Skip to main content


UBUNTU - CIPHER Hip Hop Interpellation -

Housed in the UCC School of Film, Music, and Theatre this ERC funded project is the world’s first global study of hip hop music and culture. UCC’s Dr Griff Rollefson and a team of global researchers will investigate how and why this highly localised African American music has translated so easily to far-flung communities and contexts around the globe. The Irish Universities Association has partnered with RTÉ and New Decade TV to bring Ireland’s Change Makers, the most transformative research-led projects and the inspiring people behind them, to Irish television this coming January and February 2022.

The series will showcase the remarkable and lasting public impact of leading research projects by eight universities in Ireland in areas such as children’s health, health technology, education, youth justice, gender equality and inclusion, as well as the environment.

Watch it now on YouTube:

We'd love to hear what you think of our documentary, please get in touch by emailing: 

1st March 2022

Issue 2 of the Global Hip Hop Studies journal is now available and can be accessed here.  If you would like to submit or subscribe to the journal, please contact Intellect Books for further information. 

Global Hip Hop Studies (GHHS) is a peer-reviewed, rigorous and community-responsive academic journal that publishes research on contemporary as well as historical issues and debates surround- ing hip hop music and culture around the world, twice annually. 

January 25th-27th, 2022

Over the past few decades, as hiphop culture has grown in popular influence and impact, it has increasingly been taken up as both a subject of study and a point of interest in educational and cultural institutions worldwide. Its acceptance into the academic and official realms has led to a popular discourse suggesting that hiphop culture has been ‘legitimized' – for better and for worse.

In conjunction with La Place, Paris and the ERC funded project Cipher: Hiphop Interpellation this conference will take inspiration from French rapper Booba's 2004 album Panthéon, which elaborates links between reverence, national pride, cultural legitimacy, and the famed mausoleum reserved for “great men,” the meeting seeks to explore the role of institutions in hiphop’s legitimization. Through presentations, workshops, and open mic sessions, this conference will explore reflections on the relationship between pathways to knowledge rooted in the cultural and artistic practices of hiphop, and those that stem from institutional efforts to transmit hiphop’s history and aesthetics.

To register and receive a Zoom link for the conference, please click this link

For the conference programme, please click this Conference Programme

For abstracts and speaker bios, please click this Abstracts and Bios

RTÉ to film Hip Hop premiere on UCC Campus

a group of students sitting in a grassy area

  • World Premiere of UBUNTU: Local is Global
  • Live Hip Hop Performance
  • Featured on upcoming RTÉ ‘Change Makers’ Series
  • Features Young People from Cork Migrant Centre and The Kabin Studio
  • Free, Outdoors, and Open to the Public
  • 19 September from 2-4pm


As part of their ‘Change Makers’ television series, RTÉ will be at UCC’s Honan Plaza to film the World Premiere of ‘UBUNTU: Local is Global’.  The live show is a celebration of hip hop arts and culture.  The program features music, dance, and art exploring how hip hop is a global youth culture encouraging dialogue between diverse cultures.

Ubuntu is the Zulu word for ‘humanity’.  It literally means ‘I am because we are’, recognising the interconnectedness of all people.  Ubuntu means the local is the global.

‘Change Makers’ is a brand new factual series premiering soon on RTÉ 1.  It is following the CIPHER project from University College Cork which tracks the impact of hip hop music around the world from its roots in 1970's New York.  ‘Change Makers’ is coming to Cork to film the performance of this unique collaboration that brings young members of the Cork Migrant Centre together with youth from The Kabin Studios in Cork City. 

The 'Change Makers' series which is supported by the Irish University Association features Irish research projects that are helping to create change across the country and beyond. This episode focuses on Professor Griff Rollefson’s first-of-its-kind CIPHER project ( that was funded by the European Union to do this work on hip hop arts and understanding.  Rollefson explains: ‘“Ubuntu” is what this research project is all about—it’s what hip hop culture is about.  The show will provide a platform for these young people to teach us about their hopes and dreams—and about what the future can and should look like’.

The UBUNTU performance will feature youth in Direct Provision from the Cork Migrant Centre sharing the stage with youth from the Kabin Studios on Cork’s North Side.  The show will also feature the talents of the hip hop luminaries Raphael Olympio, GMC Beats, 0phelia, Outsider YP, Spekulativ Fiktion, Gatch, Pacino Brady, DJ Safari, and other special guest artists.

The show is led by Artistic Director and choreographer, Andrea Williams, who has composed a story of global solidarity through struggle and hard won understanding.

It will be outdoors and socially-distanced.

The event is free and open to the public, but ticketed.  Register for up to 4 tickets at:

*Please note that this position is now filled. - July 2020

PhD Studentship 

We are delighted to announce that we are currently looking for a new PhD student with a specialisation in the hip hop cultures for North America. Researchers with research interests and/or specialisms examining transnational connections to North America (broadly conceived) hip hop communities and scenes are also welcome. 

Closing date for applications is 19th May 2020.

Research Vacancy 

CIPHER: Hip Hop Interpellation Research Team

One PhD Studentship in Hip Hop Studies is available at the Department of Music in the School of Film, Music, and Theatre at University College Cork. The position is funded by the European Research Council. The study of global hip hop knowledge flows will synergize ethnographic and computational methods to examine how hip hop “unlocks the global through the local.” The principal investigator of the project is Professor J. Griffith Rollefson.

CIPHER’s study of global hip hop knowledge flows will synergize ethnographic and computational methods to examine how we might conceive of hip hop as a form of “bottom-up globalization.” The successful candidates may have a disciplinary background rooted in any of the four traditional “elements” of hip hop (DJing/turntablism, MCing/rapping, graffiti/street art, bboy/bgirl dance) or any university discipline, but must demonstrate a deep knowledge of and commitment to hip hop’s “fifth element”: knowledge (of self). The PhD student researcher will also demonstrate an interest in the theory and methods of ethnographic fieldwork and/or community engaged scholarship. The successful candidate will have research interests in one or more geographic communities and an ability to do community-engaged work across various cultural sites and scenes.  In their project proposal, applicants are expected to outline how their research record, interests, and skills align with the CIPHER initiative, namely, how they might explore hip hop’s localizations in their field(s) of cultural specialization.  Citing specific “gems” of local hip hop knowledge in the context of the proposal will be particularly advantageous.

The PhD student researcher will be supervised by J. Griffith Rollefson, and work with postdoctoral researchers, a team of computational analysts, and an advisory board of established global hip hop scholars.  The successful candidate will receive a monthly stipend, have access to dedicated funds for ethnographic research and conference travel, and assist with the organization of CIPHER’s international conferences and publications.

The successful candidate is expected to live in Cork, Ireland and become part of the research environment/network of the university and contribute to its development. The PhD student will be expected to work with the CIPHER team, present research papers at workshops and conferences, and contribute to popular dissemination of the research results.

In the evaluation of the applications, emphasis will be placed on:

  • the candidate’s scholarly merit, research-related relevance, and innovation
  • demonstrated knowledge of hip hop music and culture in local and global perspective
  • demonstrated experience in ethnographic and/or community-engaged research in one or more cultural, geographic, or linguistic field sites
  • good co-operative skills, and the ability to successfully join in academic collaboration within and across disciplines

CIPHER is a part of the UCC’s School of Film, Music, and Theatre and is located in the new Wandesford Quay Research Centre in Cork’s city centre.

Studentships are open immediately for application.

Applicants should hold a Masters degree in a relevant research area (related to one of the four traditional elements of hip hop or in a relevant university discipline).  Ideally applicants will be able to demonstrate an interest in both theoretical and methodological skills of hip hop studies, with a keen interest in hip hop community and knowledge flows.

The successful applicants will each receive total stipend funding of €16,000 per annum for a minimum of three years and an annual contribution of €5,770 to cover EU tuition fees. Non-EU candidates are encouraged to apply and eligible for the full stipend but, if successful, will need to cover non-EU fees (totalling ca. €7,230) themselves.

General enquires about the PhD positions can be made to Prof. J. Griffith Rollefson at


To Apply:

Applications by email to and must include "CIPHER PhD Studentship” in the subject line.

Applications must include, in a single PDF document:

  1. one-page (max, single spaced) cover letter describing your relevant experience and interest in the post;
  2. two-page (max, single spaced) PhD research proposal: 1.) outlining research questions, theory, methods, and research site(s); and 2.) explaining how the research relates to the CIPHER initiative by offering examples of “gems of hip hop knowledge” (lyrical, sonic, performative, etc.) from your research site(s);
  3. full CV;
  4. transcripts of results for all university level modules and courses (BA and MA).


Submission Deadline date: 19 May 2020

Start date: Studentships start from September 2020.


PRESS RELEASE - 3rd February 2020
Worldwide search for Hip Hop’s global gems is on
• Call out for hip hop fans to name their top five artists
• World’s first academic journal on hip hop launches

A global search for the defining gems of Hip Hop is on, as the world’s first global study of hip hop
launches at University College Cork (UCC).
Hip hop fans from Cork to Cape Town will be encouraged to name the top five artists, tracks and
gems of hip hop knowledge.

With a grant from the EU, UCC Professor J Griffith Rollefson has commenced CIPHER (Le Conseil
International pour Hip Hop et Recherche), a five-year research initiative. The research will be
analysing the emergence, spread, and influence of rap music and hip hop culture on six continents.
“Over the course of the next six months, we’ll be rolling out a series of social media requests asking
fans to name the top five artists, tracks, and gems of hip hop knowledge,” said Rollefson, who has
assembled a team of academics to assist in this study. Among them are Warrick Moses (PhD Harvard
2019), and Jason Ng (PhD Monash 2019), scholars of African and Asian hip hop, respectively.
These ‘gems’ can be any hip hop related lyrics that are memorable or culturally significant –
especially those with local importance.

“For instance, the concept of the ‘third eye’ of hip hop ‘consciousness’ is built upon a South Asian
spiritual concept, but has become a gem in the music of New York’s Rakim, Oakland’s Hieroglyphics,
Marseille’s IAM, Birmingham’s Juice Aleem, and countless other hip hop artists. We want to see how
that knowledge transfer happens,” Rollefson said.
“Everything from Irish to Chinese legends get incorporated into hip hop. We want to help build a
community where an artist from Tanzania can meet and collaborate with an artist from, say, Brazil,”
Moses said.

A computational data analytics team will crowdsource hip hop gems via their @GlobalCIPHER twitter
handle. The team will not only collect data, but then travel across the globe to follow up with local
hip hop communities, interviewing MCs, DJs, dancers, graffiti artists, and fans from Athens to Tunis
to Tokyo. Those interested in getting involved are encouraged to get in contact on social media or at
the dedicated website
As part of the initiative, Rollefson just launched the world’s first academic journal on the subject,
Global Hip Hop Studies, with the first issue due to publish in June. Co-edited with CIPHER Board
member, Adam Haupt (University of Cape Town), the journal will report on everything hip hop,
including features, interviews, and artist-authored pieces, as well as articles and book, media, and
record reviews.

5 things that will surprise you about hip hop
1. It has been the best-selling genre in the US for the second year running and the Canadian hip hop
artist, Drake, is the world’s most-streamed artist.
2. Hip hop’s poetry, politics, and musical artistry have been the focus of academic studies for at
least 25 years. Tricia Rose’s 1994, Black Noise, is still a go-to text for the field of hip hop studies.
3. In 2018, rapper Kendrick Lamar received the Pulitzer Prize for Music. His album DAMN, was
acknowledged as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic
4. With initiatives such as the Next Level Program, the US State Department has been sending hip
hop artists around the globe to perform and teach as cultural ambassadors since 2001.
5. The Universal Hip Hop Museum will open in New York City in 2023, with the mission to “preserve
the history of local and global hip hop music and culture to inspire, empower, and promote
5 things you did not know about Irish Hip Hop
1. Artists such as Muipead and Kneecap Rap in the Irish (Gaelic) Language.
2. Scary Éire pioneered their signature “Celtic Funk” in the early 1990s.
3. Rusangano Family’s Afrobeat-Inspired Irish Grime earned them the Choice Music Prize for Album
of the Year in 2016.
4. Tradtablism is a fusion of Irish traditional music and hip hop turntablism pioneered by Limerick
DJs, Danny Deepo, Mikey Fingers, and Deviant.
5. Artists from Marxman to Lunitíc and Temper-Mental MissElayneous have banged out hip hop
beats on the Bodhrán—the traditional Irish frame drum. Lunitíc even released a whole album of
traditional Irish ballads.
Notes to the Editor:
Prof Rollefson recently took home the Ruth Stone Book Prize from the Society for
Ethnomusicology for his book “Flip the Script: European Hip hop and the Politics of
Postcoloniality” ( and will now combine his expertise on
European and North American hip with the knowledge held by Moses, Ng, and the hip hop
heads and artists who choose to participate in the crowdsourcing phase of the citizenscience
• CIPHER is supported by a €2m grant from the European Research Council and will run at UCC
through 2024, implementing a community-driven data science project fully in compliance
with EU GDPR law.
• Rollefson was featured on a live Blindboy Podcast about Irish hip hop with the Cork DJ,
Stevie G in December 2018.
• Rollefson’s history of Irish hip hop will be published as part of Made in Ireland (Mangaoang,
O’Flynn, Ó Briain) – the first book-length collection of popular music in Ireland (Routledge
• In addition to publishing scholarship on the findings and presenting research at the Trinity
Hip Hop Festival and European Hip Hop Studies Network conferences, CIPHER will create a
global hip hop textbook and publish policy papers to help the EU and UNESCO leverage hip
hop knowledges into creating more equitable education structures and tools for social
• February is Black History Month in the US.

31st May 2021

The Cipher project is currently recruiting 2 x Research Support Officers. 

University College Cork invites applications for two Research Support Officers in the areas of Data Science, Web Engineering, and User Experience Design to co-lead the computational side of a high impact 5-year European Research Council project (final three years: 2021-2024). The two positions are in the areas of Computer Science and/or Digital Humanities, and are available at the Department of Music in the School of Film, Music, and Theatre at University College Cork. The positions are funded by the ERC and are associated with the research project CIPHER: Hip Hop Interpellation. This study of global hip hop knowledge flows will synergize computational and ethnographic methods to examine how hip hop “unlocks the global through the local.”  The principal investigator of the project is Professor J. Griffith Rollefson.

For further details, please click here


30th March 2021

We’re pleased to announce the publication of How Music Empowers, a new book by CIPHER team member Dr. Steven Gamble. Steve’s research for this book, mostly undertaken prior to the CIPHER project, is impactful and important for hip hop audiences, especially people who are into contemporary rap. Artists including Little Simz, Drake, Missy Elliott, Brockhampton, and Chance the Rapper are discussed – and a bunch of metal artists too! The book is great reading for anyone excited by how the listening process works (what happens in the mind and body), and how music affects emotions, alters behaviour, and incites action.

To purchase a copy or for further information go to


27th July 2020

We are thrilled to announce that the Global Hip Hop Studies (GHHS) Journal has been published.

We would like to thank all the artists, editors and scholars for their hard work and efforts for helping to produce our inaugural publication. 

The GHHS Journal can be accessed here, free of charge. If you would like to submit or subscribe to the journal, please connect Intellect Books. 

CIPHER ERC Research Team Wandesford Quay Research Centre Cork, Ireland,