Professor Brett Esaki, students connect hip-hop and religion


cross-AE914-127-lA tap of a foot, a nod of a head, or a quiet hum.

When a beat starts, a connection is eminently created and Brett Esaki has brought it upon himself to further the study of this correlation through the study of hip-hop and religion.

Esaki, a postdoctoral teaching associate in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, presented this notion Thursday night in Anspach 162 during his annual public presentation, "Hip-Hop & Religion: Sounds and Cypher of the Past, Present and Future."

“Hip-hop unites different cultures together through art,” he said. “It has the unique ability to cross racial barriers. Hip-hop and religion come together to educate, entertain and express.”

REL 140 and REL 240 are two classes Esaki teaches at CMU. He is one of 15 scholars to study religion and hip-hop.

He discussed how the hip-hop culture’s use of religion compliments the past, present and future through the four elements of hip-hop – MC, Graff, DJ, and B-boy/B-girl.

“Hip hop has become the creator of religious expression from four elements,” Esaki said. “Religions are being brought to hip hop, religions are already inside the practices and religions are being created from it.”

Esaki said hip-hop inspires and unifies people through a sense of wholeness and transformation.

Waterford senior Steven Kukuk said he felt just that. As a lifelong fan of the genre, he said hip-hiop makes up one-third of his music collection

“With every form of music, it speaks to different people and cultures,” he said. “I listen to hip-hop because it talks about contemporary issues that relate to me. It is a type of music that flows through you, and hip-hop speaks to me.”

Kukuk said he doesn't consider himself an extremely religious or worldly person, which made the presentation all the more interesting for him.

“This was a way of exploring hip-hop in a way I have yet to study,” he said. “This was a whole new perspective and comparison between cultures. It was multi-beneficial for me.”

As the music genre continues to grow in popularity, Esaki said it's important for scholars to study it and how it is important to people.

“Without a question, hip-hop is vital to people,” Esaki said. “You can go to a completely different country and someone who doesn’t speak English will know the lyrics to a hip-hop song. I know how important hip-hop is because of how far it has evolved.”


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