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Mary Kate Barley-Jenkins's Blog


Sometimes the most intriguing ideas for Festival programs come from our partners.

Last winter, an email arrived from the Seminary Co-op Bookstore with a suggestion for an event featuring the rap artist Common and Professor Adam Bradley, the co-editor of The Anthology of Rap. Published by Yale University Press in October of 2010, The Anthology of Rap is the first book to bring together the greatest rap lyrics of all time, giving them the respect they deserve as poetry.  In the afterword to the book, Common writes, “What you hold in your hands is more than a book. This is a culture. This is a testament to the fact that rap is a tradition told in many voices. We have created a living language through rap... For anyone with the curiosity to see beyond the stereotype, this book offers a view of rap in full, from the root to the fruit.”


A rap artist at the CHF, you say? Believe it or not, it won’t be the first time we’ve hosted a rap musician. Chuck D, who pioneered the development and popularization of rap through his work with Public Enemy, graced our stages in 2004 to talk about the inequity of access in communications technology.

Music has been a big part of our planning for the tech•knowledgē festival; so far our music programming touches the 20th century, with a program about amplification and singing styles, and the 17th century, with a program on the viola d’amore—a 14-stringed hybrid of the violin and viola da gamba. From here we find ourselves at rap.  With its beginnings in the sound system mixing of the 1970s to its cultural dominance via hip hop culture in the last three decades, rap music evolved from a specific technology and was deeply influenced by the communities in which it was first embraced.

Who better to explore this culture at the CHF than Common? Born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. in Chicago, Common is a gifted lyricist who approaches his work from a positive angle, despite what you may have heard regarding his recent invitation to appear at a White House poetry event. The author of three books, The MIRROR and ME, I Like You But I Love Me, and M.E. (Mixed Emotions), and an upcoming autobiography One Day It’ll All Make Sense, Common is a distinctive voice in a genre that has exploded in a relatively short amount of time. He is the recipient of a Grammy Award, is a successful actor (American Gangster, Date Night), and has started a foundation called Common Ground, an organization dedicated to the empowerment and development of urban youth in the United States.

Many of his lyrics express this themeFrom Be (Intro): “I look into my daughter’s eyes, and realize that I’m gonna learn through her/The Messiah, might even return through her/If I'm gonna do it, I gotta change the world through her.”

Talking with Adam Bradley, an associate professor of literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Common will touch on these and other influences and the technological milestones that marked rap’s rapid rise.

The Anthology Of Rap Yale University Press, 2010.

Edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois; Foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; Afterwords by Chuck D and Common


Common: History of Hip Hop

UIC Forum - Main Hall AB: Nov. 5, 6:00 PM

Tags: Common, rap, hip-hop, Adam Bradley, The Anthology of Rap, poetry, technology, audio

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