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Hip-hop focus of new course at Ohio State School of Music

Ohio State University

The history of hip-hop music and creation of the genre's unique beats are part of a new course at the Ohio State School of Music. The program is one of the first in the country.

"It's the fastest growing genre, the music, everything and so it's just an opportunity to show where a lot of people's lived influences revolves around this culture,” says Assistant Professor Stevie "Dr. View" Johnson.

Hip-hop began in the Bronx borough of New York City about 50 years ago. Johnson, 34, grew up in Longview, Texas, south of Dallas.

“Hip-hop has always been a part of my life,” says Johnson. “My mom was the one who kind of gave me the tools of hip hop. The first hip hop album that she ever gifted me was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which was released in 1998 and was the only hip hop album that won (The Grammy Award for) Album of the Year in 1999.”

In 2019, Johnson earned a PhD in Higher Education and Administration at the University of Oklahoma. His dissertation examined the experiences of Black students at historically white institutions, and he created a hip-hop album with the responses. The work won the Bobby Wright Dissertation of the Year Award from the Association for the Study of Higher Education. It was the first time a hip-hop or non-traditional dissertation received the honor.

Johnson is educating his 12 students about the influences of hip hop music on various parts of U.S. culture.

"Particularly in the South, there's so many resources and things that we're not privy to, so our experiences, our perspectives, our language is very different compared to the Midwest,” says Johnson.

Johnson says his students will focus on how to create hip hop beats. Their mid-term is a rhythm roulette challenge.

"We actually went into a record store, and they found three records that they've never heard, and we're going to utilize those records within our classes to prepare for the midterm where they'll actually present those,” says Johnson. So, they actually show how they create the beats."

Johnson says hip hop has become integrated into the culture of this country and others around the world. He is emphasizing to his students that expressing who they are and where they come from will move and inspire them to create their unique style in hip hop music.

“Haven't had any issue with people not turning in assignments for sure,” says Johnson. “It's just been really great just to see, you know, students excited and engaged in ways that I know they haven't in the past.

Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.