“This month I interviewed A.D. Carson, a performance artist and educator from Decatur, Illinois. He is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design at Clemson University doing work that focuses on race, literature, history, and rhetorical performances. Through his See the Stripes campaign, which takes its name from his 2014 poem, Carson has worked with Clemson students, faculty, staff, and community members to raise awareness of historic and entrenched racism at the university. He is an award-winning artist with essays, music, and poetry published at a variety of diverse venues such as The Guardian, Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public-Radio Program, and Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory, among others. His essay “Trimalchio from Chicago: Flashing Lights and the Great Kanye in West Egg” appears in The Cultural Impact of Kanye West (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), and “Oedipus—Not So Complex: A Blueprint for Literary Education” is published in Jay-Z: Essays on Hip Hop’s Philosopher King (McFarland & Co., 2011). He has written a novel, COLD, which hybridizes poetry, rap lyrics, and prose, and The City: [un]poems, thoughts, rhymes & miscellany, a collection of poems, short stories, and essays. Carson is a 2016 recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Excellence in Service at Clemson University. Follow him on Twitter/IG @aydeethegreat.
Darryl Robertson: Please tell us more about your dissertation topic. What inspired you to make a hip-hop album to defend your dissertation?
A.D. Carson: “Owning My Masters” is a digital archive of original rap music and spoken word poetry. Rather than theorizing about hip-hop, my project “does” this work through the genre of hip-hop. We know the study of hip-hop has assisted in pushing through some of the boundaries imposed by many academic conventions. I think the performance of some of hip-hop’s cultural products tend to exist on the margins of what is considered “proper” scholarly engagement in many academic disciplines. This works to reproduce certain forms of – and assumptions about – knowledge production regarding hip-hop. My project privileges rap and spoken word poetry as its primary means of rhetorical engagement, and its content calls for attentiveness to historical and contemporary social justice issues. There are 34 tracks in the primary playlist, as well as seven additional playlists, a YouTube video channel, a chronological timeline annotated with media and bibliographic resources, photo galleries, and a blog with essays, videos, publications, and other associated media.
Tricia Rose’s Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America is an invaluable text. I hope my project is performing what she calls “techno-black cultural syncretism” by combining Black oral traditions with the sampling of Black voices by utilizing recording technologies to enter into conversations with those voices.”