Hip-Hop as an Art Form – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Hip-Hop as an Art Form

This fall, students of Visiting Assistant Professor of English Yisrael Levin’s first-year seminar will examine the connection between poetry and hip-hop lyrics. In “The Poetics of Hip-Hop” class, Levin will combine the use of traditional poetry studies to look at hip-hop from an academic lens.

“Over the past decade or so academic scholars have started to look at hip-hop lyrics as a legitimate form of poetry, but there’s still a great deal to do in this regard,” says Levin. “I really hope that my seminar helps students better understand poetry, as well as allow them to further appreciate hip-hop music and culture.”

Levin’s academic scholarship is focused on 19th-century English poetry. While it may seem like 19th-century poetry has nothing to with hip hop, Levin finds them equally innovative when it comes to the use of poetic form.

His course is taught in conjunction with Assistant Professor of Music Mark Olivieri’s first-year seminar, “Hip-Hop Culture.” Students will take classes with Olivieri as a means to deepen their understanding of the course material. In addition to exposing students to another side of hip-hop, they also gain from learning another professor’s style in a similar field.

“Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of teaching a first-year seminar is the students’ general openness,” says Levin. “The fact that they don’t have any previous college experience makes them much more accepting toward new impressions and ideas. It is also wonderful to witness their transformation from high school graduates to intellectually savvy and confident individuals.”

Levin hopes that by the end of the semester, his students will better understand and appreciate human expression in the broadest sense of the term.

“While the seminar addresses a very specific thematic thread, I always try to expose my students to more universal issues relevant to human life in general. Learning about the poetics of hip-hop, I believe, merely serves as a first step toward a more comprehensive view on the relationship between life and art.”