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October 24, 2002 Hiphopping 101



Diegal Léger

Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Scott McRae

Concordia offered a course in the history of rock and roll. The music department teaches jazz. English teachers assign readings on the Beat Generation. Now, a group of Concordia students and alumni want to bring hiphop into academia.

The group, Students for the Advancement of Hiphop Culture, is hosting their second annual symposium on hiphop culture. Hiphop culture, according to Diegal Léger, a Concordia independent studies student and one of the symposium’s co-ordinators, is both a mode of expression that includes spoken word, music and physical art, and the “latest manifestation of resistance culture and oral tradition.”

SAHC sees a place for hiphop almost everywhere in academia, from political science and anthropology to performance art and management.
Eventually, the group would like to see the university establish a program for the study of hiphop.

Some American schools have already begun to take hiphop seriously. Harvard has a hiphop archive that stores documents, videos and sound recordings. Berkeley (University of California) offers a course on hiphop in black popular culture, and Boston University gives lessons in hiphop dance for credit.

The symposium is about bringing hiphop to the academy and the academy to hiphop. “Hiphoppers are coming of age,” Léger said. “We want to bring [the hiphop] community into the university setting so that industry can blend with academia.”

Louis Dufieux, a hiphop emcee and symposium organizer, has done just that. While earning his graduate diploma in translation at Concordia last year, he analyzed the idiomatic equivalencies amongst the hiphop originating in New York, Havana and Paris, and showed that songs from one urban centre could be translated into the street language of another without losing any of their historical or cultural connotations.

Last year, approximately 150 people attended the four-day symposium. This year, the organizers expect up to 300 or 400 attendees.

Although no professors attended last year’s talks, Léger said that they attracted a wide cross-section of students, from serious fans to a woman who was trying to figure out why hiphop appealed to her boyfriend.

This year, said Dufieux, the response has been almost overwhelming. Several Americans plan to take part in the symposium and a hiphop fan in Brazil inquired about it. Both the Montreal hiphop community and the Concordia student body have expressed interest. In fact, students groups like the Concordia Student Union and the Graduate Students Association are giving financial support to the symposium.

Last year, workshops on the role of women in hiphop and hiphop’s African roots generated the most interest and discussion. This year, Léger expects the presentations on Islam and hiphop, and hiphop and entrepreneurship to be the biggest draws.

According to Léger, language remains a dividing factor in the hiphop community. “Ther’s a separation,” Léger said. “The gap needs to be eliminated.” To address this, the symposium will have a multilingual, multicultural show and Dufieux will lead a workshop on international influences. Myriam Laabidi, a SAHC member, will be hosting a hiphop colloquium in French at UQAM on March 6.

“We want to use hiphop as a muscle, and use it the right way,” said Dufieux. “This is all about promoting the advancement of hiphop.”

The Second Annual Symposium on Hiphop Culture takes place from Feb. 26 to Mar. 1. Presentations will be held in Room H-762, beginning at 4 p.m., and shows will take place every night at Reggie’s from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. Presentations and panel discussions are free; shows cost $5. For details, visit the Web site at
http://hiphop_academix.tripod.com, email hiphopsymposium@wefunkradio.com or phone 845-6097.