Winter Session Spotlight: Catherine Appert on Planet Rap: Where Hip-Hop Came from and Where it's Going

by Shelley Preston,
SCE News, November 15, 2023

This Winter Session, students have a rare opportunity to visit "Planet Rap: Where Hip-Hop Came from and Where It's Going (MUSIC 2370)." Only offered during Winter Session once before, this online course is taught by Catherine Appert, an ethnomusicologist and associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Music. Dr. Appert will survey the vast musical and cultural impact rap has had on the world since its inception in New York City during the 1970s.

“Youth around the world not only consume American hip-hop, they’ve created their own adaptations of rap and hip-hop into texts, dance and visual culture,” said Dr. Appert. “The course traces ongoing connections between hip-hop’s roots in the cultural expression of marginalized youth in the urban United States and its relationship to contemporary pop culture. We’ll trace rap’s journey around the globe where diverse practitioners have mobilized its beats, rhymes and culture to address their own experiences of oppression and celebration and to agitate for social justice.”

The School of Continuing Education (SCE), which offers Winter Session, asked Dr. Appert what students can expect from this three-credit, three-week course offered online, Jan. 2-19.

How long have you been teaching this course? Is it the first time it’s being offered for Winter Session?

Although it’s been offered every summer since 2020, it’s only been offered in Winter Session once before.

Who is the ideal student for this course?

This course meets a variety of needs for different students. You don't need any specialized musical skills or prior knowledge of hip-hop to take it. Often, students in their third and fourth years find Planet Rap to be a great choice for filling one of their elective requirements. For students in the College of Arts and Sciences, it fills the Social Difference or Arts, Literature and Culture distribution requirement.

What are the things that you enjoy teaching about this course?

I really enjoy learning with students about their own interests within the broader context of hip-hop as they turn in several short research assignments throughout the course. Sometimes, students even end up inspiring changes to the course. For example, last year, a student did a final project on the influence of Japanese anime in U.S. hip-hop. The topic was so interesting to me that I researched additional materials and worked it into the final unit of the course. As I update the course each year to reflect current events and newer music, I often incorporate music and articles that they discovered over the course of their own projects.

What do you hope your students come away with by the end of the course?

I hope students that take this class come away understanding just how closely music is tied to socio-historical contexts and how much marginalized populations around the world have connected through this particular genre. I also hope they have a deeper understanding of hip-hop as a musical form and poetic genre that will inform their future listening practices.

What should students know about taking a three-credit course in just three weeks?

Students are sometimes surprised by the pace for a three-week course. I remind them early on that each day of the course is essentially an entire week in a regular semester, including both class time and assignments! This is a very fast-paced course, but it is also quite flexible. Students can complete the work around their own work or family schedules. Students who are traveling a lot over break may not be able to devote the time necessary to earn an A. So, it’s important to understand the time commitment.


Cornell students have until January 2 to enroll in "MUSIC 2370: Planet Rap: Where Hip-Hop Came From, and Where It's Going" or dozens of other online, three- and four-credit courses in subjects including animal science, the arts, business and management, government, language, the sciences, physical education and more. Visiting students and Precollege students have until Dec. 4 to register for Winter Session.