3690: A Journal of First-Year Student Research Writing

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Overview: Before there was Iggy Azalea's "Fancy," there was Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady," Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby," the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Till Brooklyn," and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's "Good Vibrations." Since the 1980's, hip-hop has frequently been adopted by White rappers, but the genre has largely remained a Black art form and a key aspect of Black culture in the United States. White rappers, while co-existing alongside Black rappers, are often left out of the conversation when it comes to discussions of hip-hop's impact—until Eminem. In 2000, Eminem won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album for his debut album The Slim Shady LP and has since taken home this award five more times. Eminem separates himself from his fellow White rappers, in that, he's the only one to ever be considered the "King of Rap." When Rolling Stone gave Eminem this title in 2011, fans of hip-hop and the African American community alike were divided—Eminem is an undeniable titan in hip-hop, but having a White man labelled the "King" of a genre African Americans created for themselves left some confused. While Eminem has always been aware of his privilege as a White man (seen in his 2017 song "Untouchable"), being dubbed the "King of Hip Hop," (Molanphy) left some wondering where the line between Eminem, and others participating in Black culture, appreciating Black culture, and appropriating it lies.

Author's Reflection: My name is Tamaron McKnight, I'm currently a sophomore Childhood Education Major and English Major from Rochester, NY. Last spring, I was fortunate to take ENGL 199: Race in America with Fionnuala Regan. Upon reading the course description during course registration, I was intrigued by the idea of taking a class in which I was given the opportunity to explore a wide variety of topics before focusing on one for my research paper. The most challenging thing about the writing process for me was sharing my ideas with others, especially ideas I feel passionate about; I've been sharing my writing with my peers ever since I entered School of the Arts as a Creative Writing Major in 7th grade, but there was always something vulnerable about having people look at work you're especially passionate about. In a sense, though, having people read work you're passionate about is also rewarding. Even if the reader does or doesn't connect with the content of it, it's validating because in some way or another they're motivated by your writing enough to react to it. This was especially enjoyable for me for this paper because of the issues of black culture I discussed are very personal to me; as a black person, I live and breathe black culture every day of my life, so to have a position in which I can discuss the issues I see is rewarding in the best way. However, ENGL 199 was also rewarding in the fact that it has helped me with future English classes, in that, it has helped me improve my research skills (which were pretty much nonexistent before this class), and helped improve planning skills. Before ENGL 199, I never wrote an essay without creating an outline first, but my outlines were very sparse and, looking back at it now, I realize that these outlines helped very little in the actual essay I was writing. As such, by taking 199, I honed in on my planning skills that are going to benefit me as an English major and well after graduation.

Professor Regan's Reflection: Our Research Writing class began with a lot of reading—authors like Frederick Douglass and Toni Morrison provided a rich literary introduction to our topic, Race in America. From the start, Tamaron had a passion for the subject because of her affinity for reading and her personal life experience as African American. As the class methodically plodded through scaffolded assignments, Tamaron regularly produced unexpected perspectives; she challenged us to view an issue from angles that surprised even other creative thinkers in the class. At the same time, she was a disciplined researcher, allowing herself the opportunity to locate and digest useful and credible sources. As she constructed her argument, Tamaron worked to fairly present her evidence and synthesize her sources. She ended up writing a timely paper on the blurring lines between appropriation and appreciation of Black culture. Tamaron drew in history and literature as foundations that can help us understand the current popularization of Black culture in America, and then analyzed the problems that this causes. She herself used the scaffolding skills developed in class to build her argument from the ground up, educating her reader about history and walking us through how it often plays out to negative results in pop culture. We come to appreciate Tamaron’s views because she weighs them against the relevant perspectives uncovered in her scholarly search. Ultimately, the paper makes a strong case for a more informed and deeper appreciation of Black American culture.

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