As a John C. Young (JCY) Scholar, Valentine (Val) Banor ’17 examined music an entirely different way during his yearlong project titled “White Artists in Hip-hop: Emulation, Appreciation or Appropriation?”
Banor’s project stems from a course he took in the fall of 2015 with Associate Professor of Music Nathan Link that discussed a wide range of music genres, from African to modern music. He has always been interested in the topic of music, and he listens to a variety of artists, styles of music and even breakdances.
In the class, Banor wrote a 10-page paper exploring the vexed question of cultural appropriation among white hip-hop artists. When Link read Banor’s paper, he suggested that the topic and paper was John C. Young material, which led him to his yearlong research.
“I have immensely enjoyed working with Val on his project,” Link said. “Val is a brilliant, knowledgeable and thoughtful student, able to tackle a complex and potentially controversial topic with a rare mixture of passion and nuance.
“Working with him has been among the real honors of my time as a professor at Centre,” he added.
Banor explained how, for his project, he needed to better understand appropriation, the history of hip-hop, explore where it started and why the ideas of appropriation are still relevant today.
“It was really interesting research,” he said.
Not only did he seek counsel from Link, but he also looked to Associate Professor of Anthropology Andrea Abrams to brainstorm ideas for the project.
“There are so many different avenues you can use to study this,” he said. “I was so happy I had a music professor, like Link, and an anthropology professor, like Abrams, advising me.
“Even though Abrams wasn’t my official advisor, she was able to give me some insight on how to start this, because appropriation is big topic itself,” he continued.
With the advice from Abrams in mind, he explored and researched a number of ideas.
One source that provided a great deal of information for his project was the book “Soul Thieves,” which explained why white rappers and hip-hop are seen as appropriators.
Through this book, he learned how it’s important for rappers and hip-hop artists to remain genuine in who they are and where they are from.
“The thing that stood out to me was the way the music industry was structured and how they get artists to produce music,” he said.
Throughout the project, Banor learned how there are multiple avenues for studying anything.
“I don’t think it would have been as fun if I had a solid answer,” he said. “I kept finding new information, and all the topics were connected.”
Following graduation, Banor will attend Carnegie Mellon University in an MBA entertainment business program.
by Kerry Steinhofer
May 18, 2017