Hip-Hop

Tommy Coyote / Courtesy of Miriam Tolbert

How do local artists make it big these days? In the age of recommendation algorithms and music streaming, can a radio DJ spin an indie artist into fame? Miriam Tolbert is trying to do just that by slowly turning the attention of a commercial station back to the local scene. 

Rebecca Ward

 After more than 15 years, rapper Joshua Gunn is familiar with the Durham hip-hop scene. As a teenager Gunn made a name for himself in underground Durham rap battles. He paired up with artists like acclaimed DJ Terminator X of Public Enemy and MC Lyte.

An image of doctoral student A.D. Carson
Ken Scar

Hip-hop music has long been revered for showcasing nuanced messages about marginalized communities. Nas’ 1994 debut studio album “Illmatic” is praised as a seminal, lyrical portrayal of life in New York City. Meanwhile, Beyonce’s 2016 album “Lemonade” was heralded for its powerful messages about black feminism. Works like these achieved large commercial success, but what happens when hip-hop extends beyond the airwaves and into the academy?