Serious Rhymes. Serious Research.

Many scholars have noted that music and sound have the power to shape people’s orientation to the world. Hip Hop artists have also long argued this point. Many of my students would agree. Sometimes they wish the texts I assign would conform to their aural-oriented worlds.

What I call, Sonic Scholarship, begins here.

Sonic Scholarship mobilizes the conventions of academic practice and conventions of Hip Hop word play to critically analyze, historicize, interpret, and footnote primary and secondary sources, as well as imagine, create, and experiment with voices and perspectives all in order to provide critical commentary about historical and current events in sonic and textual form.

Put another way, Sonic Scholarship fuses the academic and artistic. It uses Hip Hop to interpret and research to explain, on one hand, and Hip Hop to explain and research to interpret, on the other hand. Sonic Scholarship is where academia and Hip Hop artistry meet not only to dialogue, but also to provide an academic and artistic production in and of itself.

Sonic Scholarship is illustrated in the downloadable research below. It is suggested that you read as you listen…or listen as you read.

Abstract for “The [Ferguson] Files: A Sonic Study of Racial Violence in America”

Some people march in the name of justice. Others desire to, but are not able. Yet, both can listen...and read. “The [Ferguson] Files: A Sonic Study of Racial Violence in America” is an exploration of the killings of Black people in America by police and vigilantes from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014 to the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015 that took the lives of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Myra Thompson, and Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. The study combines academic analysis with poetry and rap to produce Sonic Scholarship, musically examining topics surrounding these events. Fusing sonic and textual forms of knowledge production, this study draws on government documents, news reports, and activists’ productions as it presents a story line narrated by several different real historical actors and fictional characters. Topics examined include police brutality and vigilantism against Black people, representations of activists and victims by mass media, the underrepresentation of Black women victims in anti-police brutality campaigns, the military industrial complex and power of the state, white supremacy, and ongoing violence against Blacks’ bodies, citizenship, and humanity. Ultimately, the chief goals of this study are to continue bringing critical attention to violence against Black people and help instruct the public on these issues, contribute to critical writing and a growing soundtrack for anti-police brutality activism (coming from artists, such as J. Cole, Bree Newsome, Janelle Monae, Sounds of Blackness, Sounds of Black Lives Matter, Kendrick Lamar, and Beyoncé), and with music, help keep that activism inspired and moving.

Click below to download the research for “The [Ferguson] Files: A Sonic Study of Racial Violence in America”