You can now study hip-hop at Oxford

You can now study hip-hop at Oxford


norman lebrecht

June 04, 2018

Further to our long-running discussion about diversification in music education, we are intrigued to discover that the University of Oxford (est. 1167) has a core first-year module in Global Hip-Hop in its music course.

For academic justification read here.

Hip-hop is also apparently a module in the music degree at the University of Southampton.



  • Been Here Before says:

    Somebody else posed this question here before – How can we as a society condemn H. Weinstein and his ilk and at the same time promote and study materials that contain misogyny and glorify violence?

    • Anson says:

      Yeah, I didn’t think I should have been made to read Lolita at university, either.

      • Alex Davies says:

        I see the point you are making, but the analogy isn’t quite right. There is absolutely no suggestion that Vladimir Nabokov regards Humbert Humbert as an admirable person or that he condones the character’s actions. Alan Bennett made this very point when his play The History Boys attracted criticism for its depiction of sexual interactions between teachers and boys aged 18-19. Bennett responded that his creating the characters of Mr Hector and Mr Irwin should in no way be taken to imply that he considers them to be laudable or that he condones their behaviour. The creators of much hip hop music, on the other hand, really do appear to wish to promote misogyny and to glorify violence. They are not creating works of art in which misogyny and violence are examined (e.g. Jenůfa, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, or The Marriage of Figaro); rather, they are creating works in which misogyny and violence are seemingly celebrated and encouraged.

    • Holyfield Worthington says:

      I would imagine that this course is more of a sociology class, rather than a study of music theory and analysis. It is a more than valid subject of study in that context.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed, it is perfectly legitimate to research it as a subject of anthropology or sociology, as – for instance – juvenile mysoginist violence is a subject of clinical psychopathy. Explorations of the jungle have a long tradition.

        • Anson says:

          That “jungle” reference is so subtle, I wonder what on earth you’re getting at? Care to elaborate?

          • Alex Davies says:

            I am sure that any unfortunate associations evoked by that word are entirely unintended. I think I have been reading John Borstlap’s comments for long enough to assure you that one thing of which he cannot justly be accused is racism. See, for example, his comment on this item:

          • Anson says:

            Glad to hear it, Alex, and I’ll trust your endorsement. I did not mean to “accuse” of racism, only to raise the question, because the jungle reference in his comment seems to me such a bizarre non sequitur.

          • John Borstlap says:

            The ‘jungle’ referred to is the human territory where all civilizational measures are absent and only the biological survival drive has remained. This can be translated in different ways, for instance aggressive capitalism which can be studied in its expressions in pop music, or dehumanizing state interventions as expressed in ethnic cleansing. Etc. etc. – all important research fields meant to better understand the violent undercurrents of the human being which need to be tamed by understanding and control. And the explorations of the real jungles have revealed where we all come from – which should be a warning. With racism this has nothing to do, and the suggestion that using the word ‘jungle’ may be indicating racism, is in itself racist, I would think.

  • Tom Moore says:

    the problem would be if that were all that one could study, or if one could not study Petrarch as well.

    • Windsor Terrace Gremlin says:

      A somewhat specious argument because the offerings are a zero-sum game. So if this topic is offered, another topic is not. What makes the cut and what does not? I have no problem with the offering as I agree with Duke Ellington, if people like it, it’s good. Whether it is to my taste is irrelevant.

  • Alex Davies says:

    It’s misleading to say that hip hop is a core module on the Oxford music degree. It is compulsory to take a special topic, but hip hop is just one of a number of available special topics.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    What? There’s no module for DubStep? For shame!

  • Andreas B. says:

    the headline is somewhat misleading – as “Hip hop is not a new subject of study in Oxford. Jason Stanyek has taught a course on global hip hop to first-year Music undergraduates since 2012.” (quoted from the provided link)

  • Adrienne says:

    Does Le Cordon Bleu in Paris study the Big Mac?

    • Dr Robert Davidson says:

      The analogy of the big mac is Rossini and J. Strauss, and the shallower end of hip hop. The equivalent of cordon bleu is Kendrick Lamar and Clipping.

      • David R Osborne says:

        Rossini perhaps, but J Strauss? No way. You’re lucky the great Kleiber (C) is not around to hear you say that! Die Fledermaus is a musical masterpiece, some of the most extraordinary ensemble writing in all opera. Not to mention that here was a composer with one of the most wonderful natural gifts for melody of all his great contemporaries, one of whom, Brahms, certainly would not have agreed with your assessment.

  • Alastair Miles says:

    Before Hip hop there was R’n B, Soul and Funk, so for an in-depth analysis of its antecedents I suggest a thorough immersion in James Brown and his Funky Drummers – Clyde Stubblefield and Jabo Starks. Plenty of sociological material there for study, and better music too!

  • Alexander says:

    I doubt whether I would like to have Ph.D. in hip hop, if only Oxford hip hop Ph.D. , so-to-speak Hopsford degree 😉 Hop tempora Hip mores 😉

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      … and the new cry of joy: Hip-Hop-Hurrah!

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Neither would I, but the late Adam Krims did just that, at Harvard, and went on to become a very admired professor of music theory at the U of Nottingham. His death, in 2012, was very respectfully announced at Slipped Disc and prompted lots of very positive comments.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    . . . and what’s wrong with the Bunny Hop! That should be brought up in an Oxford class as well

  • David R Osborne says:

    Well, all I can say is that given what academicism has done for classical music and then (of course later) jazz, this pretty much spells the beginning of the end for Hip-Hop.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    In perspective: here is information about music studies at Oxford.

    The study of any kind of music has its place in an academic setting. Academic music departments are not hotspots of hip hop or any kinds of pseudo intellectual games.

    • David R Osborne says:

      To put that a better way, academic departments ideally do have a role to play in music (and we’re talking our kind here), but it should certainly not be the one they have currently, whereby the art-form is controlled by the academic profession solely in the interests of the academic profession.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        I totally agree about the role, but don’t think it’s all abuse. Not if I look at the recent publications of major university presses, or major music publishers – Cambridge UP, Norton, Laaber, Barenreiter, Henle… There is a lot of good work being done.

        • David R Osborne says:

          That’s what I’m struggling with at the moment, Petros. It just seems that the balance of power needs some serious readjusting, in order to restore the creator/performer/ audience relationship to it’s rightful, pre-eminent position.

          • Petros Linardos says:

            Sorry, I am not sure I understand you correctly. Do you mean that musicologist should channel more of their work towards restore the creator/performer/ audience relationship?

            If that’s what you mean, I believe it boils down primarily to children’s upbringing: environment, education. I am speaking also from my perspective as a parent. This is another discussion, one where musicology can certainly play a supplemental role, but by no means a primary one.

  • David R Osborne says:

    Well yes and no, the role of academia in music today, extends way farther than just musicology. To the point that the academic world, through the way it teaches the unteachable i.e. composition, exercises almost complete control over the creative direction of the art-form itself.

    But I love what you say about childhood education, which just happens to be my area at the moment. We need to be introducing children to a world of vast possibilities, not limited ones as is presently the case. Definitely there is a role for musicologists there.

  • Kenneth Wall says:

    Like it or not, hip hop is most likely the most popular music today in the world.

    • John Borstlap says:

      If this is so, all the worse for the world.

      • David R Osborne says:

        Well given that the classical music form has spent the last 70 odd years doing it’s level best to make itself as unpopular as possible, we can hardly complain can we?