Hip-hop is one of the most well known influences in modern popular culture.
For the second installment of Fresno State Talks, T. Hassan Johnson, a Africana studies professor, proudly presented the lecture “Hip-Hop… The #%$@ Remix! Re-Evaluating Hip-Hop Culture’s Origins and Impacts.” His lecture focused on the second word in Fresno State motto: “Diversity.”
Johnson has dedicated his life to hip-hop research. Using his passion for this art form, he attempted to opened the eyes and hearts of many Tuesday night at Fresno State Talks.
Representing “Diversity,” Johnson showed his audience the many essential origins of hip-hop overlooked by people. He discussed how hip-hop was more than just a form of music and dance, especially for him.
The message for his audience was the importance of finding their own voice.
“There’s so many different ways that people and society are going to try to push you in a direction they want you to go,” he said. “But you really have to have faith in yourself that you have something to say that’s worth hearing.”
Growing up with hip-hop played a big role in helping him find his own voice and outlook on life.
When he fell in love with hip-hop, it was still in the beginning stages.
“I just had to have faith that there was something there that would make it all come together,” he said. “Sure enough, once I went to graduate school, I was able to pull together my own voice and to see the world from my own stand point. It made all the difference.”
His message included how California, especially Fresno, created one of the core elements of hip-hop and said many people are unaware of that.
“Again, finding my voice allows me to look at those things and really find connections that people don’t really think about,” he said. “They kind of tie together, but in terms of hip-hop, it’s really is about being how much history it is, how much it has done from all over the place that should be in the hip-hop culture today.”
One of the key elements of Hip-Hop, “Popping” comes from Fresno and was introduced by Boogaloo Sam, he said. To “pop” means to jerk the body or specifc body parts thiscreating a “popping” effect.
Another two main elements is “b-boying” from New York and “locking” from Los Angeles.
“You mix those three things together; you have the core elements of hip-hop dance of the 1970s and ‘80s,” he explained.
After his lecture, Johnson hopes that people will come to understand more about the true origins of the hip-hop culture.
“I was hoping they would walk away with a deeper understanding of hip-hop culture, a deeper understanding of the contributions made to hip-hop, particularly California and Fresno,” he said. “And hopefully on an individual level, the importance of looking at the world in your own way and speaking your own truth. That’s what I meant by finding your own voice.”
Johnson was one of the three nominees picked out of 23 to talk during this event. Breanne Scogin, Student Involvement staff member, revealed the good news to him.
“He was a little surprised, but in a good way,” she said.
Fresno State Talks is organized by a three-member team – Scogin, Tamar Karkazian and Andrew Esguerra.
All 23 professors were nominated by the student body, Karkazian said.
“We started asking them, ‘Who is the professor that inspires you?’” she explained. “So they all had professors in mind, and they all wanted to nominate the professors.”
Scogin hopes Fresno State Talks will start a new tradition that allows the campus to honor professors in an unusual and different way.
“Professors on campus might win awards from national organizations or professional organizations, but they come every day to campus for students, so this allows them to be recognized by their students,” she said.
Johnson shares the same sentiments and felt honored that he was nominated and chosen by students.
“As a professor, I don’t know how other people see it – you’re either in class or in a meeting,” he said. “So in a way, you really don’t know how students see you and what impact you have. You don’t know until something like this.”
As a chosen nominee, Johnson thinks the debut of Fresno State Talk was an excellent idea and future nominated professors would find themselves honored and inspired.
“So when you’re getting an award like this, it’s a statement that students find what you say is important,” he said. “Because professors prepare lectures and really want to make sure that they have something for the students that goes beyond life itself.”
Fresno State Talks continues with its final installment “Distinction” Tuesday, March 5. Wade Gilbert, a Fresno State sports psychologist, will be presenting his lecture titled “To Infinity and Beyond! Principles of Talent Development.”