Celebration of Hip Hop

Hip-Hop Enters The Building At Ohio State University

Curious about hip-hop? Well, Ohio State University is offering hip-hop as a course.

According to Ohio State University, two assistant professors will join the university’s School of Music this semester. Jason Rawls and Stevie “Dr. View” Johnson are heading up the school’s hip-hop studies program. Both positions are in conjunction with Ohio State University’s Department of African American and African Studies.

“It’s a huge deal. It means the world,” Rawls said. “I grew up going to Ohio State games, so to actually be employed here now, wow.”

Rawls, known in the hip-hop community as “J Rawls,” has worked with hip-hop artists such as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, the Beastie Boys, and Aloe Blacc as a music producer. He says that part of his role as a music producer was “digging in the crates.” This is one of the things he intends to teach in his class. For those who may not know what this means, vinyl records were stored in milk crates in the beginning stages of hip-hop, so that’s what producers do to find records with samples they can use in their production.

“I’m digging. I become an archivist,” he said. “I’m learning about all kinds of different things – soul, rock, country, jazz, calypso, reggae. I’m learning about different cultures. I’m learning about different time periods.”

His first class is called “Art and Politics in Hip-Hop.” Rawls has a doctorate in education from Ohio University and was a teacher for 15 years in the Columbus City School system.

Meanwhile, Johnson completed his doctorate in 2019. He had a dissertation exploring anti-Blackness at historically white institutions and used that as the foundation for a hip-hop album. The album won the Bobby Wright Dissertation of the Year Award for the Association for the Study of Higher Education. This was the first time that an award was given for recognizing hip-hop.

He was recently the Nasir “Nas” Jones Hip-Hop Fellow at Harvard University. The fellows are picked for their excellent scholarship and creativity within the confines of hip-hop.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that Nas didn’t graduate from high school,” Johnson expressed.

“People ask if hip-hop is scholarly. Is it academic? And then [an institution like Harvard] uses the name of someone who never finished high school.”

The classes that Johnson will teach will focus on the technical side of hip-hop production, such as beat-making, DJing, and product design.

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