As I write this review, I'm listening to a song by Eric B. & Rakim. Maybe Tupac or Biggie will come up next on shuffle. Hopefully they do, because these three STAPLES of hip-hop discourse were totally absent in this class. Instead, you'll be treated to the likes of Jamez, God-des & She, and the Alter Egos. You've heard of them too, right?
I say that first part tongue-in-cheek, because there is definitely the presence of well known artists in the class. Eminem, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Wu-Tang Clan all appear, and do so quite frequently. But 'frequent' must be dealt with as a relative term referring to when we actually DID listen to music. Because for a class called "Listening to Hip-Hop," there wasn't a whole lot of that going on.
Each lecture was based on a reading or two, and sometimes a documentary. We would discuss the readings for essentially the whole class, making the whole 'listening' aspect in the background or non-existent. When we actually did a critical listening in-class (maybe once or twice), it was interesting, fresh, and actually enjoyable.
I want to make sure that my review doesn't portray Prof. Hisama in a negative light, though. She is a very nice woman who just hasn't created - in my view - an overwhelmingly interesting syllabus. It's diverse, for sure, but it tends to skip over sections that one would think deserve more attention (ex. West Coast Rap got 1 or 2 classes, and never mentioned Tupac, N.W.A., etc.). Sections that seemed to get an incredible amount of attention were, I feel, lost on the class a little bit: Japanese/World Hip-Hop, Islamophobia in hip-hop, and two weeks actually devoted to music terminology and notation (why?).
The tone of my review is overly negative, but I would still recommend the class. The negativity stems from my disappointment and (probably) too high of expectations. In the end, it's still a class that talks about hip-hop - that's better than 99% of the other classes you'll have as an option to fill an elective. I am also optimistic that Hisama is going to continually adjust and improve the course - we were asked for input and constructive criticisms pretty frequently as to how we might approach a topic or improve something.
Oh, yea, the TA? 10/10. In many ways was she a 10.