When I saw a tweet about history students creating a playlist for a course called “Rap, Reagan and the 1980s,” I was immediately intrigued. After all, I not only grew up during the era of “Reaganomics” but also used to spin records as a hip-hop DJ from the mid-1980s to early 1990s – considered the “golden age” of hip-hop.

I was a huge fan of politically conscious rap artists, such as Chuck D, KRS-One and Ice T, to name a few. The course, taught by Amherst College history professor Stefan Bradley, reminded me of how many rappers used to take Reagan to task for what happened under his watch. What better way, I thought, to teach today’s college students about the 40th president, who was known as “The Great Communicator,” than through the lyrics of some great communicators in their own right – those early rappers from hip-hop’s golden age?

The course also gave me another idea: Why not start a series to feature college courses that take an unusual approach to education? Thus began “Unusual Courses,” a new occasional series at The Conversation U.S. that makes its debut today. Bradley was the spark for this series, so it’s fitting that his course be featured first. But it won’t be the last. Be sure to keep an eye out for more stories about some of the most fascinating courses currently being taught in America’s colleges and universities.

Also today:

Jamaal Abdul-Alim

Education Editor

Numerous rap songs criticize the Reagan administration for its complicity in the illicit drug trade. Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Rap artists have penned plenty of lyrics about US presidents – this course examines what they say about Reagan and the 1980s

Stefan M. Bradley, Amherst College

Ronald Reagan may have been known as ‘The Great Communicator,’ but rap artists don’t view his legacy through such rose-colored glasses. A professor of Black studies and history takes a closer look.

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