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Cambridge uni to host the UK’s first ever hip hop conference

The elite institution will stage the event – titled 'It Ain't Where You're From, It's Where You're At' – in June

Cambridge university – the cerebral birthplace of Nick Clegg, Stephen Fry and Vanessa Feltz – is set to host the UK’s first ever hip hop conference. Titled “It Ain’t Where You’re From, It’s Where You’re At,” the event will see scholars from around the world meet to discuss their interpretations of the genre: including the work of Kanye West, MC Rakim and Tinie Tempah. 

The event, which was arranged by Cambridge musicologist James Butterworth, is set to take place in June, and will examine the influence of hip hop through linguistics, musicology and gender studies. “How can an emphasis on ‘where you’re at’ help us to understand the ethics and aesthetics of hip hop?” questions the conference summary. “What relevance does the privileging of orientation have to the development of hip hop studies as an interdisciplinary field? ...What is the role of negation in the construction of hip hop’s various histories, its cultural politics, and its re-territorialisation?”

Considering the elite reputation of the uni, which has been branded as “institutionally racist” by one of its own academics, it seems like a bit of an odd choice. Hip hop is, at its heart, an anti-establishment celebration of black culture – so the thought of a snowy room of ex-prefects musing over lines like “corny n*ggas you wish you could unswallow” feels a little inappropriate. 

It’s an issue organisers are reportedly aware of though – and while they have admitted the conference could be a bit “problematic”, they’re still adamant it’s the best place for the discussion, and that there are “plenty” who will be interested. “You may be surprised that many music faculties at UK universities offer courses in hip hop,” Butterworth revealed to Times Education. “Cambridge has a course in hip hop, and I have taught a course at the University of Oxford on hip hop that is a compulsory module for all first-year music students.”

Cambridge have been contacted for further comment. In the meantime, you can read more about the conference on its official website here.