You can download a .PDF file or .doc file of this syllabus.

Hip Hop & Screens:

Cultural Representation and Capitalism

Summer 2015

Monday-Thursday, 10-noon, Anstett Hall #191


Dr. André Sirois aka DJ food stamp aka The Real Dr. dRé™

Office: 263 Knight Library

Office Hours: Monday noon-1PM,at Knight #263) and by appointment

Email: asirois [at] uoregon [dot] edu

Phone: 207-251-2339 (my cell, call ONLY if it is an emergency)

Course Blog

Course Facebook Group


Hip hop is a culture, one made up of at least four primary elements: DJing, MCing, b-boyin’/b-girlin’, and graffiti writing (although graff writing pre-dates hip hop). Hip hop culture is about claiming spaces, asserting identity, youth/race/class/regional empowerment and solidarity, expression using limited resources, social education and justice, and subverting mainstream ideologies and texts. Thus, hip hop culture is political in this sense. While some of us may be active in producing hip hop culture, most of us are consumers of it, with our primary visual contact with it being mediated via screens.

This culture has been represented and transmogrified by the media industries that seek to exploit it in the mass cultural marketplace. In the process, these industries have turned MCing into “rapping,” b-boyin’/b-girlin’ into “breakdancing,” writing into graffiti, and most recently morphed DJing into a parody of DJing, in the name of private profit maximization. By turning elements of hip hop into mass consumable media commodities, the initial power characteristics of the culture have been stripped and watered down by corporations as profits find their way into shareholders’ pockets without being pumped back into the culture itself.

This has come with numerous consequences.

While much of this watering down has happened in the recorded music industry, this process is inextricably linked to the visual representation of hip hop on screens. The purpose of this class is to look at these representations historically and critically, and to better understand their significance and meaning using cultural, historical and political economic analyses.

How we understand and conceptualize screens in this class may be different than in other classes you’ve taken. Not only will we consider screens spaces as a two-dimensional image that is usually paired with recorded music, such as film, television, video, and new forms of digital visual media, but also look at subways trains, buildings, and even the human body as screen media (yes, our bodies are screens!).

In this class we will consider hip hop culture and its representations by grounding these arts and artifacts within socio-economic contexts. For example, we will watch documentaries that depict the b-boy/b-girl subculture (i.e. Style Wars) and then look at how that subculture has been represented in a feature film such as the Step Up franchise, Stomp the Yard or the television program America’s Best Dance Crew. Through such a juxtaposition we will ask questions related to power, meaning and identity.

We will also try and feature in-class interviews with prominent members of hip hop culture, auteur directors, and critics.

Specific texts that will be considered include music videos, television ads, phone and tablet apps, video games, feature films, documentaries, news programming, urban/suburban graffiti art, photography, television programs, concert footage, webisodes, fashion, etc. and any other of the ways in which hip hop has been represented visually. These screen media will be analyzed using historical, formal, narrative, auteur, and ideological perspectives/theories.

The basic assumption of this course is that many of us are consumers of these industrial representations, but few of us are producers of these representations or of hip hop culture. However, as consumers of hip hop on screens, we also help to produce and perpetuate the meanings of these representations and you will be asked to critically engage with this process and yourself.


  • Students will demonstrate knowledge of hip hop culture, its history, and its influence on media and culture.
  • Students will be able to analyze how cultural industries impact hip hop culture and culture broadly, as well as develop skills in industrial analysis.
  • Students will develop and strengthen skills and vocabulary for deconstructing moving images.
  • Students will gain knowledge of and be able to apply cultural and subcultural theories to texts that represent culture/subculture.


For any questions or concerns regarding this class or its assignments, feel free to email me at any time (asirois [at] uoregon [dot] edu). However, it is very important that you write “CINE 399” followed by anything else in the subject line so that I don’t miss the email.


There are no required texts for this course. All required readings and viewings will be found in the READING AND VIEWINGS tab on the course blog.


Please see the VALUABLE RESOURCES tab on the course blog for a full list of books, films, journal articles, etc.


Normally I do not penalize students for missing class as it is your own intellectual and financial loss; and, you are grown. HOWEVER, attendance for this class is mandatory!!! An unexcused absence will cost you .5% of your final grade, and if you have 4 unexcused absences you will lose all your participation grade (10%). You can make up for missed classes by participating in a relevant manner when you are in the class.


Exam = 40%

Presentation = 40%

Participation= 10%

Attendance = 10%

***I will try and have all papers and assignments graded and handed back to you 5-7 days after submission. Grades will be available on BlackBoard, or distributed to you by other means, and are as follows: A=94-99; A-=90-93; B+=87-89; B=84-86; B-=80-83; C+=77-79; C=74-76; C-=70-73; D+=67-69; D=64-66; D-=60-63; F=59 and below. I DO NOT give A+ grades (they don’t exist on a 4.0 scale), nor do I give students a 100% (you can ALWAYS do 1% better).

ASSIGNMENTS (full requirements to come shortly):

Exam: Thursday July 9. This will cover course materials (lectures, readings, screenings, and discussion) from 6/22-7/7 and will be a combination multiple choice, T/F, and short answer questions.

Final Presentation: July 14-16. Each student will do a 5-7 minute analytical presentation on a topic of their choice as it relates to visual representation and hip hop. Think of this as a paper in some sort of multimedia form (video paper, powerpoint, blog, etc.) . A short 1-page pitch is due Thursday July 2.

Participation: You will be graded on this both objectively and subjectively. Objectively in the sense of were you physically in class? Subjectively in the sense of were you mentally there in class? Strong mental presence in class will help mitigate the damages of poor physical presence.

Date Topic Readings/Viewings (to be completed before class) Supplemental Viewings In-Class Screenings Due

Introduction, Review of Syllabus, and Discussion

TBD none

Hip Hop Culture, Subcultures, and the Cultural Industries

*Read: Rose, Tricia. 1994.“All Aboard the Night Train”: Flow, Layering, and Rupture in postindustrial New York.” In Black noise: Rap music and black culture in contemporary America, 21-61. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, DJ Kool Herc Spawns A New Culture.*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, The Blackout of 1977.

The Hip Hop YearsClose to the Edge (PT 1)


Hip Hop and Socio-Economics

*Read: Chang, Jeff. 2005. “Necropolis: The Bronx and the Politics of Abandonment.” In Can’t stop won’t stop: A history of the hip-hop generation, 7-19. New York: St. Martin’s Press.*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, Kool Herc Is Out, Grandmaster Flash Is In*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, The Brothers Disco and The Mighty Mighty Sasquatch 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s (1979, A documentary on the Savage Nomads and Savage Skulls gangs in the 1970s South Bronx, Dir. by Gary Weis)

Flyin’ Cut Sleeves


Hip Hop and Socio-Economics Cont’d

*Read: Chang, Jeff. 2005. “Blood and Fire, with Occasional Music: The Gangs of the Bronx.” In Can’t stop won’t stop: A history of the hip-hop generation, 41-64. New York: St. Martin’s Press.*Listen to this “On Location” about the controversy surrounding the film Fort Apache, The Bronx.*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, The Origin Of “Hip Hop”, And A Tale From Hollis, Queens*Read this awesome making-of The Warriors*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, Early Hip Hop Entrepreneurs*Read this interview with David Patrick Kelly aka “Luther” from The Warriors*Read this interview with David Holden, the editor of The Warriors

The Warriors


Elements of Hip Hop

*Read this book chapter: Thornton, Sarah. 2005. “The Social Logic of Subcultural Capital [1995].” In The Subcultures Reader, 2nd ed., ed. Ken Gelder, 184-192. New York: Routledge.*Read this interview with Charlie Ahearn, director of Wild Style*Read this Oral History of Wild Style

*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, The Art Scene, Basquiat, Fab Five Freddy Meets Charlie Ahearn

*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, Blondie Rapture, Furious 5 vs. Crash Crew

Wild Style


The Graffiti Subculture

*Read this book chapter: Hebdige, Dick. 2005. “Subculture: The Meaning of Style [1979].” In The Subcultures Reader, 2nd ed., ed. Ken Gelder, 130-141. New York: Routledge.*Read this book chapter: Macdonald, Nancy. 2003. “Going Underground: A Journey into the Graffiti Subculture.” In The graffiti subculture: Youth, masculinity and identity in London and New York, 63-93. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.*Read this 4 part interview with Henry Chalfant and Tony Silver about makingStyle Wars: PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, and PART 4 *Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, The “L” Brothers, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5,The Funky 4 Plus 1*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, Kool Moe, Spoonie Gee, and the Treacherous 3 Bomb It

Style Wars


The Graffiti Subculture Cont’d

*Read this book chapter: Castleman, Craig. 2004. “The Politics of Graffiti.” In That’s the joint!: The hip-hop studies reader., eds. Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal, 21-29. New York and London: Routledge.*Read this book excerpt: Wimsatt, William Upski. 2008. “Dear Kozak: The Rule of Graffiti.” In Bomb the suburbs: Graffiti, race, freight hopping and the search for hip-hop’s moral center. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press.*Listen to this short podcast on the graffiti video game, Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure*Read this interview with ADAM BHALA LOUGH, director of Bomb the System*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, Mr. Magic on WHBI*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, The Race To Make The First Rap Records Begins

Gimme the Loot or Bomb the System


Rappers, Rapping and Emceeing

*Read this short book chapter: Blair, M. Elizabeth. 2004. “Commercialization of the Rap Music Youth Subculture.” In That’s the joint!: The hip-hop studies reader., eds. Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal, 497-504. New York and London: Routledge.*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, 10 Years Before Yo! MTV Raps, A Major Crew Breaks Up*Read this comic strip: Hip Hop Family Tree, The Sugarhill Gang

Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme

1-page proposal for final project

B-Boyin’, B-Girlin’, and Breaksploitation

*Read this book chapter: Pabon, Fabel. 2006. “Physical Graffiti: The History of Hip-Hop Dance.” In Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop, ed. Jeff Chang, 18-26. New York: BasicCivitas.*Read this book chapter: Banes, Sally. 2004. “Breaking.” In That’s the joint!: The hip-hop studies reader., eds. Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal, 13-20. New York and London: Routledge. Planet B-Boy

The Freshest Kids


B-Boyin’, B-Girlin’, and Breaksploitation Cont’d

*Hazzard-Donald, Katrina. 2004. “Dance In Hip Hop Culture.” In That’s the joint!: The hip-hop studies reader., eds. Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal, 505-516. New York and London: Routledge.*Read this short NPR article on B-boy/B-girl culture and commercialization from 1984. “Hip Hop Hooray: Breaking into the Big Time” by Mandalit del Barco

Beat Street and scenes from the Breakin’ franchise


Industry, Politricks and Parody

*Read this chapter: Charnas, Dan. 2010. “The Beat Box: Def Jam Fosters a Revolution in Hip-Hop Art and Commerce.” In The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop, 123-171. New York: New American Library.*Listen to this 1-hour podcast: The Story of DEF JAM records – An Oral History*Read this article: Def Jam changed music business, still a power at 25*Read through these: Krush Groove: Where are they now?*Read this comic: Hip Hop Family Tree, Russell Simmons and Kurtis Blow Tour The World*Read this comic: Hip Hop Family Tree, Rick Rubin, and the first gold record

Krush Groove and clips from Fly by Night

07/09/15 Exam (Will cover materials 6/22-7/7) Study Study Study Exam

Industry, Politricks and Parody Cont’d

*Read this journal article: McLeod, Kembrew. 1999. Authenticity within hip-hop and other cultures threatened with assimilation.Journal of Communication 49, no. 3: 134-150.*Read through these 25 Slides: The Big Payback Presents: The 25 Biggest Business Moves in Hip-Hop History by Dan Charnas Tougher than Leather (1985, a film directed by Rick Rubin in “response” the the commercial concessions made years earlier in Krush Groove)

Fear of a Black Hat

07/14/15 Final Project Final Project
07/15/15 Final Project Final Project
07/16/15 Final Project Final Project


1. Please no laptops! If you NEED a laptop for note-taking purposes or special needs, please see me. Otherwise, put the computer down for a minute and enjoy some freedom. To be honest, it’s the sound of key typing that totally distracts and derails me.

2. Please turn off all cell phones, pagers (ahaha), etc. I mean, do I even have to say this?! If you need to be by the phone for emergency purposes, please let me know in advance.

3. Please be on time. Showing up late is a distraction to your peers and to me.

4. Class ends at 11:50…no earlier. Most likely we can end early. Please pack up you gear once class is over and not before.

5. Most importantly, respect everybody! This includes fellow students and me, and obviously you respect yourself by participating and being open to different opinions. This class is discussion-based from the provided materials and NOT a lecture; thus your voices are vital.


Do I really have to say that cheating is bad? Your parents should have taught you that. Well, we live in a digital era where “stealing” other peoples’ ideas and words is easy (and tempting). However, this is only illegal if you take credit for the words/ideas without citing the authors from whom they originate. As much as Google allows students to borrow, steal, and cheat, it also is a GREAT tool for helping teachers to catch those same acts.

Thus (so you know) academic misconduct includes cheating, plagiarizing, fabrication, and deliberately interfering with the work of others. Plagiarizing means representing the thoughts, words, or images crafted by someone else as your own. Misconduct includes tampering with grades, theft of tests, or using other students’ files. Fabrication includes the creation of sources and information that are not real.

Academic dishonesty can result in a failing grade for the assignment and/or the course thus resulting in disciplinary action at the university level, including academic suspension.

If you ever question your actions or writing then cite and/or clarify with me.


Please see me about any physical or learning disabilities so that I may accommodate you.

All original content, curriculum, and this syllabus, are published and licensed under Creative Commons CC BY SA 4.0. Please credit Dr. Andre´ Sirois


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s