Most often, history is something we just read about. If we are lucky, drawn, filmed or still images accompany those texts and give them some life.
There is no substitute though for hearing stories from those who actually lived them and that is exactly what the most recent students of California State University Northridge have been getting in the Anthropology department.
The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences CIPHER (Center for the Interdisciplinary Pursuit of Hip-Hop Evolution & Research) program were presented a class from January to May that treated students to this phenomenon during its inaugural semester.
Hip-Hop journalist, radio personality, show producer and AllHipHop alumni, Skyy Hook, in her new role as visiting scholar, held her students in rapt attention as she introduced a roster of hip-hop legends, historians and influencers as her class guests over the course of the semester.
Each speaker detailed their knowledge of Hip-Hop’s history and their own contributions in this one-of-a-kind program created by Dr. Searcy for the purpose of helping students explore a culture that is not solely defined by music.
Through these shared experiences, CIPHER students were able to bridge the generational gap between hip-hop’s origins and the world-dominating force it has become. Skyy Hook’s guests ran the gamut from legendary rappers and producers, to radio show producers and journalists; each of whom has made a sizeable contribution to the creation and documentation of the culture of Hip-Hop.
Big Daddy Kane, Pete Rock, Naughty By Nature, Kid from Kid ‘n Play, Kwamè, Special Ed, KXNG Crooked, Sway and King Tech, Rich Nice, Jerry Barrow, Alvin Blanco, Dart Adams, Mr. Mec, DJ Eclipse, Jeff Robinson, Ron Mills, Kelly Jackson, Mr Len and Sean Williams are just some of the incredible people that stepped up to enlighten this first crop of hip-hop anthropology scholars.
“I really wanted to show our younger generations that Hip-Hop of all eras is important,” Skyy Hook, who designed the class explains. “There were some who felt teaching this was a lost cause but my students were absolutely magnificent this semester. The class themselves proved the naysayers wrong. They allowed themselves to approach the topic with an open mind, a willing heart and a desire for knowledge, which is really all I asked of them.
“I simply wanted them to see the people who made the culture of Hip-Hop possible and to understand that without their contributions Hip-Hop couldn’t still exist. I’m so grateful to Dr. Searcy and Dr. Sheld for allowing me the time and space to do it and to Caleb, Abagail and Takiya for helping me look as if it were effortless. I promise you that it was ummm not! (Laughter)”
“We see Hip-Hop classes in various departments but not in Anthropology,” Dean Dr. Yan Searcy, creator of the CIPHER program shares. “It is the perfect placement as the course examines the culture of Hip-Hop and not just the music. The guests who came to the class were the architects of modern Hip-Hop. I am certain that no other university classroom can boast the same occurring in one semester or even a decade for that matter.”
Skyy Hook was the ideal candidate to spearhead CSUN’s new CIPHER program for Dr. Searcy and bring his vision to life.
Her many years of Hip-Hop journalism for some of the most recognized media brands and experience as a co-host on “The World Famous Wake Up Show” on Shade 45/SiriusXM with King Tech, Sway and DJ Revolution combined with her indomitable passion for the culture of Hip-Hop ensured that the students would receive a thorough understanding of how an urban street music genre grew into a global cultural influence that touches everything from fashion to politics.
“I thank Skyy for creating a vision for the class and then ultimately bridging the gaps between the Hip-Hop culture, communities, generations, and higher education.” said Dean Searcy. “The class fulfills the ultimate goal of CIPHER to provide critical analysis and research of the culture, in order to help uplift Hip-Hop. The class was so popular that colleagues from universities across the nation sat in.”
According to Skyy Hook, “The students created a virtual time capsule to demonstrate what they learned over the course of the semester. It exceeded my wildest dreams for it! Now everyone in future generations at CSUN will be able to see their willingness to absorb awesomeness and then to exude brilliance and I could not be happier! That’s what my students are. Brilliant.”