Student News

Hiphop Research: Promoting Cultural Competency at Deerfield, Boston, and Online

Eugene Jo – July 17, 2018

This summer, I received a CSGC Grant for housing fees while I work as a Research Assistant at the Hiphop Archive & Research Institute (HARI). I will work here for six weeks.

A part of Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, HARI’s website writes, “[HARI] ha[s] been committed to supporting and establishing a new type of research and scholarship devoted to the knowledge, art, culture, materials, organizations, movements and institutions of Hiphop… HARI serves to organize and develop collections, initiate and participate in research activities, sponsor events and acquire material culture associated with Hiphop in the U.S. and throughout the world.”

As a Research Assistant, I help HARI curate and organize canons of hip hop albums. I collect and analyze recordings, interviews, essays, reviews, academic papers and publications, and more multimedia discussing this music. Another central mission of HARI is to understand works of art in a historical context, which entails thorough research of the events that influenced the political, economic, and social landscapes of the years in which key albums were released.

In particular, I was assigned to the year 2001, when I was born! Research assistants gather newspaper and magazine articles, TV broadcasts, movie and album reviews, papers from academic journals, and more resources to enhance the public’s understanding of the cultural context of landmark hiphop albums.

My work has been incredibly enriching thus far. HARI emphasizes the importance of understanding both the cultural and aesthetic merits of great hiphop works– it is impossible to ignore either. Hiphop has served since its inception as a vehicle for frank but necessary and truthful narratives about the experience of African Americans. At the same time, it is also a fascinating art form; “Rap” literally means “Rhythm and Poetry.” We investigate the clever wordplay, astonishingly complex rhyme schemes, punchlines, humor and irony, and how rappers choose to rap their words in relation to the beat (flow).

Not only does this work further my own knowledge, but through our work on the HARI website (hiphoparchive.org), anyone who visits the website can gain knowledge on this fascinating and incredibly important topic that enriches both American popular culture and social activists at all levels, including the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Many students at Deerfield are already immersed or interested in hiphop culture and rap music. Genuine understanding and appreciation for hiphop culture can be incredibly valuable for forging deep relationships in our community; after all, our mission statement describes Deerfield as a “vibrant, ethical community that embraces diversity.” My goal is to continue hosting various workshops about cultural competency and inclusion at Deerfield using my experience working at HARI. I also hope to communicate what I learned with the CSGC and Office of Inclusion to expand ways to promote inclusion and genuine appreciation of cultures that are not our own.