The Carolina Symposia in Music and Culture series is starting with a “bounce” on Oct. 4 with the first lecture by professor Lauron Kehrer of Western Michigan University titled, "'Nice for What': New Orleans Bounce and Disembodied Queer Voices in the Mainstream.”
Bounce is a genre of Southern hip-hop with strong queer identity originating in New Orleans and has made its way into mainstream music with songs like Beyonce’s “Formation” and Drake’s “Nice for What.” Both songs sample the “gay choirboy” Big Freedia who also stars as herself in the Fuse docuseries “Big Freedia Bounces Back,” and yet she is given little if any recognition of her collaboration.
Aldwyn Hogg Jr., a doctoral student in musicology studying the intersectionality of technology achievements and African American music, is one of the co-chairs for the committee selecting the lecturers.
When discussing the selection process, he said, “Dr. Kehrer was one of the first people we really wanted so we are really happy that she said yes.”
Hogg said music academe’s views on the study of hip-hop have changed a lot.
“I think it’s definitely within the last few decades that people won’t look at you funny when you say you study hip-hop music, so it's become valid and a sub-discipline in its own way,” Hogg said.
With Kehrer’s lecture, she will be touching on an area that Hogg said is much more relevant to the UNC music department than one might think.
“There are a surprising number of people in the (UNC music) department who would list hip-hop, gender studies and queer studies as things that they actively consider, so it’s really great that she’s coming," Hogg said.
UNC first-year Matthew Gillespie, a music major, is also interested in the Carolina Symposia in Music and Culture lecture series.
"It seems really interesting and it gives a perspective on a new way you do music,” Gillespie said. "I’ve been doing old stuff, so seeing something new is cool.”
For the non-music majors, the lecture offers an opportunity not only for free food, but also the accessibility of the topic.
“I think especially this year in particular, a lot of the topics of the speakers are not going to be super highly focused in music," Hogg said. "And by that I mean like there’s not going to be a bunch of music jargon or music analysis that it would possibly deter people who don’t have that kind of background or expertise.
"It opens your eyes to a different kind of culture," Gillespie said. "Everyone needs a little more music in their lives.”
Julia Masters, a UNC junior studying journalism and political science, who was wearing a t-shirt of famed music producer Brian Wilson, said she hadn’t heard of the Bounce genre before, but like many music fans had heard Beyonce’s song “Formation” and hadn’t realized that this was representative of the New Orleans sound.
“I would say I don’t normally listen to hip-hop music — but when I do, I like it," Masters said.
Another song being discussed in Kehrer’s lecture, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” brought a smile to Masters’ face.
“I liked it because I think it sort of bridged the gap between (country and hip-hop) genres, it has a really good beat and it was just a fun song to listen to.”
While Lil Nas X hadn’t yet come out as gay at the time of the controversy over the song's listing as a country tune, it adds to the discourse.
For music fans who want to expand their repertoire, Kehrer said she recommends Sissy Nobby’s “Consequences,” Ha Sizzle’s “Biggidy Bounce It,” Big Freedia’s “Karaoke (feat. Lizzo),” Drake’s “Nice For What,” and Missy Elliott’s “Pep Rally.”
Hogg also suggests fellow North Carolinian Nina Simone’s song "Four Women."
“I personally find this song to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music that examines the history, strife and resilience of Black women in America,” Hogg said.
Interested students who can’t make it to the lecture on Oct. 4 at 4:15 p.m. in Hill Hall room 103 can look forward to checking out Kehrer’s forthcoming book, tentatively titled, “Queer Voices in Hip-Hop: Cultures, Communities, and Contemporary Performance.”
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