'The whole underexamined realm of sound': €2 million Grant for Hip-Hop Research

Rollefson at the launch of his book last year with artists Speculative Fiktion and Jus’Me from Cuttin’ Heads Collective.

'The whole underexamined realm of sound': €2 million Grant for Hip-Hop Research

Project led by UCC lecturer Dr J. Griffith Rollefson to take new approach to the contemporary study of hip-hop.

A research project led by Dr J. Griffith Rollefson, a Lecturer in Popular Music Studies at University College Cork, has been awarded a €2 million grant from the European Research Council to study global hip-hop music and culture.

The five-year research project is titled CIPHER: Hip Hop Interpellation. The ERC funding will allow for the establishment of two fully-funded PhD studentships at UCC, and four post-doctoral research positions in Ethnography and Digital Humanities. It will also see the development of a new academic journal and website.  

Speaking to The Journal of Music about the project, Rollefson said

We’ve got plenty of text-based big-data projects, but what about sound? The big challenge with textual projects is getting text digitized, but with sound we have an already digitized and massive archive of online music.

The CIPHER project proposes to use this resource to transform the contemporary study of hip-hop. ‘In the process, however,’ Rollefson explains, ‘we’ll also transform how we study popular music, music more broadly, and the whole underexamined realm of sound. CIPHER should be utterly transformative and give us, as ethno/musicologists, a set of tools to understand how music works… how culture works!

The award from the European Research Council will fund the study of hip-hop on six continents and Dr Rollefson and his researchers will investigate how the genre translated to communities and contexts around the globe. The research will combine approaches from the fields of digital humanities, such as crowdsourcing, semantic tagging and computational stylometry, and musicology, such as musical analysis and interviews. 

Rollefson’s work on the CIPHER project to date has featured Irish artists such as Spekulatic Fiktion and Temper-Mental MissElayneous, writing that ‘Ireland is a nation in which poetry, music and storytelling figure prominently in constructions of national identity… these legacies figure prominently in the ways that hip-hop has been engaged as a tool of cultural expression and political resistance by Irish MCs and DJs’. 

In 2017, Rollefson published his first book, Flip the Script: European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality, with the University of Chicago Press.

For further information on the project, visit www.europeanhiphop.org.

Published on 5 December 2018

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