FAMU Establishes Institute for Hip Hop and Music Industry Studies

Updated: Apr 29, 2018

Hip-hop icon Christopher “Play” Martin, of Kid ‘n Play fame, currently serves as a FAMU professional-in-residence.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida A&M University (FAMU) Professor Kawachi Clemons, Ph.D. is bringing icons of the hip-hop movement to class so students can learn first hand from industry professionals.

Hip-hop icon Christopher “Play” Martin, of Kid ‘n Play fame, currently serves as a professional-in-residence with the Institute for Hip Hop and Music Industry Studies that Clemons directs.

The Institute is housed in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication (SJGC).

“The idea came out of an initial desire to develop programming that would appeal to the interests of students,” said Clemons. “My background in music education, arts management and curriculum development gave me the necessary tools to bring this idea to fruition. The collection and dissemination of artistic and linguistic representations of a culture is vital to its preservation.”

As part of the institute’s curriculum, a senior level special topics seminar on hip hop is being offered.  The course examines the cultural phenomenon of hip-hop through its development, history, communication style, dance form, music and artistic process.

Martin co-teaches the course and assists in the development of original programming for FAMU TV-20.

Throughout the semester, Clemons seeks to encourage students to debate and explore the dynamics of race, gender, youth and class. The course will employ various sources for critical analysis and information including: videos, commercials, movies, songs and other multimedia sources.

Keeping in line with existing institutes such as: Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies, The Thelonious Monk Institute at Loyola University and The Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago, FAMU’s Office of Academic Affairs has developed an institute to further the pursuit of academic research in hip-hop arts and culture.

The goal of FAMU’s institute is to present hip hop in a cultural context where students are encouraged to become critically charged to actively participate in a dialogue that addresses the political, social and economic issues impacting their generation.    

Martin stressed that he wants students to fully understand the history of hip hop.

“In addition to the rich heritage of the music [hip hop], I want students to gain the knowledge and appreciate the stories behind the music,” said Martin.  “I am very appreciative to be here at FAMU.  I commend FAMU for hosting this kind of endeavor.”

Speaking of appreciating stories behind the music, Martin shared that hip-hop music started out by individuals expressing their pain, a struggle, loss or joy they may have experienced.

“People like the song “Through the Wire” by Kanye West, which is a sample of Chaka Khan’s single “Through the Fire,” said Martin.  “What some people do not realize is that Kanye almost lost his life in a car accident.”

In this song, West expressed how almost losing his voice, his life that at any given time your world can be taken away from you.

“With Martin’s experiences as a pioneering hip-hop artist and actor, he brings a wealth of knowledge as an international award-winning director, writer and producer,” said Clemons.

Martin, a native of Queens, New York, is no stranger to hip hop.  Martin has recorded three successful albums and starred in four hip-hop based comedy films: House Party, House Party 2, Class Act and House Party 3.

Now, Martin is the founder of Hp4 Digital Works and Solutions, a multimedia company that provides pre- and post-production for film and digital productions.  Hp4 produces Brand Newz, a multimedia online news organization focusing on positive community leaders and events.  He was an artist-in-residence at North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC.  Martin and Christopher Reid, known as “Kid,” are currently on a tour as part of Salt-n-Pepa’s Legends of Hip-Hop Tour featuring Slick Rick, Whodini, Naughty by Nature, Rob Base and more. The duo also is working on a national cable television sitcom.

“The School of Journalism is delighted to partner with Dr. Clemons and the FAMU Hip-Hop Music Institute in bringing Chris to campus,” said SJGC Dean James Hawkins. “We expect he will help our students gain a fuller understanding of the entertainment industry.”    

Students enrolled in the hip-hop course are delighted as well to have Martin teach the class.

Lanauze Hollis, a junior majoring in jazz studies, expressed his thoughts about seeing Martin in class.

“Wow, we have a celebrity in our class,” said Hollis.  “He [Martin] makes everything come to life because he has experience in the hip-hop industry.  It’s great to get his insight.  This class is a good addition to the curriculum.”

Pagie Moore, a broadcast journalism student, echoed Hollis’ thoughts.

“I am extremely excited to have him teach me,” said Moore.  “I am a big fan of hip hop.  He [Martin] shares his experiences with us, which is wonderful because he experienced first hand the hip-hop industry.

Moore said that some of her peers cannot wait to enroll in the class next semester.

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