All Aboard the Hip-Hop Xpress


The Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and Humanities has now funded the Hip-Hop Xpress project for $150,000. Tiffani Saunders, University of Illinois at Springfield instructor in sociology and African-American studies, will be the campus’ point person on the project, which aims to use music and audio technology to teach the history and cultural importance of hip-hop music.

The Hip-Hop Xpress itself will be a retrofitted and repurposed school bus. Which will be filled with a wide variety of recording equipment, ranging from older items like turntables to newer technologies such as iPad and computer music programming. One unique piece of modern equipment will be Makey Makeys, which are little sensors that can be attached to shoes and are used to turn movement into rhythm.

Due to the mobile nature of a bus, this project will be used to benefit communities of all ages across the state of Illinois. It will be housed at the Champaign-Urbana campus, where it will be used for teacher training and summer camps, but will also be driven across the state to anywhere where it can provide value.

Tiffani Saunders will be bringing the bus to Saint Patrick’s School Boys and Girls Club, pairing it with mobile health units to alleviate fears of going to the doctor.

The Hip-Hop Xpress will be used at the UIS to provide students with a chance to learn how recording equipment works along with the evolution of hip-hop and African-American dance. The vehicle will be part of the curriculum for Saunders’ class on Dance and American Culture in the spring of 2020. The class will only have a small percentage of UIS students in it, but the Hip-Hop Xpress will be available to all students when it is on campus. There will be times when all students will be allowed to get on the bus Saunders and student workers will be on hand to offer instruction of its features. The Hip-Hop Xpress will also be available upon request for campus events where it can be useful.

The bus and equipment not yet purchased. However, it is expected to be completed fairly quickly, with the Hip-Hop Xpress finished by this fall semester and ready for use in time for spring 2020. Once completed, it will be an indispensable tool to teach about the connection between music, culture, and history.