For her thesis, Nora Jones ’12 investigated the cultural implications of sampling. Photo by Matt D'Annunzio
Hometown: Columbus, Indiana
Advisor: Mark Burford [music 2007–]
Thesis: Men’s Space and Women’s Place: Sampling African American Female Singing Voices in Rap Music
What it’s about: The cultural and political implications of sampling African American female singing voices in rap music.
What it’s really about: The patriarchy.
Who I was when I got to Reed: Growing up in Columbus, Indiana (population 35,000), I was surrounded by nothing but white people. When I came to Reed it felt like the most diverse place I’d ever been. When you get to know people, you realize there’s such a variance in life experiences. It’s not just about ethnicity, but also about sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or just the places you’ve traveled.
Influential book: I loved Zadie Smith’s writing in On Beauty, which reminded me of the beauty in our obstacles.
Favorite spot: Probably because I shouldn’t know about it, I love being on the roof of MacNaughton.
Random thoughts: Three things can save the world: love, education, and rock ‘n’ roll. At Reed I’ve made some of the best friends ever and I really love my professors. Education is immersing yourself in something you love. Music makes people happy and perpetuates culture. You can’t listen to a rock band you love and feel sad.
Cool stuff I did: I fell in love with dance, hula hooping, and yoga. Nothing relieves stress faster than kicking up your heels to some loud music.
How Reed changed me: I hated confrontation and didn’t really feel comfortable expressing an opposing opinion. I would think, “I’m not going to change anyone’s mind, so I’ll just shut up.” But people at Reed are willing to listen to the reasoning behind the way I think about things, and are able to do so respectfully. It encouraged me to speak out and engage a little more fully. Now, if I’m talking politics with someone, I go at it, but I’ll leave them space. And if we disagree about something, both of us can take it as a learning opportunity.
Scholarships, awards, or financial aid: National Achievement Scholarship.
What’s next: Music journalism.
Growing up, I listened to a lot of rap music and noticed that male rappers tend to really objectify women, even when female singers are sampled in the background beats. Sampling is isolating individual parts of an existing recording, lifting it out, and putting it into the context of your own rap. The way these women’s voices are used perpetuates the patriarchy in hip-hop culture. It’s an interesting gender dynamic having to do with the long historical process of the subjugation of the female.
Take a Piece of My Heart. Nora Jones ’12 discovered that rappers often sample female gospel singers, using their voices to appeal to the heart. She discusses gender hierarchy in the hip-hop world.