Featured Projects

Current AFRO PWW Series Projects

Like AFRO PWW on Facebook
Follow AFRO PWW on Twitter
Kenton Rambsy

#TheJayZMixtape is the inaugural publication of the AFRO Publishing Without Walls Series (AFRO PWW), a part of the Illinois Open Publishing Network (IOPN). This interactive multidisciplinary work was released free to the public January 4th, 2018.

"This scalar book contributes to the study of rap and hip hop as a significant sphere of cultural and literary production. In particular, it depicts the artist Jay Z as... a vernacular public intellectual. Prof. Rambsy's digital humanities project is organized around an impressive compilation of evidence from a variety of sources --YouTube and Vimeo interviews, music videos, and visualizations of interactive tables and graphs. The dataset compiled can be unpacked in so many ways, even beyond the ways the author himself suggests."

Faye V. Harrison, UIUC

"Rarely have I seen such a thoroughly researched project on its own terms. The massive amount of information/data that is collected, examined and discoverable alone makes this project a must share/must replicate. This project is extremely innovative in its blending of ideas about knowledge production, data about a particular producer, Jay Z, and introduces us to a method or 'blueprint' for scholarly engagement that foregrounds contemporary digital practices. The premise is very clear, the conceptual framework smart."

Maryemma Graham, KU

Jay-Z is not only one of the most popular and prolific rap artists of all time, but he reigns among the canon of artists in hip hop and contemporary American music whose work is now engaged by scholars as much as general audiences to shed light on American culture and society. In #TheJayZMixtape, Kenton Rambsy takes us on a digital journey through Jay-Z's career and sheds light on his storytelling style, extensive musical collaborations, and connection to black music history.

Drawing on a rich dataset that includes lyrics from 189 songs across 12 solo albums by Jay-Z, Rambsy applies computational approaches to explore the Brooklyn-born rapper's musical influences and allusions to other black artists and historical figures in a interactive book on the Scalar platform. Rambsy's investigation interweaves innovative digital humanities techniques with the tradition of African American literary analysis of major black authors to reveal intriguing new dimensions to Jay-Z's body of work.

While his book contains a massive amount of computational data, it is more than a compilation of statistical and quantitative data. It is, as one reviewer states, "...extremely innovative in its blending of ideas about knowledge production, data about Jay Z as a producer, and [it] introduces us to a method or "blueprint" for scholarly engagement that foregrounds contemporary digital practices. Visually engaging, and full of interactive ways to explore Jay-Z's oeuvre, #TheJayZMixtape not only delivers an analysis of Jay-Z's music, but also makes a compelling case for Jay-Z's place in the greater African American literary tradition.

About the Author

Image of Dr. Rambsy

Dr. Kenton Rambsy is currently an assistant professor of African American literature and digital humanities at the University of Texas at Arlington. His teaching includes a course titled "#theJayZclass," a digital humanities course that positions the prolific rapper in a broader literary continuum of autobiographical and semi-autobiographical works.

For press inquiries, please contact Kenton Rambsy at kenton.rambsy@uta.edu and marilyn thomas-houston at mthomash@illinois.edu.

More from this author
Department page
Kenton Rambsy's contributions to the blog, Cultural Front

Cultural Front post
#JayZMixtape Poster
AFRO Publishing Without Walls Press Release Flier
PWW Press Release Flier

Share #TheJayZMixtape:

Mapping City Limits:
Post-1960's Paris and the Writings of James Baldwin, James Emanuel, and Jake Lamar

Tyechia Lynn Thompson
"My project examines Paris as portrayed in the writings of these three African-American writers. Because more attention is paid to the 'hey day' of American expatriation to Paris and not post-1960's Paris, the myth of a colorblind Paris proliferates. Even now, this myth continues, in part, because the post-1960's Paris paradigm is ignored. Without it, we lose the complexities of race, ethnicity, war, language, nationality, sexuality, and religion in the post-colonial and post-civil rights periods." In her production, Thompson has used Google Maps and Google Earth, the Neatline Plugin for Omeka, and Scalar.
This Is My Century: The Life and Legacy of Margaret Walker
Robert Luckett
"The partnership with AFRO-PWW would produce a world-class digital exhibition to accompany [a traveling exhibition] and allow for deeper exploration of Walker's life and legacy. Additional partnerships with the Dusable Mueum of African American History in Chicago, the University of Iowa, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York, Dillard University in New Orleans, and the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center in Jackson are being secured for each of those locations to serve as host sites along with the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State for the traveling exhibition."
Diaspora Dance Identities: Martinique's Bèlè Revival
Camee Maddox-Wingfield
"Since 2009, I have collected data as a participating dance ethnographer, observing the ways in which bèlè performance in Martinique intersects with political critique, local economic solidarity, the national education system, transgressive sexuality and gender performance, and creolized conceptions of spirituality. I would like to explore how the digital mapping of dance and movement data, particularly those documenting Black diaspora dance communities, can be curated for public engagement. A digital mapping project such as this would theoretically advance our understandings of diasporic belonging and cultural citizenship expressed through the medium of dance performance."
IBlack Studies
Irma McClaurin and marilyn thomas-houston
"iBlack Studies stands as the first multimodal introduction to Black Studies and seeks to create a site that can serve as a resource for Introduction to African American Studies courses as well as a resource site for researchers interested in studying the intellectual history of the field. The cornerstone of iBlack Studies is a rich archive of materials from a Ford Foundation funded 2006 convening entitled Conversations for Sustaining Black Studies in the 21st Century. The result of this intergenerational, interdisciplinary and varying paradigmatic event was multi-camera video footage of rich dialogues of key Black Studies scholars (some of whom have since died) and commissioned statements, transcriptions, and biographical sketches in PDF format."