Class Spotlight: The criminal justice hip hop playlist

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By: Chloe Teall


   With fall registration right around the corner, students may be wondering about what course options are available to fulfill their general education requirements. One class students might want to keep an eye out for in the coming semesters is CJUS-B 190: The Criminal Justice Hip-Hop Playlist. Taught by Dr. Chloe Robinson, this course combines criminological theory with the history of hip-hop music. 

   By taking this class students will analyze the evolution of hip-hop, and the rich culture associated with it, through a criminal justice lens. 

   This entails dissecting lyrics, watching music videos and discussing recurring themes of violence and oppression that are commonly discussed in rap. Additionally, students will learn about different criminal justice theories and how they are often perfectly illustrated in the genre. 

    “I am hoping that students are inspired to explore this nexus between the criminal justice system and hip-hop music…Students will explore how individuals can use creative social expression to dismantle institutional discrimination. In line with this, students will also see how individual artists have called for better internal and external accountability mechanisms throughout the criminal justice system,” Dr. Robinson said.

   Hip-hop originated from the streets of Brooklyn, and since its genesis it has primarily served as a document of the lives of Black Americans mostly from inner city neighborhoods. 

   “It is important that students see how hip-hop music can serve as a catalyst for change,” Robinson said.

   Many rappers discuss the hardships they faced while living in poverty, being part of a gang, or being victims of racial discrimination, particularly from law enforcement. The stories from these artists can be used to understand how the criminal justice system operates, and the injustices within it. The perspective of these Americans is invaluable and has been historically silenced. 

   “Hip-hop music is often the soundtrack for those who are oppressed and can offer insight as

to the political and social action that needs to take place,” explained Dr. Robinson. “For example, in the wake of the George Floyd protests, hip-hop music took center stage at various demonstrations held throughout the country.” 

   This class would be enjoyed by any students who love music, are in the criminal justice program or who still need to fulfill their Human Behavior and Social Institutions requirement.

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