College Professor Talks Kendrick Lamar Class, Hip Hop and its Relevancy to Mike Brown

College Professor Talks Kendrick Lamar Class, Hip-Hop and Michael Brown

Image: File
Image: File

In addition to his debut album, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,” putting him on the map as one of the greatest lyricist of the younger hip-hop generation, Kendrick Lamar’s great body of work has also led him to earn a spot in the classroom of a few Georgia students.

This fall, freshman students at Georgia Regents University (GRU) will have the opportunity to study the Compton native’s body of work in their English composition course thanks to Professor Adam Diehl. Examining the young rapper’s unique story-telling ability alongside other literary bodies of work including James Baldwin Going to Meet the Man, James Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Gwendolyn Brooks Selected Poems and the 1991 film Boyz N The Hood, Diehl says that students will also discuss how K. Dot’s music catalog relates to current event issues of today, such as that of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. caught up with Professor Diehl to get the inside scoop on what influenced him to teach this course, why Kendrick Lamar is a great hip-hop subject to study, and why “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” is a storyline that resonates with so many young black men today.

What prompted you to teach a class on “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”?

I’ve been listening to the album for over a year and just had never really stopped listening to it and I talked about it all the time with my wife. We came to the conclusion that it’s a great literary work with narrative complexity. I decided that since I really liked talking about hip-hop in class, I might as well just add it to the syllabus.

The other works that I also chose [to study] are novels, short stories and poetry about kids growing up in mad cities.

Why do you think Kendrick Lamar is such a good subject to be studied in the classroom?

I think he is excellent at a lot of things. One of the best things that he does is raps from different points of view. For example in the song “Sing About Me,” the first verse is from his friend Dave’s brother. In the course of the album’s skit, Dave gets killed in a retaliation for a hit that some guys do to basically try to beat the crap out of Kendrick. Then Kendrick’s friends retaliate, but his friend Dave gets killed in the process. So from Dave brother’s point of view, Kendrick is rapping about “Hey, I’m thankful that you were there for my brother. You were there when he died and I won’t forget about that.” And then right as his verse is ending he says “If I die before the album drops” and then you hear gunfire and his life is cut short on record.

I just think it’s so compelling to listen to him switch in and out of different voices, and sometimes it’s subtle and it still sounds like his rap delivery but you can tell it’s from someone else point of view. Whereas on a song like “Swimming Pools,” he will go into his own conscious and have the “open your mind up and listen to me Kendrick.” And I really like that because that’s just so different from what we would hear on a typical rap record, especially on “Sing About Me.” You almost never see multiple points of views from the same rapper.