Davidson College To Host Series of Public Lectures on Hip Hop

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Growing up in Connecticut and New York, Shanté Paradigm Smalls took lessons in classical singing. But her heart tugged her toward a different beat. She followed her passion through twists and turns until she settled firmly into the emerging music and culture of hip hop. She formed a hip hop performing group, published two albums and toured for several years. She also produced a large hip hop festival in New York City for four years.

The more she immersed herself in the hip hop culture, the more her interests were expressed in scholarship. She graduated from Smith College, earned a master’s degree at NYU, and then a Ph.D. in Performance Studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her dissertation, titled Heretics of Hip Hop: Performing Gender, Race, and Sexuality in New York City, explored the evolving complexity of the “hip hop body” in NYC.

Smalls noteworthy literary and performance studies approach to this aspect of popular culture earned her an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship to spend two years as a Visiting Assistant Professor in Davidson College’s English Department. In that capacity she is producing a “Hip Hop Artist-Scholar Guest Series” this fall for the college community.
The series features eight hip hop scholars and performers in five presentations from September through November. The presentations are in conjunction with her fall semester class in “Hip Hop, Gender, and Sexuality,” but all presentations are open to the public.

The series begins Tuesday, September 18, with a talk on “The Art of the DJ,” and continues until a final event on November 29. Guests will cover all the major areas of hip hop culture — DJ, graffiti, beat box, dance and rap/emceeing. There is no charge to attend any of the events, and the complete schedule is listed below. Smalls has personal relationships with most of the speakers through her long involvement with hip hop.

Smalls acknowledged that some people may not consider hip hop worthy of study, but noted that doubters almost always dismiss emerging forms of artistic expression. “The study of hip hop is an academic discipline, and students can learn to engage it and write multidimensional critiques just as they can with more established arts like dance or theatre,” she said. “They can learn to look at a rap video from a pedagogical standpoint, with a critical eye, to understand its meaning and context. There are major conferences on hip hop at top American universities now. Hip hop is here to stay, and scholars are paying attention.”

HIP HOP ARTIST-SCHOLARS GUEST SERIES SCHEDULE

Tuesday, September 18, 2012
9:40 & 11 a.m. in the Alvarez College Union Smith 900 Room
The Art of the DJ: Whole Wheat
Byan Proffitt is a high school teacher, organizer, DJ, and a founding member and lead organizer for People’s Durham, an organization committed to fighting for the political and economic power of working class people of color in Durham. His areas of interest are anti-war, ending rape culture and misogyny, African American studies, and working with white privilege. His artistic alter-ego, DJ Whole Wheat, has been rocking the house party/club scene for half a decade.

Thursday, October 4, 2012
9:40 a.m in Alvarez College Union Smith 900 Room
Imani Kai Johnson will discuss “Bad-Ass B-Girls and the Aesthetics of Gender Performance in Global Hip Hop Culture.” Johnson writes on the cultural and performance dimensions of hip hop dance as a global phenomenon through cyphers (dance circles), and the invisible forces of the collaborative ritual. A Ford Dissertation Fellow, she just completed a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at NYU’s Performance Studies Department. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies & Ethnicity from USC and is a Visiting Professor in Critical Dance Studies at UC Riverside.

Thursday, October 4, 2012
7 p.m. in Semans Lecture Hall of the Belk Visual Arts Center
Imani Kai Johnson will discuss “Bad-Ass B-Girls and the Aesthetics of Gender Performance in Global Hip Hop Culture” (See above)

Thursday, October 18, 2012
9:40 a.m. in the Alvarez College Union Smith 900 Room
Graffiti: Jessica N. Pabón and ABBY1
Abby Andrews is a visual artist whose roots are in the early 1980s New York graffiti art. She leveraged her street art portfolio to earn acceptance to Parsons School of Design. As a graphic designer for more than two decades, her packaging and promotion design have been seen throughout music, food, gaming, and dance industries. Returning to her roots, Abby is currently refining her style and exploring new mediums, techniques, and methods of expression within the realm of legal graffiti art.
Jessica N. Pabón is Director of US Relations for the Brazilian urban arts grassroots collective, Rede Nami, a network that utilizes aesthetics as a tool for the sociopolitical empowerment of women and girls. Her dissertation, The ‘Art of Getting Ovaries’: Female Graffiti Artists and the Politics of Presence in Graffiti Subculture, focuses on strategies of resistance to navigate the material effects of being marked “woman” in a male-dominated subculture. An AAUW American Dissertation Fellow, she is currently completing her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at NYU.

Thursday, October 18, 2012
11 a.m. in the Alvarez College Union Smith 900 Room
Jessica N. Pabón on Graffiti
(See above)

Thursday, November 8, 2012
11 a.m. in the Alvarez College Union Smith 900 Room
Human Beatbox: Kid Lucky and Kaila
Kaila & The Kid is a newly-formed mixed vocal artists’ duo that combines beatboxing, rapping, spoken word, scatting, and vocal sound effects into a powerful display of vocal abilities. Kid Lucky is the founder and curator of the American Human Beatbox Festival in New York City.

Thursday, November 29, 2012
9:40 a.m. in the Alvarez College Union Smith 900 Room
The Art of the Emcee: Mz Jonz and FITT
Lyricist Mz Jonz, aka Shayvonna, is a Detroit-born, true-to-the-heart Capricorn who insists on giving listeners more than they’re used to hearing. “I want people to know hip-hop hasn’t left, it’s just been hiding for a while waiting for me to get it right!” Mz Jonz has performed a high-energy show all over the country to promote her current album, Here on My Own (H.O.M.O)
F.I.T.T. (Finding Individuality Takes Time) has rocked the music scene with her debut album Embrace Versatility. Known mostly as a producer, her witty lyricism, mesmerizing tone, and ecliptic tracks are gaining broad attention. Mz Jonz and F.I.T.T. are longtime friends and creative collaborators.
For additional information about the Hip Hop Guest Artist-Scholar Series, contact Shanté Paradigm Smalls at shsmalls@davidson.edu or 704-894-2504.

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