The lecture hall in the Foster-Tanner music building is filled to capacity on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Students engage in detailed discussions with someone who knows firsthand about the music art form. That is the experience for the students in Christopher Martin and Kawachi Clemons’ hip-hop seminar class.
Christopher Martin, better known as the smooth yet mischievous “Play” from the chart-topping hip-hop group “Kid ‘N Play,” is a professional-in-residence for FAMU’s new hip-hop seminar class.
Martin will be teaching with Kawachi Clemons. Martin and Clemons are working in conjunction with the School of Business and Industry and the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication to introduce the Hip-Hop Institute.
“It’s love here; I knew in Florida the music is embraced here. I knew we’d get love, but I didn’t know Kid and Play gets ‘Hill love’ so it’s pretty cool,” Martin said.
Clemons and Martin’s class provides an in-depth explanation of the history of hip-hop and the culture that surrounds it. Martin uses the class as a tool to tell students about his journey in hip-hop and how important is to understand the impact it has on music and culture.
“Music is the fruit of the culture,” Martin said. “My approach to it is me talking about and sharing my journey in it, how it’s affected me and… my contributions to it.”
Martin hopes to engage students with his knowledge of hip-hop and wants them to participate in class discussions.
“The discussions we have open my mind up to other people’s views on the hip- hop culture, youth and us as college students,” Keila Dumas, a second-year English student from Tampa said.
“Once, we had a discussion on the way people felt about [old school hip-hop] and how we feel about it now, and with a discussion like that you really have to think with your heart.”
Garrett Bey, a third-year computer information systems student from Chicago, is excited that FAMU has a class that specifically pertains to the study of hip-hop.
“It’s cool…I’m really happy that FAMU has brought someone that has actually been in the music industry and can give a firsthand account in hip hop,” Bey said. “One of my favorite discussions we’ve had is women in hip-hop. Everyone talked about their feelings on it. The whole conversation showed the importance of female MC’s in hip-hop.”
This is Martin’s fifth year teaching the hip-hop studies program, an institute he and Clemons began at North Carolina Central University.
The institute started at NCCU under the direction of then-chancellor James H. Ammons, who later was appointed to FAMU.
Martin said he wants all of his students to take on a new appreciation for hip-hop and the culture and understand its meaning and purpose.
He intends to use the Hip-Hop Institute to promote and advance the knowledge about the arts, culture and its position as an extension of black cultural traditions.
“Hip-hop saved my life. Behind the words there’s a testimony. I want my students to realize and know that,” Martin said.