Professors Teach Tupac     

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8/2/2003 9:13:46 PM
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Louis Harrison and Leonard Moore aren't fans of Tupac Amaru Shakur although they formed a class at LSU about the "gangsta rapper."
Terrell McGill, who took the course this summer, grew up idolizing Tupac and others. Jason Paul Thibeau, aka T-Bo, who has worked with Master P, aka Percy Miller, and others, says "a lot of rap is not positive, but it's reality."

They disagree about whether the profanity-laced lyrics, sexual innuendo and other images and lavish lifestyles hip-hop portrays and its marketing in sports send mixed signals to youths. How those messages affect self-images, behavior and aspirations will be discussed at a conference in Baton Rouge in September.

"Race, Sports, Hip-Hop and the New Millennium," is scheduled for Sept. 18-19 at LSU's Hill Memorial Library. It was sparked by another class professors Harrison and Moore organized, "Hip-Hop, Sports and the African-Americanization of American Culture."

The conference will focus on the same issues that the professors' courses and hip-hop feature. The issues include black entrepreneurship, incarceration rates, sexual promiscuity, gang-banging and other crime, family structure and poverty, racism, gender violence and substance abuse.

The professors, who mentor student-athletes and want their charges to consider more than sports and music because very few young people ever make it to the professional level, said everyone can benefit from their classes and the conference.

"It's relevant for everybody and especially white people, because they tend to be more sheltered in their understanding of African Americans," often depending on stereotypes or images the media presents, said Harrison, an associate professor in kinesiology.

Hip-hop started in the late 1960s as competitive, simple, street-beat rhymes about romance, partying, staying clean and getting ahead, according to http://www.rapworld.com. The music weaves reggae, funk, pop, jazz, disco, R&B, soul and other styles.

Break-dancing followed. Then hip-hop evolved into a multibillion dollar industry of record deals, shoes and clothing, videos and movies for Def Jam's Russell Simmons, Master P, and Bad Boy Entertainment's Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and others. That growth and cultural impact deserves study, said Moore, an associate professor of history.

The Sugar Hill Gang's, "Rappers Delight," helped coin the term "hip-hop," in the 1970s, about the same time "scratching" or mixing of records started, according to rapworld.com. The more controversial, explicit lyrics of "gangsta rap," surfaced in the 1980s with Public Enemy, Dr. Dre and NWA. Their racy language generally is protected by the First Amendment.

In their lyrics and interviews, many hip-hop artists proclaim that the music lets them leave the ghettos and potentially a life of crime or drug abuse.

Thibeau, a Baton Rouge area "gangsta rapper" who has worked with "Snoop Dogg," "Silkk The Shocker" and "The 504 Boyz," loves hip-hop.

"Me, being a white kid, I've lived everywhere from the country to the 'hood to the suburbs. I've always been a fan of rap. It gave me something do. I think if it wasn't for rap, I'd be dead right now. I think God blessed me with this talent," Thibeau said.

But the professors, who have written several research articles on the topic, see things differently.

Moore, 31, grew up listening to hip-hop and Harrison, 47, grew up listening to R&B, jazz and soul.

Said Harrison: "That was the black-power era. There was a lot of message music at that time and it helped to make people culturally aware and more conscience during that time with reference to race and social class.

"What I see from then and now is a loss of conscience. Back then, black people were wanting to do better for themselves and now, it's just do for myself," he said.

However, Thibeau says the criticism of hip-hop is misplaced
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