Hip-hop studies with professor Joycelyn Wilson

Wilson teaches LMC 3306: Science, Race and Technology which examines hip-hop studies and how innovation and creativity is combined to produce music. // Photo courtesy of Allison Carter via Georgia Tech

Hip-hop is arguably one of the most significant forms of media present, but is it more than a type of media?

Can it explain design decisions, politically significant events and a shift in societal values?

According to Ivan Allen assistant professor, Dr. Joycelyn Wilson, hip-hop provides a framework to do all of the above analysis and more.

Explaining hip-hop is pedagogy in practice at its core. On Mar. 2, Wilson, an Emmy-nominated docufilm producer, presented as part of the Cultivating Curiosity series held by Tech’s Library.

“To ask about the field’s relationship to the Institute is to also consider his relationship to Ivan Allen college and therefore to the school of Language, Media and Communication,” Wilson said, referring to the question of why hip-hop studies exists in a technology school.

The reason why it exists is similar to the reason why the Ivan Allen college exists.

With the goal of inspiring connections between social sciences and STEM, the college is focused on broadening perspectives and inspiring innovation.

“As the field [hip-hop] continues to intersect with digital media, which currently impacts multiple disciplines and industries outside of areas in educational research, it is key to focus on hip-hop’s two pillars: teaching and learning,” Wilson said.

“Schooling is baked into the practice. Innovation is baked into the performance.”

The lecture drew an interesting connection was drawn between the fundamentals of hip-hop and how it has produced its very own design strategy that is universally applicable.

“Hip-hop’s obsession with innovation and ability to map itself literally onto anything and change it, I believe those are the two things that make hip-hop what it actually is,” Wilson said.

As a student, knowledge in design processes develops an art for acquiring, constructing and remixing information. Much like the turntable, utilization of a variety of design ideologies provides for a myriad of angles used to approach a solution.

Since hip-hop entered metro-Atlanta in the late 1980s, it has been a large part of the music scene. Much of hip-hop was targeted at speaking out at injustice and the rise of awareness of challenges Black communities face.

“It [hip-hop] is impacting industries, from political leadership to I mean, it just impacted an entire election along with Black women and Black culture,” Wilson said. “The currency of Black culture impacted the outcome of a Senate race and a presidential election. So I don’t think that hip hop is going anywhere.”

The connections between hip-hop and politics can still be seen today.

Though they are critical of capitalism, hip-hop still benefits from capitalism.

As such, endorsements like Lil Wayne’s of Donald Trump came to be.

Hip-hop and the adjoined process are arguably timeless.

“I mean, hip hop is gonna continue to cycle and recycle itself, amongst new generations that are exposed to it,” Wilson said.

Developing with each generation, shifting to and causing shifts in social values, hip-hop provides a podium for those who choose to use their voice and provides a lens for others to examine the truths of society.

Furthermore, it can unite a community.

Hip-hop and R&B are responsible for 25% of the music consumed.

It has helped draw attention to issues in large cities or unite citizens against racial injustice.

Wilson presented the community hip-hop has provided for her.

“Take the USG,” Wilson said. “As an example, I have colleagues at UGA, Kennesaw State, Georgia State and Tech, because all of them at least have one faculty member on campus.”

Noticing hip-hop studies during registration might be a surprise to many attending Tech, but that is a good thing.

Through interesting classes and lectures like this, ones that span discipline and topic, Ivan Allen chooses to redefine what it means to receive a social education.

With the assistance of Dr. Wilson, a class on design, structure, society and politics has been offered through the form of the ever-popular hip-hop: LMC 3306: Science, Race and Technology.

If these topics are interesting, make sure to sign up for the class next time registration rolls around.