Hip-hop as a new universal language

Deidre DSSENSE Smith has found that, like music itself, hip-hop is becoming a universal language.

Deidre DSSENSE Smith

“People from all walks of life need and want to be understood. Even if you don’t understand or understand a particular language, we all understand a rhythm in a speech pattern or a song,” said the Detroit singer-songwriter, emcee and first faculty member. from the University of Michigan.

Through her music performance course “Ideas With a Beat: Hip-hop Songwriting,” the Kresge Fellow of Live Performance Art aims to create a safe space for anyone who wants to expand their artistic palette or is “just curious” about the medium.

According to Smith, practicing creative writing across the genre of hip-hop and the discipline of rap in coursework is unseen and unparalleled at this college level, especially in the Midwest. But it is vital as an “art form rooted in linguistics.” There is power in words and in how you can manipulate words to evoke a certain emotion and understanding.

The key principles of hip-hop are love, peace, unity and fun. And from these principles, a foundation of community is built, one in which you contribute what you can to the greater and more beautiful all.

“I hope to add to these traditional components and have my participants develop their own ethics and morals that flow from these principles,” she said. “I don’t think the foundations of hip-hop are meant to create parameters or keep you locked in, but they are the roots of what can push you to branch out and develop a better understanding of yourself and the world. that surrounds you.

“Whether you become a rose garden, an evergreen or an orange tree, whatever beautiful thing springs from it, the roots are those elements of hip-hop.”

Deidre DSSENSE Smith

Through the application of these elements to their daily lives, students are encouraged to take the lessons learned in the classroom home to their own communities, thereby contributing to global society.

One element of Smith’s course that demonstrates this idea is his “inclusion figure,” which emphasizes the importance of being present and offering your contributions, whether large or small, to a continuum. of energy. Whether you contribute an entire verse or just a helping hand, you change that number the same way we impact our global society through our individual actions. Inclusive encryption creates a shared, unified experience representing everyone involved.

There will be writing prompts provided each week, and the course will conclude with a live performance of an original piece by each student.

“We have to be confident enough to speak, no matter how shaky your voice, step up to the mic and tell us who you are through song,” Smith said.

Creating access to this academically underrepresented form of artistic expression is part of UM’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in course offerings.

“Ideas With A Beat: Hip-hop Songwriting” (MUSPERF 200) is open to all majors.