More and more scholarship today is focused on different perspectives in hip hop, and conversely, hip hop has a greater presence on college campuses than ever before. It’s being taught in the classrooms, it’s being played on college radio, touring acts are being brought in to play shows, and student groups and official university activities are incorporating the culture in various forms. With all this in mind, it was only a matter of time before someone applied some serious analysis to the various ways that hip hop culture intersects with the life of a college student. Emery Petchauer has done just that with this book, which gives a short but effective look at several different students and the experiences at different colleges, looking at the factors effecting each situation.

Petchauer examines students from three different colleges of various sizes, public and private, and in different geographic locations. The students are also of various genders, ethnic groups, and socio-economic backgrounds. One student finds strength through a weekly open mic session, another through art, and others learn to b-boy or deejay. Some situations make the case for the idea of hip hop as a college major, while others lend to more subversive situations where students find strength through hip hop culture while they feel like the minority under the microscope. Petchauer does an excellent job of gathering different points of view from different academic settings, and finds that the discussion basically boils down to an intersection of identity frameworks, aesthetic forms, and habits and practices. My only real complaint about the book is that it’s fairly short, and the studies could be greatly expanded. However, I realize the practical hurdles in the way of doing a study like that, and the results that Petchauer was able to discern in this book are quite interesting. There are some really good discussions about how students of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds enter into the culture and then interact with it. There is also some interesting discussion of how the different universities provide (or don’t) a supportive framework so that students have a space to explore the culture in different and enriching ways.

It’s a really interesting topic, and one that really hit home with this writer, who only interacted with hip hop on deep level after getting involved with college radio. Of course, one’s college experience is never the only experience, and a book like Hip-Hop Culture In College Students’ Lives helps the conversation happen as to how we can help students moving forward, so that the schools and the students it’s trying to reach can both get the most out of the situation.