The Poetics and Politics of Hip-Hop Cultures

Alain-Philippe Durand, Director of the School of International Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Director of the School of International Languages, Literatures and Cultures (SILLC), Dr. Alain-Philippe Durand produced an international symposium featuring: lectures by prominent hip-hop scholars, a “Hip-Hop Unplugged” Poetry slam performances at UA Poetry Center, along with dance, DJing and rapping performances at UA Student Union Ballroom. His collaborators included Alex Nava, an associate professor of classics; John Melillo, assistant professor in English; Tani Sanchez, Africana studies adjunct lecturer; and Praise Zenenga, associate professor of Africana studies.

The project also received funding from College of Humanities, Africana Studies Program, English, French and Italian, Gender and Women’s Studies, Institute for LGBT Studies, and the School of International Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, which supported and resulted in the following events, projects, and publications:

29 November 2012: Honors College Students
Honors College students featured the work of Hip-Hop Symposium presenters. These student speakers were enrolled in Prof. Alain-Philippe Durand's class FREN/AFAS 373 US & Francophone Hip-Hop Cultures in the fall 2012.

9 January 2013: Show & Tell @ Playground
I Rap Therefore I Am: Why France is the World’s Second-Largest Hip-Hop Market” presented by Prof. Alain-Philippe Durand

7-8 February 2013: International Symposium – The Poetics and Politics of Hip-Hop Cultures
featuring the following events, speakers, and performers:

Public lectures at the Kiva Room of Student Union

  • Alain Milon, University of Paris Ouest: “Illegal Mural Expressions in France”

  • Marcyliena Morgan, Harvard University: “The Hip-Hop Critic in Political Culture”

  • Halifu Osumare, University of California-Davis: “The Poetics and Politics of Ghanaian Hiplife: Hip-Hop in West Africa”

  • Susan Somers-Willett, Montclair State University: “’Poetry to Oversee the Dance Floor and the Streets’: Saul Williams and the Hybrid Lyric”

  • Seth Whidden, Villanova University: “Confrontation and Métissage in French Rap’s Latest Wave: Binary Audio Misfits, Oxmo Puccino, and Zone Libre”

7 February 2013: “Hip-Hop Unplugged” Performances at the Poetry Center

The university-wide audience, a literally overflowing crowd, enjoyed a showcase that expressed the sheer range and power of Hip Hop culture and its roots in the history of poetry. Each of the six performers brought something entirely different to the evening, and yet every one of them talked about the influence of Hip Hop cultures on their work, even in atypical ways.

  • Darian Gorman, a local leader in slam poetry and a champion performer, began the night with an eclectic performance that ranged from topical poems on the Newtown shooting to a “cover” of Bob Dylan.
  • Matthew Conley, a local organizer of poetry slams and a respected performance poet and writer, continued the evening with a style closer to everyday speech and comedic performance though he ended his set with an homage to the Hip Hop artists De La Soul.
  • Teré Fowler-Chapman performed alongside a beat-boxing Navajo flutist, Tigel Pinto. Their work, masterful in its sonic ingenuity and emotional precision, truly showed the hybridity of Hip Hop culture.
  • The local rapper Mossferatu performed next, and his set – noted for its comical stage presence and friendly rhymes – ended with an emphasis upon a classic aspect of Hip Hop poetics: improvisation.
  • The Original Saku, a new arrival to Tucson, as both rapper and singer, constantly played at the limit between speech and song. His multi-form work perfectly fits contemporary Hip Hop culture: it is not merely a rapper’s game but an expressive combination of word, melody and rhythm.
  • The evening ended with Tucker Booth, a consummate performer who resides in Los Angeles, is a multiple battle champion, and amazing improviser. Booth not only discussed his views on Hip Hop, violence, and competition – the life-blood of Hip Hop from “playing the dozens” to contemporary “battles” – but he also improvised with audience-chosen words.

8 February 2013: Dance, DJ, and Producer Performances at the Student Union Ballroom

Following a two-day series of intense intellectual presentation discussions that examined and debated pertinent issues hip-hop cultures in various local and international contexts from a multidisciplinary perspective, the Poetics and Politics of Hip-Hop Cultures Symposium culminated with an evening of performance in Hip-hop dancing and DJing mixed with lecture demonstrations.

  • Cochise Genet kicked off the evening with a lecture/demonstration on the use of multimedia in hip-hop beat-making.
  • Anton Smith, founder and artistic director of The Human Project (Southern Arizona's first and oldest professional hip-hop and urban dance company), offered a lecture and demonstration. The charismatic master hip-hop dancer, choreographer and instructor introduced his performance with a brief chronicle of hip-hop dance history, outlining the different regional variations, styles and techniques such as krumping, popping, locking, b-boying and b-girling and break dancing.
  • Presentation, workshop, and live performance by International DJ Association (IDA) World Champion DJ Odilon who interspersed his performance with some scratching technique demonstrations.

Media coverage:

02.27.13: 1st Hip-Hop Symposium Jumpstarts Academic Dialogue Arizona Public Media

02.21.13: University of Arizona offers Hip-Hop minor DePaul University

02.05.13: Symposium to diminish Hip-Hop stereotypes, honor UA's new program Arizona Daily Wildcat

02.01.13: UA's new hip-hop minor draws curiosity, criticism Arizona Daily Star

01.31.13: Hip-Hop, a Global Social Movement UA News

01.27.13: Aux-Etats-Unis, un Français fait entrer le hip-hop à l’université Les Inrockupitbles

01.24.13: Move Over, Astronomy Tucson Weekly

01.18.13: Conan, It’s More Like “Intro to Benjamins” UA News

01.18.13: Latin Role In Hip Hop Gets Academic Treatment Fox News Latino

01.18.13: University of Arizona to Offer a Minor Degree Concentration in Hip-Hop The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 

01.18.13: University in the U.S. offers Hip-Hop minor San Diego Red

01.17.13: Minor in Hop Hop at University of Arizona News Fix

01.16.13: University Offers a Minor in Hip-Hop GeoBeats News

01.15.13: University Of Arizona First To Offer Hip-Hop As A Minor Amp 98.7 FM

01.14.13: University of Arizona First to Offer Hip-hop as a Minor Rap Dose

01.13.13: University of Arizona is first to offer minor in hip-hop Los Angeles Times

01.08.13: University of Arizona offers minor in hip-hop The Chicago Tribune

01.08.13: Born to be Hip-Hop UA News

01.08.13: Stephen Colbert Riffs on Hip-Hop Minor Twitter

01.07.13: U. of Arizona Offers Minor Focusing On Hip-Hop Huffington Post

01.07.13: The University of Arizona introduces 1st ever hip-hop minor The Grio

01.04.13: University of Arizona Introduces First Ever Hip-Hop Minor All Hip-Hop

01.04.13: University of Arizona introduces first hip-hop minor KTAR

Last updated on March 15, 2017.