UA's new swag: First of its kind minor shows academic side of hip-hop

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UA's new swag: First of its kind minor shows academic side of hip-hop

CREATED Feb. 15, 2013 - UPDATED: Feb. 15, 2013

Reporter: Rikki Mitchell

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - When most people think hip-hop they might think, break dancing, rappers, maybe even old school Will Smith. 

But University of Arizona Professor Alain-Philippe Durand wants his students to learn more that that.

"Very often people have a tendency to only think about rap music, but the way we look at it, it's a culture," says Durand. "And inside of the culture you have several ways of expression."

As a teenager in France, Durand developed a passion for hip-hop that eventually led him to the University of Arizona, where he spearheaded the effort to start a minor in hip-hop cultures.

The minor is the first of its kind in the U.S., and possibly even the world.

Since it began in the fall of 2012, twelve students have enrolled and take classes like Rap, Culture and God, and Hip-Hop cinema.

And in those classes, Durand says students will address the stereotypes surrounding hip-hop.

"One of the ideas of having the minor is to educate people and address those stereotypes as they exist," he says. "They are part of hip-hop."

The UA received national attention since the minor started, even celebrity Steven Colbert gave us a shout out by tweeting:  "The University of Arizona is offering a minor in hip-hop. And if you go on to grad school, you can get your doctorate in Dre."

Not quite Mr. Colbert. In fact, Durand says these classes will not serve to train the next Jay-Z or Dr. Dre.

"This minor does not teach you how to be a rapper or how to be a dancer," he says. "It will teach you about who these people are, where they come from, what are their ideas and beliefs."

And at the root of everything, he hopes the conversation continues and people take the chance to learn about hip-hop as a culture.

"It's OK that people don't like it, and disagree with it," says Durand. "The only thing I ask is that they look at it seriously. After that they can make their own opinion. So that's what I would say, join us in the conversation."

Durand hopes that the future of this minor will include partnerships with other Universities that also study hip-hop like Harvard and Cornell.

For more information on UA's hip-hop minor, visit the Africana Studies Department website.