Dr. Marcyliena Morgan

Download audio | January 17, 2017

Marcyliena Morgan is a Professor in the Department of African and African American Studies and Founding Director of The Hiphop Archive and Research Institute (HARI) at Harvard University and the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.  She earned both her B.A. and her M.A. degrees at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She obtained an additional M.A. in linguistics at the University of Essex, England and her PhD through the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She has written extensively on gender, feminism and sexuality in Hiphop culture.  She is launching a project on the HARI website on Women in Hiphop and a campaign called Stand up for Women and Girls.

She is the author of many works that focus on youth, gender, racism, language, culture, identity, sociolinguistics, discourse and interaction, including the Daedulus (2011) publication “Hiphop and the Global Imprint of a Black Cultural Form” (with Dionne Bennett), Language, Discourse and Power in African American Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and her book The Real Hiphop – Battling for Knowledge, Power, and Respect in the Underground (Duke University Press, 2008).  Her most recent book publication is Speech Communities with Cambridge University Press (2014).

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Rhymes: Eddie Kendricks, "Tell Her Love Has Felt the Need," Dinah Washington, "It's a Mean Old Man's World," John Coltrane, "Acknowledgement," Gil Scott-Heron, "I Think I'll Call It Morning," Junior M.A.F.I.A., "Get Money," and Reflection Eternal, "Four Women"


  1. You are too Kool!

  2. This is excellent! I can’t wait to see what SF State Hiphop students think about this important research resource. Thank you!

    DE Fischer
  3. I agree that Hip Hop in present days has changed drastically from what I would consider Hip Hop years ago. As you said, throughout years it has molded to talk about issues that were taboo. At least for me, I have seen a similar experience. Growing up Hip Hop did not appeal to me as it gave me a false impression and really undervalued the lyrics. As I listened more and more, it really appealed to my life and my problems. So much so that it became a culture that I was indulged in. Artists in the Hip Hop culture were much more prevalent and seemed more ” real” than other musical artists in other genre. They were a personality come to life. The reason I listen is for the voice. I see lyricism as a skill to voice an opinion in a way that gathers everyone in the culture together in a way that makes it indestructible and at the same time beautiful.

    Ramiro Villafuerte
  4. It was very inspiring and eye opening to see how Marcyliena Morgan speaks about what hip hop actually is. She explains how it is not just what one person thinks, but about what a community is facing and stands for. Representing others about who they are, where they come from, and change/growth of a united people make up the context of hip hop. The genre does not exclude anyone who are not teenage boys as it used to be, now it is a universal platform for creativity and empowerment that many people utilize/listen to get a message across. This culture is as important and influential as any other because so many individuals resonate with it.

    Joshua Ruelas
  5. I see Hip Hop as a form of expression that has helped young people express their life situations such as oppression. It has allowed them to bring up issues that are not normally brought up in society. This has helped people think about and try to solve such issues. In the end, Hip Hop has been used as a tool for social change for decades.

  6. I really like what you had to say about Chicago and the way that the music interacts with the neighborhoods. I grew up on 79th street and everything thing that was said about the juxtaposition of music influencing the Chicago culture and this adding the the uniqueness of the city, I related to because I’ve experienced it. I also liked what was said, when “Four Women” was mentioned, about the fact that we all are one woman and also how you can see the steady rise of female artists who talked about female liberation (such as Lil Kim) and that you can see how they’ve influenced newer artists such as Nicki Minaj.

    Elizabeth Williams - Johnson
  7. Dr. Marcyliena Morgan takes these six classic hip hop songs and describes there relevance as well as displays how politics plays a vital role in the songs. I never viewed hip hop in particular to teach me something, I more so seen it at something I enjoyed listening to. My favorite song she described was “Get Money” bu Junior M.A.F.I.A. as it describes women taking back their bodies and learning the power they truly have. 

    Erika Huesca
  8. This was a very dope, interesting listen. It definitely introduces some new concepts as well as ties different ones together. I really liked the way she deciphers the Feminism in the song “Get Money”.

    Marilyn Lopez
  9. the representation in “get money”, of feminism I’ve never noticed. This opened the door for women to stand up for themselves through music and voiced the divine right all women have.

    isaiah Kercado
  10. This podcast has been very informative on how powerful the music of artists like John Coltrane that morphed history to what it is. It’s surprising how an artist like John Coltrane that can make you imagine how suffering and struggling is through just the instrumentals. I’m impressed how a person like Gil Scott-Heron was able to later relate to many generations in the future through his own music. You would think people in the future wouldn’t relate with a song like “I Think I’ll Call It Morning” to today’s struggle since there’s a huge year gap of it’s publication. The meaning to these songs goes way deeper than I thought it would be. For instance, when I first heard “Get Money” I thought that this music was just about a player who was just messing around with women and then his one of his women were just going out of line. I had no idea that it had to be about feminism and about women being undermined by men for what they do. Hip Hop having such a force to relate to the youth and able to change history is really extraordinary.

    Peter Ramirez AFRS 256-02
  11. It’s awesome to get her insight on what hip hop is and the “realness” of it. I like the way she speaks a bit of the intersection of femininity and hip hop.

    Allison Atilano
  12. I loved this audio and most of all the discussions about feminism and strength. The way that women found their voice in the industry is inspiring and proof that hip hop doesn’t exclude anyone 🙂

    Taylor Washington
  13. I love the way you speak of the songs. You read between the lines of the lyrics to really understand what the artist is trying to say rather than simply summarizing the clear words being spoken. This was very interesting and has definitely made me think about the messages being told though out music history.

    Elva Jimenez
  14. Its very interesting that Marcyliena Morgan speaks about how hip hop can actually be about empowering women. Artist who spoke about feminism were only pushed back because of what mainstream media wanted. I also like how she points out that hip hop has fluidity and includes.

  15. This is rad. It introduced me to a couple different eras and genres that I was pretty unfamiliar with. As well as why they were relevant and their roles at the time. I liked the part where she mentioned the reasons many recent producers sample music, such as Coltrane, from that time period.

    Miles Wayne
  16. I loved Marcyliena Morgans interpration of hip hop and how it was meant to discuss something “real”. She told the hard truths about the diversions of hip hop on how many believed that it would always be a dream and there was no way out of that specific lifestyle but she develops that imagining where you want to be will get you there. When she discussed “Get Money” and its connection to feminism this really hit home for me because she broke down and anaylyzed the entire song that many of us as listeners might not’ve interpreted so I definitely felt like I’ve acquired new knowledge on the subject

    Zahria Fowler
  17. This was an very interesting podcast that helped me get a deeper understanding of the music from different eras. I loved when she talked about the song “Get Money” because it definitely explained the way women wanted to be represented at the time.

    Sakeenah Adams
  18. Marcyliena Morgan show us not only that the black women in hip-hop have always been prevalent. But also songs like “I Think I’ll Call It Morning”, and the worldview at that time. These songs are amazing and tell stories, and you read it out loud for us and tell us the back stories in such detail.  You make sure that we know that hip hop is for everyone and how it doesn’t exist without change and growth. You show how hip hop has created movements about identity, politics, sex, stereotypes, and feminism. 

    Blair Thomas
  19. I agree that imagination is important because it’s the first step of becoming successful. It gives us a different perspective on how we look at things and gives hope to people who already lost hope. I think this is an very interesting podcast because it don’t show hiphop as just music but a secret meaning in every song.

    Nelvin Ng
  20. I found this podcast extremely enjoyable and I walked away from it seeing new aspects of the culture that I hadn’t quite seen before. This in particular with the interpretation of the song Get Money.  Growing up I loved the work Biggie Smalls due to his no holding back story telling style he utilizes. I never caught the underlying feminist undertones in the song and found it very eye opening that this entire movement happened through a song I had just enjoyed.

    Samuel Holguin
  21. Thank you for sharing your story, and introducing me to an era of music and hiphop that I am unfamiliar with. I also appreciated how you addressed women during this era, and how they contributed to hiphop.

    Nailah Gatson
  22. Very interesting, unique, and inspirational audio. I have never heard one like this. I got a deeper meaning in hip hop music throughout different eras.

    Ariana Santana
  23. Made me revisit, Pieces of a Man, as well as consider feminism in hip hop. Very insightful interview.

    Jake Hill
  24. “Get Money” is a really iconic song that I’ve always heard growing up. Until listening to this podcast, I didn’t realize the depth of the song. I really appreciate the new perspective on something that’s so old to me and learning how this song represents a milestone for feminism in hip hop.

    Abigail Sigua
  25. I enjoyed listening to this podcast more than I thought I would. I found really interesting how Dr.Marcyliena Morgan brought up and discussed the parallels of older genre of music, such as Jazz and soul, that have influenced the Hip-Hop culture. Along, with the important role of the music and the people who are involved inclusively and creatively for the community. The flashbacks that were included about the music scene in Chicago during Dr. Morgan’s time to when she was a Professor teaching in UCLA and her students argued for the “language of Hip-Hop.” All-in-all, great insight into learning on how Hip-Hop has transcended over generations and how it approaches gender, feminism, sexuality, politics, etc.

    Anne Caroline Lima
  26. I found the podcast to be enjoyable and insightful. I especially enjoyed the context given to each song played. The part on John Coltrane was my favorite; the idea of depicting urban decay through sounds.

    Nicholas Balaam
  27. I like how for each song she is not just playing them but giving them a meaning and showing impact they had. She clarifies messages in songs. In music analyzing lyrics is an important contribution to the culture, it gives the song a meaning or power. Music is much more than just a couple of words and beats mashed up. It is a outlet that has slowly become less restricted. It is a way to be heard and spread a message. When she explains how not only do the songs themselves have an impact but also the visual representation of them for an example, with “Get Money” the music video also shares the message visually. The genre hip-hop allows new discussion topics that people are afraid to speak out more acceptable to be brought up. I like how she mentions how hip-hop is not something that excludes but includes as long as you are really listening and willing to see the pain, not just listen to it but take action. Listen to the messages brought up and offer to make a difference within those communities. Do not close yourself from a harsh concepts but face the reality and be willing to help fuel the change.

  28. I really enjoyed the podcast from Dr.Morgan. I appreciated how Morgan contrasts hip-hop to different genres of music like jazz and what makes them different to those who could confuse when the sound is similar. Growing up hip-hop was how I could get over the daily hardships and sometimes mentally get away. Dr.Morgan also brings up the point of how hip-hop was a way to voice struggles loud and clear. Connecting to politics, how people experiencing the struggle have always viewed America juxtaposed against people like white liberals who have recently (relatively) seeing how unjust struggles for POC are. I also really liked how Morgan brings up how producers like sampling songs that rekindle memories, good or bad.

    Jorge Larreynaga
  29. In just two days of being in this class i have learned ridiculous amounts of info on not only Hip-Hop but also its effect on everything around it. I look forward to a great semester with these two wonderful professor’s!

    Isaiah Donahue
  30. I enjoy and admire how Dr. Marcyliena Morgan dissects each song down to the roots. I believe most songs have a deep hidden meaning for society and the evolving of us as humans when it comes to gender, race and all the important things that need to be addressed in our country or on a bigger scale our whole planet. Hip-Hop has evolved very weirdly but i think its generally up to the kids growing up and our generation to make sure that it remains great. This interview gave me some great insight on very good music in the past and i look forward to making sure i stay open to all aspects of Hip-Hop in the past, present and future.

    Isaiah Vanderveur AFRS 256-01 Hip Hop Workshop
  31. Professor Morgan’s incite is extremely helpful to me as a hip hop lover and a student enrolled in a hip hop work shop. I enjoyed the songs included. 

    Alex Duncan
  32. I found Dr. Morgans podcast to be very analytic of the presented songs. I enjoyed this podcast because not only do we understand what is going on in the song but we also feel it, and are able to see what Hip Hop is made of. Personally I enjoy extracting a personal message from songs but an actual explanation while listening to a song is also pretty cool.

    Jose magdaleno
  33. I really enjoyed hearing your ideas about hip hop! Also, thank you for sharing your story! I totally have a different view about hip hop music thanks to you!

    Valentina Riveros
  34. I enjoy this podcast from Dr.Morgan, the depth of information provided on how Hip-Hop has shaped the generations through the meaning captured in this music. From expression of culture to addressing social issues, Hip-Hop has been a way to express ourselves and educate people.

    Clarissa Aguirre Luna
  35. Listening to Dr. Marcyliena Morgan just opened up many new views for me. Just by her going back and explaining the changes that have came throughout the years is very interesting and eye opening. She definitely went back to show the voices that have been able to express their feelings and how they view the world during the difficult times when unjust actions were around. Overall, this was an amazing podcast and the music that was incorporated into it was just amazing!

    Fatima Gonzalez
  36. I really enjoyed hearing Dr. Morgan’s perspective on each of the different songs. Her appreciation for the background and the real life stories that create the music is awesome. Especially after listening to Davey D in class, it is immensely important to understand the history.

    Oliana Hansrajh AFRS 256-03
  37. awesome

  38. Hearing this podcast, I could hear Dr. Marcyliena Morgan’s passion for the Hip Hop culture and all the oppression issues that have been expressed though hip hop music. My favorite part was when she said that the music represents and expresses the “hard truths” people of color have gone through and are still going through but at the end all there is always “real love”. Women have always had to “compete” in this industry because men, in every sense, to this day have had a superior position. However, women have proven many times that they can make the music as well or sometimes even better. Many of these women have gained respect in the music industry such as, my favorite, Lauryn Hill. All in all, I loved every aspect of this podcast as I heard more wise words from a wise woman.

    Jocelyn Navarrete
  39. I enjoyed Dr. Marcyliena Morgans passion for music. I also enjoy music that has a deep meaning to it. I love real life story music because it connects more to the people living in the struggle.

    Daniel Armenta
  40. This whole thing is beautiful (not visually but audibly), the whole time her words really made me look deeper into the depth of the music. And made me look at certain songs that I would not have thought I would have liked. For example, how she contrasts hip-hop to different genres of music like jazz and what makes them different to those who could confuse when the sound is similar. Its all soul. I love how she dissects the meaning of the music, its not just words but feelings and underlining meanings. I also like how she spoke about the influence of women within music (especially when hip hop is mistakenly known as a “man” run organization) All in all, a very insightful and expressive pod cast.

    Hilary Sanchez
  41. The podcast was very informative and eye-opening. It never knew the politics and feminism behind the Junior M.A.F.I.A. “Get Money” song. It brings a new meaning to the song, and an even deeper appreciation for hip hop.

    Nicole Y. AFRS 256-03
  42. This podcast had shown me her true passion for the music and showed me how driven someone can be towards this topic. And hearing the things she learned along the way while studying Hiphop. It is nice to hear someone as significant as her sharing her thoughts towards Hiphop. 

    Seena Rahimian

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