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Rap anthology by UTSC professor garners widespread critical attention


Andrew DuBois brought experience teaching rap poetics to 900-page book

It’s not every day that you publish a book and it gets attention from The New Yorker, the Huffington Post, the New York Times Book Review, The Globe and Mail and the Wall Street Journal. But that’s exactly what’s happened to UTSC English professor Andrew DuBois.

DuBois’ The Anthology of Rap, published by Yale University Press and co-edited by Adam Bradley of the University of Colorado (Boulder), has garnered critical praise and headlines from a number of major publications since its release in October. In addition to the above-mentioned heavy-hitters, reviews and discussions of the book have also appeared in the Financial Times Magazine, the Boston Globe, New York Magazine, the literary venues Quill and Quire and Bookforum, and on National Public Radio and PBS NewsHour.

The Anthology of Rap details the entire 30-plus year history of rap and includes lyrics to more than 300 seminal or otherwise noteworthy songs. Representing nearly ten years of effort, it is the first work of its kind. In the words of famed philosopher and critic Cornel West, DuBois’ and Bradley’s Anthology is “an instant classic.”

DuBois has just returned from the whirlwind, northeast swing of his North American book tour. Over the last month, he has spoken at events at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington D. C., the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the Hip Hop Archive at Harvard University. He has also shared the stage with such rap icons as Common, Kurtis Blow, Immortal Technique and Grandmaster Caz.

DuBois has been both overwhelmed and heartened by the experience so far.

“It's been extremely soul-bolstering to hear my friends and colleagues talk about the book,” he says, “or to meet educators who say rap might be more likely to enter the school curriculum because of it. By teaching kids the history of this art form they care so much about, that could really help validate their interests, and encourage more kids to stay in school. You can't put a price on that. It's the best.”

At UTSC, DuBois teaches a hugely popular fourth-year class in rap poetics (soon to be a third-year, C-level class, which means twice as many students can take it). He says his experiences with students here had a strong influence on how he approached the book. “The students I’ve had at UTSC, with their multiplicity of backgrounds, really taught me how important it is to write a book that appeals to a range of different needs and expectations.”

But in many ways, DuBois – himself a lifelong aficionado of rap—wrote this book for his teenaged self. “I wish I’d had a book like this when I was in high school.”

Currently on sabbatical from teaching, DuBois says the attitude towards learning at UTSC is very appealing to him as a professor. “There’s an excitement here about the idea of higher education, and all the wonderful things it can provide for you,” he says. “And not just in terms of the job market or satisfying someone else’s sense of what your ambition should be. It’s all about intellectual camaraderie here. People form friendships.”

Professor DuBois will be speaking at a rap music roundtable on Friday, December 3 at 2 p.m. at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. For more information, click here.

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