by Ashley Lucas
In 2019, Professor Mark Katz helped launch The Carolina Hip Hop Institute at UNC. The Carolina Hip Hop Institute is an 11-day intensive summer program that immerses students into the art and culture of hip hop. As the program coordinator, Katz is very involved in the day-to-day planning of the Institute as well as overseeing its operations. I recently had the pleasure of being able to interview him about all things surrounding the program, and here is what he had to say!
Can you tell us a little about the Carolina Hip Hop Institute and how it came to be at UNC?
Katz: The Carolina Hip Hop Institute is a group of three summer courses—one on rap, one on beatmaking, and one on dance—taught by three excellent hip hop artist-educators, Joshua Rowsey, Kerwin Young, and Junious Brickhouse. The program is modeled after Next Level, an international hip hop exchange and diplomacy program that I used to direct and which Junious Brickhouse now directs. We had always wanted to bring the Next Level model to programs in the U.S., and so when I was approached to develop a summer program at Carolina I immediately thought of building on the Next Level model.
What courses are offered through the Institute? Can you tell us a little about the instructors?
Katz: Joshua Rowsey teaches the rap course. He is a proud Carolina alum who is an innovative hip hop educator, and he participated in the Next Level hip hop residency in Mexico. Kerwin Young teaches beatmaking. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, and composer of many different genres, and a hip hop producer, who has worked with the likes of Public Enemy and Mos Def. Junious Brickhouse teaches the dance course. He’s a leader in the dance community and serves as director of Next Level as well as the non-profit arts organization, Urban Artistry.
What are some key concepts that these courses will be teaching students?
Katz: The courses focus on hands-on training—students will rap, make beats, and dance. But they will also learn about hip hop history and culture as well as the broader cultures in which hip hop arose. These courses focus on collaborative learning rather than competition and are open to beginners as well as experienced performers.
How will the schedule look different for students participating in the program since the institute will be remote this year?
Katz: We held the classes virtually last semester as well, and they went surprisingly smoothly despite the occasional technological challenges. Students will need to find appropriate space where they are able to be a little noisy and, if they’re in the dance class, move around and have a mirror. Although students will not be in the same physical space, they will collaborate and learn from each other a good deal.
What skills do you hope students that participate in the institute continue to carry with them even after the courses are over?
Katz: Each instructor will teach foundational concepts and skills that will allow them to progress on their own after the institute has ended. Students will also gain a greater appreciation for the historical significance and cultural richness of hip hop and connect what they learn to broader societal issues.
What do you get most excited for when it comes to the Carolina Hip Hop Institute?
Katz: I love watching the joy students experience when they learn something new, master a skill, or create art with each other. These moments of discovery and connection can be profound and transformative, and I am fortunate to be able to witness these moments.
Get a peek at how it all started in this video from the News and Observer in 2019. Registration for the Carolina Hip Hop Institute is open now.