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University of Michigan Publishes World’s First Peer-Reviewed Hip-Hop Album

The University of Michigan Press published the world’s first peer-reviewed hip-hop album from an academic publisher.

The album, entitled i used to love to dream by AD Carson, features eight tracks and uses both sampled and live instrumentation. The almost 30-minute music video plays out much like a short film, alternating between footage of Carson’s travels, his insights and commentaries from featured individuals, and the music tracks.

The album was written in collaboration with other experts in the industry, as Carson traveled to South Africa with his colleagues to have his work peer-reviewed by local scholars, musicians, and radio stations.

He also attended and performed at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda. 

Home and Life in US as an African-American

Carson’s album is an attempt to capture the evolution of the idea of home; his journey growing up, moving away, and navigating through life. He portrays his own struggles, torn between his concept of home as a tenure-track professor in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his hometown in Decatur, Illinois.

“They say that you should be the change you wanna see. I’m looking in the mirror, can’t even say if who I see is me. And who can tell if that image is what I want or what I’ve been told, what I have bought or what I’ve been sold?” he raps in the nword gem track.

Carson also touches upon heavy topics for the African-American community, particularly what it means to be an African-American man in the United States. 

“There’s no place like home. Not where I be living. Soon as it get hot, we out the kitchen. But there’s a war going on outside. We ain’t safe. Behind enemy lines it ain’t called friendly fire.” Carson narrates in Crack, USA.

The professor approached several academic presses for the project and revealed that he chose Michigan based on the collaborative approach of the editors.

Hip-hop originates from the 1970s, within African American and Latino communities. It is of cultural importance because it allowed youth minorities to tap into a shared art form that reflected the reality of their lives.