The University of Cambridge was the (somewhat unlikely) setting for the UK’s first major academic conference on hip hop, hosted by Wolfson and St John’s Colleges (23rd – 25th June). Adopting the title ‘It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at” (a line from Eric B. and Rakim’s seminal track ‘In the Ghetto’), the conference brought together scholars from across the UK, USA, and around the world, and opened up debates on the place of hip hop within the academy. Keynote addresses were given by prominent hip hop scholars Murray Forman (Northeastern University) and Tricia Rose (Brown University), who spoke respectively about issues of age and generation in relation to hip hop, and the state of contemporary hip hop scholarship.
The conference also featured papers from staff and students from the Department of Music at City University London. Dr Laudan Nooshin discussed the ways in which Iranian rappers imagine and represent the city of Tehran. She provided examples through the videos of Iranian rappers, and engaged in dialogue with Reveal, a London-based Iranian rapper who was chairing the session. PhD student Miranda Crowdus presented her work as part of the same panel, and her paper considered the negotiation of spaces and identities in southern Tel Aviv, through contrasting examples of local hip hop. Earlier in the day, fellow PhD student Stephen Wilford presented a paper on Franco-Algerian hip hop, examining the ways in which musicians and artists have employed hip hop to engage with socio-political issues, and to construct a triangulated relationship between France, Algeria and the USA.
The conference included performances and panels involving a range of hip hop practitioners, and concluded with a session on the relationship of hip hop to contemporary education, within both schools and universities.
Stephen Wilford, PhD Student