Campus Pop Culture: 8 Quirky Courses

Gone are the days of the boring elective. From classes on Lady Gaga to Dave Chappelle, here's a look at pop courses that have cropped up in recent years.

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  • Religion and Hip-Hop Culture

    Religion and Hip-Hop Culture

    Rice University
    Instead of focusing on how hip-hop and religion clash, Rapper Bun B of the iconic Southern hip-hop duo UGK co-taught this course to unpack the similarities between the two. “We’re showing instances where hip-hop and religion have the same goals and ideology in common within the context of the culture,” Bun B told HipHopDx.com earlier this year.

    Captions by Akoto Ofori-Atta

  • Sampling Soul

    Sampling Soul

    Duke University
    Grammy Award-winning DJ and producer 9th Wonder put his professorial headphones on with this course he taught with Mark Anthony Neal. Centered on Neal’s book, What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Popular Culture, the class touched on all things soul and pop, from intellectual property rights to Nas’ 1994 classic, Illmatic.

  • What's So Great About 'The Wire'?

    What's So Great About 'The Wire'?

    University of California, Berkeley
    Film studies scholar Linda Williams, intrigued by the show’s reputation as the best TV show to broadcast in America, compared The Wire to works from classic writers like Charles Dickens, and asked students to consider the reasons behind the show’s popularity. Harvard, Syracuse and Washington State University-Spokane are just a few of the schools that have offered courses on the popular TV show.

  • Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame

    Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame

    University of South Carolina
    In this course, students didn’t listen to Gaga music or watch her videos, since the focus was less on Lady Gaga the artist and more on the sociology behind her out-of-this-world rise to fame. Professor Mathieu Deflem used the star’s celebrity to examine marketing, gay culture, religion, politics, sexuality and New York City.

  • The N-Word: An Anatomy Lesson

    The N-Word: An Anatomy Lesson

    Arizona State University
    “I was curious to see if the discussion of one of the most provocative words in the English language could sustain a rigorous intellectual discussion for 15 weeks,” said professor Neal Lester. He challenged students to think about the word’s “shifting use” in American culture, illustrated in his course by a viewing of a famous Saturday Night Live clip in which Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor spew racial slurs at each other.

  • Because Dave Chappelle Said So

    Because Dave Chappelle Said So

    Vassar University
    If you’ve ever watched Dave Chappelle’s Prince skit, you may have noticed that issues around masculinity play an important role in his work. This course took a look at gender politics in black satire, using Chappelle’s Show as a lens.

  • Introduction to Turntablism

    Introduction to Turntablism

    Oberlin University

    Aspiring DJs at Oberlin University learned the basics of the trade in one semester of this class. Students brushed up on sampling, beatmatching, laptop DJing and scratching. The exciting part? Each DJ-to-be paid $35 toward the purchase of two turntables, which were given to the winners of a DJ battle at the end of the semester.

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  • History of Electronic Dance Music

    History of Electronic Dance Music

    UCLA
    From its roots in 1960s soul, electronic dance music has been a staple of popular culture. This class considered it all: the genre’s origins, its technological components, club culture and the drugs that create the trippy electro-dance atmosphere.