The world of hip-hop with its melodic beats, profane language and sometimes violent imagery, seems far removed from the prayers, songs and practices that often accompany religion. The new honors course “Religion and Hip-Hop” aims to bridge the gap between these two worlds at California Lutheran University (www.CalLuteran.edu).
Designed and taught by Associate Professor of Religion Rahuldeep Gill, he said he is excited to update the class throughout the years to come.
“This class is a juxtaposition of two things that don’t really go together, but if you look closely, they go together in really interesting and informative ways,” Gill said. “Once I learn what students like throughout the semester, I will definitely be remixing this class for as long as they let me teach it.”
With 10 years of teaching experience at California Lutheran University, Gill said he is always looking to push his students to explore new areas of learning.
According to the Cal Lutheran course catalog, this course highlights the relationship between hip-hop and religion in three ways: “the religious streams within hip-hop culture, hip-hop culture as a meaning-making system that parallels the work of religions, and hip-hop culture as giving voice to global religious concerns beyond its original American urban contexts.”
Gill said hip-hop and religion are related through art, clothes and the way people talk- everyone associates with hip-hop. Gill said one of the main things hip-hop and religion have in common is how they both engage people’s bodies.
“Hip-hop is a culture and an experience, and in this course we will look at how hip-hop has been used by religion or religious people to spread the gospel and bring people together,” Gill said.
Gill said that the first hip-hop event was a party in a steamy, sweaty basement in the lower Bronx. The party grew and, eventually, people got more and more attached to it.
Gill has many goals for the students taking this course. He said, one, is for the students to see the course as a way to navigate their own reality.
Sophomore Maramawit Bereda said she took this class because she was curious about how religion and hip-hop could work together. Through the class, she said she has been able to understand hip-hop a little more like what exactly it is and why it has so much history.
“In this class, being able to see different races come together in a classroom to talk about rap is amazing. I’ve started to see that other people from different races relate to rap, and how it has affected everyone’s lives,” Bereda said.
As a practicing Christian, Bereda said she used to feel slightly guilty when she listened to rap music, but now she feels more courageous and happy to listen, because she has found a lot of things that resonate to her Christianity through the music.
Gill said that hip-hop today is so diverse and no one really knows how large it is.
“Hip- Hop illuminates the hypocrisies in society and illuminates the parts where life doesn’t seem to make sense, and it creates new meaning out of there,” Gill said.
Adina Nack, the new director of the University Honors Program, assisted Gill in starting this class.
“A course like Religion and Hip-hop exemplifies the goals of the University Honors Program, in that students are being challenged to engage across traditional academic disciplines in order to explore complex topics that resonate with contemporary spiritual, social and political issues,” Nack said.
She said her goal as the new director is to increase the variety of course offerings for honors electives so that students have unique opportunities to explore exciting academic questions and learn new skills.
“I foresee a course, such as Religion and Hip-Hop, inspiring students to think beyond their academic major and career goals as they focus on learning from professors who motivate them to examine new sources of knowledge, which can enrich their overall undergraduate experience,” Nack said.
Source: Luisa Virgen