Intersection of rap music and religion to be discussed in BHSU Geek Speak Lecture

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, March 24, 2016/Categories: 2016

Dr. Dan May, assistant professor of mathematics at Black Hills State University, will explore the culture of traditions such as the Nation of Islam, the Five-Percent Nation, and Christianity, examining religious imagery and themes that have been used in hip-hop lyrics for decades in the next Geek Speak lecture Thursday, March 31 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall, room 110 at BHSU

Dr. Dan May, assistant professor of mathematics at BHSU, will explore the culture of traditions such as the Nation of Islam, the Five-Percent Nation, and Christianity, examining religious imagery and themes that have been used in hip-hop lyrics for decades.

The Black Hills State University Geek Speak lectures continue with an interactive presentation outlining the history of hip-hop, taking a closer look at the often-overlooked intersection of rap music and religion.

May's presentation "God Show Me the Way: Religion and Hip-Hop" is Thursday, March 31 at 4 p.m. in Jonas Hall, room 110. The event is free and open to the public.

Hip-hop culture has come to occupy a central role in music, both in the United States and around the world.

"People think hip-hop and religion are separated," says May. "Hip-hop is about anything that goes on in people's lives, and religion is a big part of it."

The presentation will focus on how various rappers have used different religious imagery in their lyrics throughout the history of hip-hop.

"We will look at ways hip-hop lyrics are used to espouse the religious view sometimes they criticize the religious view or use religious imagery as a metaphor for something else," says May. "There are different reasons why religion entered hip-hop and I'll examine some of them.

May says hip-hop is a culture that developed in the Latino and black community.

"Born in Bronx, New York City, in 1970s, hip-hop has been interested in issues of social justice, class and race. And those issues are something that religion cares about as well," adds May.

The lecture will be enriched with many examples of rap music, followed by a discussion of how the incorporation of religion into hip-hop is as relevant and vibrant today as ever.

"A lot of current artists are saying a lot of important things as to where we are as a culture now, and they make those statements through religious language," concludes May.

The Geek Speak lecture series, sponsored by the BHSU University Honors program, features academic discussion and topics not normally discussed in the traditional classroom. The goal of the weekly lectures is to expose students to diversity within the disciplines.

For more information, contact Dr. Courtney Huse-Wika, director of the University Honors Program and assistant professor of English, at 605-642-6918 or email Courtney.HuseWika@BHSU.edu.

Future Geek Speak topics include:
  • April 14, "A Tour of Voting Systems: How Do We Choose a Winner?" Dr. Dan Swenson, assistant professor of mathematics
  • April 21, "The Social Life of Meat," Dr. Trenton Ellis, assistant professor of human services
  • April 28, The University Honors Program Capstone Defense
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