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Kendrick Lamar Online: Mapping the Digital Terrain of Hip Hop

Kendrick Lamar Online: Mapping the Digital Terrain of Hip Hop

Working on a seminar development grant with undergraduate Tara Verma (class of ’19), Mark Laver (Assistant Professor of Music, Grinnell College) developed digital tools and methods to be used in his freshman tutorial class on Kendrick Lamar, and in a hip hop class in fall of 2017. Tara undertook two environmental scans: first, a detailed examination of online material related to Kendrick Lamar, and second, a more generalized survey of online material related to hip hop music and culture, broadly conceived. These two scans resulted in detailed metadata records of hip hop on the internet, with a particular focus on how hip hop is represented by different media creators (i.e., university libraries, record labels, music criticism publications, management and promotion agencies, radio stations, etc.) for consumption by different audiences.

The resources developed will feed into metadata assignments that will be used in both the 2016 Tutorial and 2017 hip hop class, where students will collect and analyze more limited metadata. Through July and into August, Laver and Verma worked on a GIS mapping project, which grew out of a student assignment from Laver’s Fall 2015 Topics in American Music: Popular Music class, where students used Google Maps to plot all geographically significant points related to a handful of hip hop albums that were thematically focused on urban space – including NWA’s Straight Outta Compton, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, Jay Z’s The Black Album, and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, M.A.A.D. City, among others. Verma went back through the 2015 student-created maps to clean up and regularize their data, rendering it more usable either as an exemplar, or as groundwork for future student assignments that might take the geospatial information in different directions.

Laver’s students in his 2016 Tutorial course on Kendrick Lamar built on the work of this summer collaboration by creating and annotating maps of Lamar’s Hub City Threat: Minor of the Year, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, To Pimp a Butterfly, and untitled, unmastered.

Mark Laver was a participant in the Digital Bridges Summer Institutes of 2015 and 2016. This project was supported by a Digital Bridges award for a faculty-student pedagogical partnership between Laver and student Tara Verma, collaborating with Mike Connor and Rachel Schnepper of the Grinnell Digital Liberal Arts Collaborative and Cecilia Knight of the Grinnell Libraries.