Some college courses are funkier than others.
Starting this month, students in one of Regina Bradley’s upper level English courses will take a scholarly look at landmark Southern hip-hop duo Outkast.
“My areas of interest are African-American literature and popular culture,” said Bradley, a professor in Armstrong State University’s Languages, Literature and Philosophy department. “I try to find ways to connect those… Often, students get most of their information, their outlook from how they engage in popular culture.”
Bradley, who has a Ph.D. and was a Nasir Jones hip-hop fellow at Harvard University’s Hiphop Archive & Research Institute, said the course will focus on how Outkast’s “ideas about the South and southernness seep into other Southern writers.” Throughout the course, students will listen to and analyze Outkast’s albums as well as others in the genre and will examine contemporary movements like Black Lives Matter and how hip-hop can be used for political expression.
“Their final project is doing a paper that’s 12-15 pages … for what I call a ‘nerdy hip-hop review,’” Bradley said. “They’ll take an album of their choice — preferably an Outkast album — and give a discussion of the themes and what they hear.”
The course is in some ways an extension of her passion project: a forthcoming book about Outkast, her favorite hip-hop group. Bradley moved to South Georgia as a teenager, and Outkast was her introduction to a burgeoning Southern hip-hop scene in the 1990s that was largely rooted in Atlanta.
The duo — André 3000 and Big Boi — won multiple Grammy awards for their 2000 album “Stankonia” and 2003’s double album “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.” While Outkast has not put out an album in about a decade, their influence remains undeniable. André has been a featured artist on several albums over the last few years — including A Tribe Called Quest’s 2016 “We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service.” Big Boi has put out two solo albums and teamed with New York electronica duo Phantogram for last year’s “Big Grams” album.
Outkast already has connections to Savannah. Big Boi was born here, and Outkast’s third album, “Aquemini,” features a track called “West Savannah” which mentions several locations in the city. The rapper brought his Big Kidz Foundation to Savannah High for an event in 2010, occasionally mentions his hometown on social media and filmed a music video here for his 2010 debut solo album, “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty.”
André, meanwhile, partnered with the Savannah College of Art and Design last year for exhibitions in Miami and the SCAD Museum of Art focusing on statements he wore on jumpsuits during Outkast’s 2014 reunion tour.
Big Boi noticed an article about the course published by Armstrong’s student newspaper, The Inkwell, and shared it on Facebook before telling Atlanta’s Creative Loafing: “I am originally from Savannah, and I remember Armstrong, so that is just super dope.” Reading that, Bradley said, made her day.
Bradley said she wants the course — which is full — to be inviting and and informative for everyone who signed up.
“For the folks who are just as in love with Outkast as I am, I also want them to feel like they can contribute to the class — that’s particularly important,” Bradley said. “I also don’t want to overlook or shun the folks who aren’t familiar with hip-hop at all. I’m pretty sure I have a couple of folks in there who have no clue who Outkast is or don’t listen to hip-hop at all, which is why they’re there — they want to learn something different.” [Dash Coleman]