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Hip-Hop Fellow: Armstrong English Professor Heads to Harvard

(December 16, 2015) - Assistant English Professor Dr. Regina Bradley heads to Harvard University in January, serving as the Spring 2016 Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow for the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute at the Hutchins Center. Among the country’s best and brightest, she’ll work side-by-side with others who demonstrate exceptional capacity for productive scholarship and creative ability in the arts, in connection with hip-hop music.

The Hutchins Center’s director and national icon Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Hiphop Archive director Marcyliena Morgan will serve as Bradley’s advisors.

Though Bradley may be new to Armstrong’s campus, having joined in August of 2015, she has long established herself as a go-to African-American life and culture writer, researcher and Southern hip-hop scholar.

As founder and host of the critically-acclaimed YouTube series, “Outkasted Conversations​,” in which she interviews scholars, fans and musicians to explore the cultural and academic implications of the first Southern mainstream hip-hop group OutKast, Bradley’s work has been featured in Ebony, The New York Times and Huffington Post, among a slew of others.

Bradley, who earned a Ph.D. in English from Florida State University, also makes sought-after guest appearances, like her recent one on NPR to discuss the influence of rapper Gucci Mane, and offers personal essays that draw from her experiences growing up in post-civil rights Albany, Ga. Notably, her write-up of rap group Field Mob in Oxford American magazine’s Southern Music Issue is on stands now.

It was, in fact, music that not only kept her sane during the corn-and-melon field walks of her youth, filled with quiet ‘that was thick and stuffed her ears,” but also became a way to understand her personal evolution as a black female teenager in an ever-evolving South.

“My grandmother talked to me about Martin Luther King while I was listening to hip-hop,” she says. “How do you balance this experience of looking to do better than our forefathers while facing modern challenges? I looked at Southern hip- hop as a lens through which to work my newfound identity.”

Today, Bradley’s in-class teachings don’t steer far from those initial impressions. At Armstrong, she explores African-American literature, including late 20th and 21st century black popular culture, post-1980 African American literature and the post-Civil Rights U.S. South, kicking off the semester with recent events like the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.

Modern voices like Roxane Gay give way to predecessors of the Black Arts Movement, Harlem Renaissance and James Baldwin. Yet, Bradley continues to integrate hip-hop as a way to update the black perspective.

“There are typically three black narratives associated with the South: antebellum, Jim Crow and Civil Rights,” she explains. “And then it falls off the map. Southern hip-hop updates the conversation and gives a new generation of young black folks a way to think about their surroundings.”

In line with her courses, Bradley will spend most of her time at Harvard working on her first book project, Chronicling Stankonia: Recognizing America's Hip Hop South, which is under contract with University of North Carolina Press. 

A cultural, lyrical and sonic analysis using OutKast’s body of work, Bradley will dive into the duo’s contributions to the new black South.

“Other scholars have given a nod to OutKast, but not an in-depth analysis of their impact,” she notes. “It should be a lot of fun to write.”

Allison Scardino Belzer, Ph.D.

"I love the mix of Armstrong students, hearing their ideas and having students learn from each other.”

Allison Scardino Belzer, Ph.D.
Teaching since: 2003