Hip-Hop: Past, Present, and Future

Erik Wade, History Department, Phillips Exeter Academy

This week I had the great pleasure and honor of sitting on a panel at Phillips Exeter about the past, present, and future of Hip-Hop. Erik Wade moderated the discussion; we were joined by Stephany Rose and John Daves. Beautiful audience, great conversation.

A serious question is whether Hip-Hop, now four decades old, is dead. We discussed, at length, the undeniable signs of decline and causes for concern, but we kept coming back to our optimism, our love, for an art form that has shown so clearly — in the words of Dr. Rose — that “the boundaries are pliable.”

An excerpt from my remarks:

“When I think of the power and the gift of Hip-Hop, I think of an integrative impulse and expression that fuses creative dance, music, poetry, and the visual arts. At their best, the fusions yield compressed expressions of wisdom and truth: positive truths about our passion and human dignity; and negative truths about the brutalizing and death-dealing forces of the world….

“I think of Hip-Hop as an enduring posture, style, idiom, aesthetic, politics, and spirituality. As an art form and a form of consciousness, it encompasses, at its best, a desire for revolution, resistance, strength, balance, joy, and flow.”

Erik Wade, Ph.D., teaches history at Phillips Exeter and is currently teaching a senior seminar on Hip-Hop, which he designed. Stephany Rose, Ph.D., was Erik’s colleague in graduate school at Purdue. John Daves, Ph.D., teaches English at Phillips Exeter. I come at this material as a fan of Hip-Hop, one of the first students to take a course on Hip-Hop at the University of Virginia (in the late 1990s), and someone who teaches about religion, race, and popular culture. In their courses both Wade and Rose use, among other texts and resources, an anthology called That’s the Joint! The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, 2nd edition, edited by Murray Forman and Mark Anthony Neal.

About Tom Simpson

Tom Simpson teaches religion, ethics, philosophy, and human rights at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, NH. He is the author of *American Universities and the Birth of Modern Mormonism, 1867-1940* (University of North Carolina Press, 2016) and nonfiction essays about Bosnia for the Canadian literary magazine *Numero Cinq*. Born in 1975 in Olean, NY, he earned the Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Virginia, where he specialized in American religious history. He writes, teaches, and lectures about religion in America, popular culture, Mormonism, and Bosnia. He lives in Exeter with his partner, Alexis Simpson, and their two children.
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