, read, short stories, themes of poems, themes of short stories, videos

Dissecting Lyrics

Lisa Katzer
Keywords: 4th Grade, 5th grade, display, dissecting lyrics, figurative language, hip-hop, listening skills, meaning and awareness, meaningful learning, perform, rap music, vocabulary, writing poetry

Using Rap Lyrics as a Resource in the Secondary English Classroom

Lisa Kelly
Keywords: African American, African-based American art form, analyze, Bronx, city students, comments on current events, enjoy, literary devices, literary skills, literary styles, rap music, rap tells stories, relevant to student life, tells stories, trace themes

Scratching beyond the Surface: Hip Hop and Its Art of Persuasion

Samuel A. Reed, III
Keywords: commercial and community, Critical thinking, hip-hop, hip-hop lyrics, media literacy, non-print media, persuasion, persuasive digital stories, persuasive techniques, persuasive writing, rap music, Reading, social studies, traditional literacy, writing