Worldwide search for Hip Hop’s global gems is on

11 Feb 2020

 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.

Department of Music

Roinn an Cheoil

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