ORLANDO, Fla. – The 2022 Super Bowl halftime show was a key moment for hip-hop and rap artists to be featured on one of the biggest stages in the entertainment industry.
The multi-generational performance caught global attention and University of Central Florida associate professor Keith Harrison used this event to inspire dialogue in his class about the role hip-hop plays in today’s businesses.
“Some people want to know, nostalgically speaking, how hip-hop culture evolved, which a million people in the world, 100 million-plus watched the Super Bowl saw at halftime, how has that evolved into products, fashion, food and beverage?” Harrison said.
Harrison’s students watched the trailer for the show and discussed its message for the industry, based on the reception across social channels.
“It’s unreal to see comments from all over the world showing love for hip-hop culture and the artists that were up on that stage,” Harrison said.
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He hopes to encourage students to learn something new in his Business of Hip-Hop Innovation and Entrepreneurship course at UCF. For some students, this course feeds their passion for hip-hop, and for others, it’s a fun elective.
But Harrison said diving into the theoretical aspects of hip-hop and learning how it influences business decisions is an art.
“One of the things I’ve enjoyed watching some of the students learn, I would say a life lesson, is just because it’s about hip-hop culture does not mean the course is any less rigorous,“ Harrison said.
Although hip-hop culture is greatly influenced by the African-American community, Harrison said it’s interesting to see the legacy of hip-hop incorporate other races and ethnicities, like the Latinx community.
“I don’t want to call it the melting pot,” Harrison said. “I like more of a stew... It’s like the gumbo dish, everyone still is their ingredient, but it’s unified in the pot.”
The culture of hustle in the music industry and Harrison’s Southern California roots helped structure his class — despite the confusion some people may have on how hip-hop relates to business.
“They might say, ‘How does it relate to business?’ And I say ‘Through innovation, entrepreneurship, risk-taking, strategy, board behavior, persuasion,’” Harrison said. “I could go on and on. But then what I try to get them to see is there’s gonna be diverse interest in the class.”
This graduate class, which began in 2019, is part of the baccalaureate Business of Hip-Hop Innovation and Creative Industries certificate at UCF. Students in sophomore standing are eligible to take the course with a different curriculum.
This semester, the class is structured around online readings and two live Zooms, which means that students engage with each other through discussions and videos. They analyze case studies about the culture, hip-hop commercial products, such as Dr. Dre’s Beats and musical works of prominent artists through a business lens, as opposed to an artistic or social perspective.
According to UCF, the hip-hop business certificate is the first program of its type to be offered by a college of business. When students graduate, they will receive a vinyl record diploma.
In previous interviews with UCF, Harrison described the class as an intersection of diversity and innovation, focusing on the history of hip-hop as creative expression and its progression into the powerful business that it is today.
“I think we’ve only scratched the surface of the implications,” Harrison said.
There is a lot more to be done when it comes to bringing hip-hop culture to the forefront of entrepreneurship, Harrison said. He explained that hip-hop music started as an underground phenomenon, transformed into a stigmatized trend, became mainstream by the early 1990s and then in the early 2000s it was commercialized.
That’s why Harrison believes the evolution of hip-hop exposure has a big impact on the younger generations’ everyday lives.
“What has changed is that it’s mainstream. What’s changed is that the corporations have bought in — Disney, automation, GEICO Insurance, wireless AT&T. It’s permeated everywhere,” Harrison said. “You know, you can walk into a coffee shop, you can be in the most mainstream restaurant, and they’ve got hip-hop culture on Pandora.”
This year, he plans on exploring another research topic he feels passionate about, the connection between sports and hip-hop, while continuing to educate students.
“I’m happy that UCF has allowed me the platform to touch students’ intellectual lives, their minds, and their hearts with something that I grew up with,” Harrison said.