Bun B, a member of the former hip-hop duo UGK, has temporarily surrendered his microphone to enter the titillating world of academia.
Students enrolled in Religious Studies 331: Religion and Hip-Hop Culture at Rice University in Houston, Tex., are more than pleased their professor, Bun B, can provide them with a firsthand account of hip-hop culture, since he’s been an influential member of the hip-hop community for over 20 years.
Bun B released his latest album, “Trill OG” in August. So him choosing to take a sabbatical from the hip-hop scene was not the result of a diminishing career, but rather the result of his desire to demonstrate how the influence of hip-hop extends far beyond music.
“Hip-hop has the opportunity to educate and inform and inspire people across all walks of life, within all settings,” said Bun B. “I feel like being able to teach at a college university is a perfect example of showing how hip-hop can influence the minds of the next generation.”
Hip-hop usually isn’t portrayed in the most positive light due to the controversial nature of its lyrics and more generally, the perceived culture surrounding it, as it tends to involve scantily dressed females dancing lewdly and rappers wearing pants at their knees. However, Bun B is attempting to change this widely held perception by teaching this course in which he shows that hip-hop delves into issues far more profound than what is seen by the naked eye.
“It’s not just playing music and showing videos and stuff like that,” said Bun B in describing his course. “We’re having a real dialogue and we’re showing how hip-hop as a culture addresses the real questions in people’s lives and how that relates to one’s spiritual or religious quest in life.”
Because people are so focused on parental advisory labels on CDs rather than on the actual issues being addressed in the content, they fail to see that hip-hop is a means for people to express themselves and their beliefs. Hip-hop artists are the poets of this generation. Just like poets of the past tried to inspire introspection and thought through their writing, hip-hop artists inspire newer generations by using a language that is familiar to them. If hip-hop artists were to clean up their acts by using non-vulgar language and pulling up their pants, it’s unlikely that they would appeal so strongly to members of newer generations.
By teaching this course in theology, Bun B is asking his students to look deeper into hip-hop music and culture, past the vulgar lyrics and references. He wants students to find the message that’s being conveyed, and see the larger picture.
African-Americans are a minority in this country and often not heard. But hip-hop is a means of exposure for them. It has been a means for them to change the way people think and view the world.
“The whole point of me as a hip-hop artist and a representative of the hip-hop community teaching this course, was to inspire people that hip-hop doesn’t have to be confined within the conditions that we know it to be confined,” said Bun B.
He doesn’t just want hip-hop music to be listened to, he wants it to be heard. It’s admirable that he has put his successful musical career on hold to inspire people to look deeper into hip-hop culture.
(Written Feb. 2, 2011)