Professional and Biographical Information
Ph.D. University of Virginia, 2017
B.A. Macalester College, 2008
All of my courses focus in some part on American popular music—its sound, musical language, style, political impact, history, and its relationship to culture more broadly. In my music theory classes, we explore how music works across many genres by analyzing popular songs as well as Western art music and repertoire from other musical traditions, and compose our own music based on what we’ve discovered. I also offer a variety of classes on popular music: a seminar course examining music’s and identity, an introductory class on hip-hop history, a lab-based hip- hop production class, and more to come. Regardless of the subject, I ask students to listen harder to and think more critically about the music they already listen to, and hopefully to discover some new gems.
My research investigates how the music industry influences musical expression. I’m interested in how popular musicians express their identities through music, how listeners articulate their own identities by consuming this music, and how the economic interests of the music and media industries complicates these relationships. For my current book project, How Hip Hop Became Hit Pop, I explore the commercial radio industry’s role in making hip-hop mainstream. In the late-1980s, hip-hop exploded in popularity, transitioning from a New York City-based minority subculture into a genre consumed by millions of Americans of all races and ethnicities. Radio airplay was a driving force behind this transformation, exposing a nation of new listeners to what were, at the time, bizarre sounds: someone talking and scratching records on top of hard-hitting electronic beats. Hip-hop’s move into the mainstream also expanded the possibilities for how artists sounded their racial identities, and, ultimately, transformed how audiences conceived of their own racial identities in an increasingly multicultural America.
“Commentary on Crossing Over: Musical Perceptions Within Black Adolescent Culture” Journal of Popular Music Studies 30, no. 1-2 (July 2018)
“‘Check Out the Hook While My DJ Revolves It’: How the Music Industry Made Rap into Pop in the Late 1980s.” In The Oxford Handbook of Hip Hop Music Studies, edited by Justin D. Burton and Jason Lee Oakes. Oxford University Press, 2018.