Bun B teams up with Rice U to offer religion and hip hop course

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Entertainer Bun B
Entertainer Bun B speaks at a news conference in New Orleans.
images-AP Photo/Bill Haber

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Could there be be a connection between religion and hip hop? Rapper Bun B's new free online course at Rice University is digging deeper into it.

The university says a new course called Religion and Hip-Hop Culture will explore questions such as: What is religion? What is hip-hop? Are they the same thing? Do they overlap? The six-week course will be taught by Religious Studies Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning (CERCL) Anthony Pinn and Bun B.

"Our classroom course at Rice went so well that people off campus were contacting us and asking us about the course and how they could take it," Pinn said. "Working with Bun in the classroom, it became clear that there were ways of learning and teaching that we hadn't tapped. The MOOC gave us a way to be even more creative and innovative in terms of how we link the rest of world with the cultural richness and diversity of Houston to get information across."

The course begins March 24 but enrollment is now open. It will start with some basic assumptions, the most important being a willingness to think about hip-hop and religion as cultures that wrestle with the huge questions of human existence. Pinn and Bun B said that students will also need to be open to the possibility of hip-hop as a language through which complex questions, including some about religion, are presented, explored and interpreted.

"This course gave me the opportunity to let people see a side of hip-hop that isn't always discussed," Bun B said. "We've started a conversation that cannot end until people have a better understanding of who we are and what we do."

The Religion and Hip-Hop Culture course will use a mix of videos, readings, music, images, stories and behind-the-scenes insider perspectives. Pinn and Bun B are leading collaborations between Rice University and local institutions to engage the Houston community in conversations inspired by topics in the course.

This is the 23rd MOOC offered by Rice's Center for Digital Learning and Scholarship.

"This course reflects the university's commitment to experimental teaching and research that engages dynamically with Houston arts partners," said Caroline Levander, Rice's vice president for strategic initiatives and digital education. "The result is a course that showcases the cultural innovation for which Rice and Houston are known."