Hip-Hop Storytellers

In “The Roots and Stylistic Foundations of the Rap Music Tradition” Cheryl Keyes outlines the origins of rap music, and traces the Afro-diasporic traditions that inspired the musical genre. Storytelling and a commitment to telling the stories of the community are central to the hip-hop tradition. Today we’ll discuss storytelling as resistance, community, and power.


  • Freewrite: the story of your community
  • Small Groups: How do systems of power and oppression intersect with the origins of hip hop? How does rap music continue a tradition of African American resistance via music? Why do you think rap has become such a ubiquitous musical genre?
  • Whole Class: View Chance the Rapper’s performance. How does this song and performance reflect the griot storytelling tradition Keyes describes?

Gil Scott-Heron and the Black Arts Movement were a precursor to hip hop. What similarities do you see here?

Kanye West sampled Heron in 2010. He explicitly connected his work to the legacy of the Black Arts Movement.

Slick Rick’s Children’s Story (1988) is an example of the storytelling tradition in hip hop. Look up the lyrics to the song and see if you can identify some of the verbal forms described in the text.


Quote                                                                    Analysis








Welcome to Architectures of Power!

Welcome to SSI2-141A: Architectures of Power. Our course this semester is going to explore systems of power and oppression through hip-hop. Hip-hop culture is a rich lens through which to examine race, class, gender, sexuality, and other frameworks that shape our society. The prevalence and widespread consumption of hip-hop culture is another reason for its value as a framework for study in this course. So much of our pop culture and media is shaped by hip-hop influences and aesthetics. Today we’ll discuss power and how hip-hop has been used to engage in resistance.


  • Introductions: Scavenger Hunt
  • Brief review of course website
  • Freewrite: hip-hop and power
  • View: Eminem BET Awards Freestyle: How does Eminem use hip-hop to engage in resistance?