January begins the Spring semester for colleges and universities, and a group of Georgia Tech students have a virtuous reason to start 2017 by turning in research papers about why they turn up to trap music.
Georgia Tech is now offering an undergraduate course titled “Exploring the Lyrics of Outkast and Trap Music to Explore Politics of Social Justice.” It began on January 13, and is a humanities elective and a requirement for students with a Social Justice minor.
The curriculum is built around the study of the sound of trap music as it was introduced by DJ Toomp and popularized by producers like Shawty Red, Metro Boomin, Mike WiLL Made-It and Zaytoven. Students enrolled in the course will research and analyze the metadata of soundscapes and social impact from artists including Goodie Mob, UGK, Eightball & MJG, T.I., Jeezy, 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, Future, Migos and 21 Savage, as well as highlighting the intergenerational tensions and discourse about Lil Yachty’s artistry. The class will also touch on legendary artists like 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Kanye West, Nas, N.W.A, Public Enemy, Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim and Lauryn Hill.
The course’s professor is Dr. Joycelyn Wilson, an Atlanta native and Hip Hop scholar whose ethnographic studies extend from the Harvard Hip Hop Archive to Virginia Tech. Widely known for her renowned TEDx lecture “The Outkast Imagination,” Dr. Wilson is an Emmy award-nominated documentary film producer of Walking With Guns, and is featured in the VH1 documentary The Untold Story of Atlanta’s Rise In The Rap Game.
Wilson gave an exclusive statement to HipHopDX about her goals for the course, which isn’t just about turning up in the classroom. “It’s a course that uses new metaphors for exploring contemporary rap music,” she explains. One of my metaphors is ‘The Outkast Imagination’ and the other metaphor is ‘trap.’ Both allow us to broaden and deepen our understandings of the music within a larger tradition of cultural expression.”
As part of her Four Four Beat Project, Dr. Wilson’s syllabus for the trap music course consists of music, film, essays, photography, and lectures from guest speakers. Wilson further explained the course’s appeal to students:
“The class is popular because Hip Hop culture is popular, but also because we are in Atlanta and offering the course at an institute of technology committed to intersecting the humanities with technology.”
She added about the diversity of the students enrolled in the class: “My students are majors in engineering, economics, public policy, media and communications, and biomedical sciences. They all have a sensibility towards Hip Hop and a special affinity for trap music. I have a math degree, so I can understand and relate to their undergraduate experiences at Georgia Tech while attempting to make sense of what’s happening around them culturally. Studying Hip Hop, particularly from the Atlanta perspective, we are able to explore trap as an ideology of self-determination, social justice, and civic engagement. They are the next generation of STEM leaders. My hope is they can take these basic principles and fundamental truths and apply them to their work-life after graduation. That’s the overarching goal, aim and mission of the course. Hip Hop is therefore the metaphor we use to examine the pedagogical implications of the music. However, it is a 40-year-old metaphor. When working with 18, 19, and 20-year-old college students, my position is we need contemporary and innovative ways to work with them. This is where the element of trap comes in.”
Another Georgia school, Armstrong State University in Savannah, is offering its own Hip Hop course called “Outkast and the Rise of the Hip Hop South.” These classes follow previous college courses including “Religion and Hip Hop Culture” at Rice University and 9th Wonder’s lectures at Duke University.