A Special Project Seminar

This wordpress blog is the result of the project seminar Mapping Hip Hop Culture in Germany: The Ruhr Area at TU Dortmund, Germany. Taught by Sina Nitzsche in summer 2016, it aimed to explore the current role of Hip Hop culture in the Ruhr Area. Seventeen students from the fields of Applied Literary and Cultural Studies/Applied Linguistics, Art, English/American Studies, Journalism, Education, and Social Sciences conducted interviews with local artists, activists, producers, educators, and administraters in oder to investigate the relationship between music and place more generally (Cohen) as well as Hip Hop and the Ruhr Area specifically. Taking the city of Dortmund as a starting point for their investigations, student research groups set up their own project designs, did individual field work, took pictures of Hip Hop sites, and presented their findings on this course blog at the end of the seminar.

Hip Hop in the Ruhr Area as a Field of Research and Teaching

In the early 1980s, Hip Hop culture emerged in this metropolitan region in Western Germany which consists of 54 individual larger cities and smaller communities. Hip Hop was initially created by African American, Afro-diasporic, and Hispanic (immigrant) youth in New York City in the 1970s (Chang, George, Rose, etc.). From its beginnings in the Bronx, it has grown into a transnational, multiracial, and multiethnic phenomenon which is deeply intertwined with the urban landscape (Forman, Klein/Friedrich, Mager, etc.).

Today, its various elements of MCing, DJing, graffiti, and b-boying have profoundly shaped the everyday experience and artistic expression of many youngsters in the Ruhr Area. More than 40 years after its mythic birth in the Bronx, our seminar seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What is the role of Hip Hop culture for young people living in the Ruhr Area?
  • Which crews, collectives, and artistic initiatives exist today in the various cities? How do they address the urban landscape in their art?
  • What is the meaning of Hip Hop culture in the light of deindustrialization and structural change?
  • And, perhaps most importantly, how is Hip Hop used as a tool for social change in youth, educational, and communal institutions, such as youth centers, schools, or refugee shelters?

Using the concept of cultural mapping (Roberts) which centers on personal stories, memories, and narratives rather than straightforward and top-down cartography, students specialized on one particular city or community. They conducted independent field work in neighborhoods, took pictures of graffit walls and cipher venues, conducted interviews with artists, beat producers, and and educators, and presented their findings on this blog platform at the end of the seminar.

Ultimately, the project seminar and this website seeks to create an awareness of and preserve the rich history of Hip Hop culture in the Ruhr Area as well as to foster students’ research, critical thinking, and writing skills in the field of Hip Hop Studies and beyond.

A Persnal Note of Thanks to my Students

I would like to shout out and thank all of my students who have done a tremendous work over the past two months! I am so grateful to have worked with you and I learned so much from your resarch projects!

I am so proud and amazed by how you have literally started from scratch, worked really hard, and succeeded in collecting different stories, voices, and memories of how Hip Hop culture emerged and transformed in the Ruhr Area. You have shown convincingly how Hip Hop is an exciting, contested, conflicting, dynamic, and uneven culture with larger and smaller communities and networks across the Ruhr Area.

Most importantly, I learned from all of your work that Hip Hop continues to be an important medium for young people in this metropolitan region to express themselves, their experiences, and their concerns.

I am so glad that Hip Hop in the Ruhr Area is alive and kickin’!

Sina Nitzsche

Works Cited

Chang, Jeff. Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005. Print.

Cohen, Sara. “Urban Musicscapes: Mapping Music-Making in Liverpool.” Mapping Cultures: Place, Practice, Performance. Ed. Les Roberts. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 123-143. Print.

Forman, Murray. The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2002. Print.

Friedrich, Malte and Klein, Gabriele. Is this Real? Die Kultur des HipHop. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2003. Print.

George, Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York: Penguin Books, 2005. Print.

Mager, Christoph. HipHop, Musik und die Artikulation von Geographie. Sozialgeographische Bibliothek 8. Heidelberg: Franz Steiner, 2007. Print.

Roberts, Les, ed. Mapping Cultures: Place, Practice, Performance. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.

Rose, Tricia. Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1994. Print.