Updates from the team

In Development: 3rdAI Hip Hop Research Engine

In Development: 3rdAI Hip Hop Research Engine

CIPHER has just launched our Interactive Artist Map at https://globalcipher.org/3rdai-hip-hop-research-engine/ — this will form the basis of the 3rdAI Hip Hop Research Engine which we hope to launch in January for Beta Testing with a massive lyric database and AI-assisted search tools. If you’d like to join us as an approved beta tester, please email us at cipher@ucc.ie with a short note about yourself and your skillz.
Have a look at the Interactive Artist Map — zoom in, zoom out, click, drag, and hover — and let us know if you have any additions or corrections at cipher@ucc.ie. Most of the data in the map is sourced from Wikipedia and refreshed weekly, so there are plenty of disambiguation kinks and decisions we’re still working out, but we’re excited to have a decent prototype for you to get into. The way our man on the ones and zeros, Shyam, has built it will always have up-to-date info from Wikipedia’s massive archive, so if there’s info you don’t see here, the other thing you can do is update the Wiki pages for your favorite artists (or make yerself a page! We’ll get discogs data up eventually too… thanks to UKRapMap for that tip and much more). In any case, while the CIPHER Team is constantly working to clean and improve this data, we’d appreciate your help from wherever you are in the world!
Take it for a spin!
Free Toomaj Salehi: Iranian musicians at risk

Free Toomaj Salehi: Iranian musicians at risk



Toomaj Salehi, is a 32-year-old Iranian underground hip hop singer mostly known for his protest songs concerning Iran’s societal issues and the policies of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Toomaj was arrested (for a second time)on October 30th, 2022, during rotests in relation to the death of Mahsa Amini . IRNA (Iranian national news agency) released a photo of Toomaj blindfolded in the backseat of a car. The location where he is being kept is unknown. This event is to raise awareness about him and other musicians who are currently held captive in Iran. The session will be held on Thursday 10th of November 2022 from 16:00-17:30 GMT.


  • Prof. Griffith Rollefson
  • Mr Veria Amiri
  • Ms Shirin Assa
  • Dr Mastoureh Fathi

Registration is free, but places are limited. Please register via eventbrite here and a link to the event will be emailed to you.

THE Awards 2022 – Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

The CACSSS-based ERC project CIPHER: Hip-Hop Interpellation (PI: Prof J Griffith Rollefson) has been shortlisted for a 2022 Times Higher Education (THE) Award for Research Project of the Year in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

CIPHER is a five-year ERC funded project investigating the international spread of hip hop culture and its attendant musical, lyrical, artistic, and performative forms on six continents. Its community-engaged research addresses the central question: why has this proudly localising and authenticising African American music translated so widely to far-flung communities around the globe?

The CIPHER team comprises 6 researchers and a research support officer alongside 3 affiliated MSCA fellows exploring hip hop culture and performance in North America, Africa, Asia-Pacific, South America, and Europe. The project has had major international impact and has caught the imagination of the public with 130,000 Twitter views of the news story announcing the project and a television viewership of 143,000 of the RTÉ feature documentary, Change Makers.

THE Awards are prestigious awards attracting over 500 applications from across the UK and Ireland in 20 categories. For more on the projects outcomes the CIPHER application lists them here.


CFP Extended: 4th Meeting of the European Hiphop Studies Network (Paris, January 2022)

PANTHEON: Hip-Hop’s Global Pathways to Cultural “Legitimacy”

Paris, France, 26–27 January 2022


26 January: La Place

27 January: Philharmonie de Paris

28 – 29 January: Philharmonie de Paris (French language conference): CULTURES HIP-HOP Création, légitimation, patrimonialisation?

About this Meeting

The fourth meeting of the European Hiphop Studies Network is organized in collaboration with La Place: Centre for Hip-Hop Culture, and La Philharmonie de Paris. The two-day, bilingual (English and French) and hybrid (in-person and online) Network meeting will lead into a two-day French-language conference on the creation, legitimization, and patrimonialization of hip-hop cultures (28-29 January 2022). Both the Network meeting and conference complement the museum exhibition “Hip-Hop 360” at La Philharmonie, centred on the same overarching theme. The Meeting keynote lecture will be delivered by Dr. Karim Hammou, and the keynote performance by UK rapper Lowkey. As such, we welcome all in-person participants to plan their stay in Paris from 26 to 29 January 2022 to take full advantage of the conferences, the museum exhibit, and a series of hip-hop events in the city.

 Content and Issues

Over the past few decades, as hip-hop culture has grown in popular influence and impact, it has increasingly been taken up as both a subject of study and a point of interest in educational and cultural institutions worldwide. Its acceptance into the academic and official realms has led to a popular discourse suggesting that hip-hop culture has been ‘legitimized’ – for better and for worse.

This process of institutionalization and ‘legitimization’ is complex and deeply ambivalent. In her appearance before the student-organized seminar ‘La Plume et le bitume’ at France’s prestigious École normale supérieure (ENS), rapper Casey preempted any temptation to see the academic seminar as a means of legitimizing rap:

Rap – even if it’s good that an association at the ENS takes an interest in it, that today, we can hold a seminar on it – rap doesn’t need to be legitimized by elite academic institutions (grandes écoles). It is an important culture without the ENS, or a chair at Harvard or Oxford taking an interest in it. (translated by Emily Shuman, https://youtu.be/jJsqvpG6Gfk)

Casey hints at what hip-hop scholar Murray Forman has described as, “the dual (and at times dueling) purpose of building academic knowledge while building hip-hop cultural knowledge.” Indeed, knowledge has often been cited as the fifth element of hip-hop.

Taking inspiration from French rapper Booba’s 2004 album Panthéon, which elaborates links between reverence, national pride, cultural legitimacy, and the famed mausoleum reserved for “great men,” the meeting seeks to explore the role of institutions in hip-hop’s legitimization. We invite reflections (including academic papers, workshops, artistic contributions, or other alternative formats) on the relationship between pathways to knowledge rooted in the cultural and artistic practices of hip-hop, and those that stem from institutional efforts to transmit hip-hop’s history and aesthetics. In other words, what are the roles that hip-hop researchers, practitioners, and activists can undertake to advance hip-hop’s work of knowledge and liberation? What might be the challenges or potentials of collaborations between hip-hop practitioners and the commodified knowledge trade of museums, universities, and conservatories? We invite submissions which may consider, but are by no means limited to, these questions.

 Submissions and Selection Process

To be considered for the Network meeting, please submit the following documents by email to ehhsnparis2022@gmail.com by midnight CEST, Friday, 15 October 2021 (deadline extended by 2 weeks):

  • A written abstract/description of 250 words including author name(s) and institutional affiliation(s) (if applicable)
  • Or an audio-/visual text of a maximum of maximum 2 minutes (.mp4)

Please submit all documents as an attachment. All proposals and all videos, as far as possible, will be anonymized before being forwarded to the organization committee. We will inform all applicants about the final decision by Monday, 1 November 2021. A select number of bursaries will be available for accepted presenters.

We accept proposals in either English or French languages. If presenting in French, we ask you to prepare a short accompanying abstract or slides in English. We also invite master’s and doctoral students as well as early career researchers to present their work-in-progress. We especially welcome papers that engage with less-academically-visible work from artists and practitioners from a wider variety of backgrounds.

In light of uncertainties related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the conference will be held in hybrid format (in person and online) with preference for in-person presence, but the possibility of online participation/attendance should circumstances prevent travel.

 Organizing Committee (in alphabetical order):

Amir Sadik Abdullah aka. DJ Amir, 180 Proof Records
Monique Charles, University of West London, DrMoniqueCharles.com
Paroma Ghose, The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID)
Sina A. Nitzsche, Dortmund University of Applied Arts and Sciences/University Bristol
Griff Rollefson, University College Cork/CIPHER
Emily Shuman, New York University

For further information please see (in alphabetical order):

European HipHop Studies Network
La Philharmonie de Paris
La Place Paris

You can download the full call for papers (pdf) by clicking here.

Breaking and the Olympics Speaker Series

Breaking and the olympics banner

Hosted by Mary Fogarty (York University) & Jason Ng (University College Cork)

This 2021-22 online speaker series brings together Hip Hop researchers and dance practitioners to exchange ideas, share research in its developmental stages, and broaden our collective knowledge ahead of the official debut of Breaking in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. The talks are free and open to anyone to attend, ask questions and develop the conversation.

The talks start on October 6th 2021 and will continue the first Wednesday of every month up until May 2022.

To attend the talks and receive updates register here.

Session information can be found in the extended program found here.

For any further inquiries please email: breakinginolympics@gmail.com


RTÉ to film Hip Hop premiere on UCC Campus

RTÉ to film Hip Hop premiere on UCC Campus

  • World Premiere of UBUNTU: Local is Global
  • Live Hip Hop Performances
  • Featured on upcoming RTÉ ‘Change Makers’ Series
  • Features Young People from Cork Migrant Centre and The Kabin Studio
  • Free, Outdoors, and Open to the Public
  • 19 September from 2-4pm

As part of their ‘Change Makers’ television series, RTÉ will be at UCC’s Honan Plaza to film the World Premiere of ‘UBUNTU: Local is Global’. The live show is a celebration of hip hop arts and culture. The program features music, dance, and art exploring how hip hop is a global youth culture encouraging dialogue between diverse cultures.

Ubuntu is the Zulu word for ‘humanity’. It literally means ‘I am because we are’, recognising the interconnectedness of all people. Ubuntu means the local is the global.

‘Change Makers’ is a brand new factual series premiering soon on RTÉ 1. It is following the CIPHER project from University College Cork which tracks the impact of hip hop music around the world from its roots in 1970’s New York. ‘Change Makers’ is coming to Cork to film the performance of this unique collaboration that brings young members of the Cork Migrant Centre together with youth from The Kabin Studios in Cork City.

The ‘Change Makers’ series which is supported by the Irish University Association features Irish research projects that are helping to create change across the country and beyond. This episode focuses on Professor Griff Rollefson’s first-of-its-kind CIPHER project (https://globalcipher.org/) that was funded by the European Union to do this work on hip hop arts and understanding. Rollefson explains: ‘“Ubuntu” is what this research project is all about—it’s what hip hop culture is about. The show will provide a platform for these young people to teach us about their hopes and dreams—and about what the future can and should look like’. The UBUNTU performance will feature youth in Direct Provision from the Cork Migrant Centre sharing the stage with youth from the Kabin Studios on Cork’s North Side. The show will also feature the talents of the hip hop luminaries Raphael Olympio, GMC Beats, 0phelia, Outsider YP, Spekulativ Fiktion, Gatch, Pacino Brady, DJ Safari, and other special guest artists.

Ubuntu Event

The show is led by Artistic Director and choreographer, Andrea Williams, who has composed a story of global solidarity through struggle and hard won understanding.
It will be outdoors and socially-distanced.

The event is free and open to the public, but ticketed. Register for up to 4 tickets at:


‘Hip Hop and the Internet’ special issue of Global Hip Hop Studies

We’re delighted to support a call for papers for a special issue of Global Hip Hop Studies on hip hop and the internet, co-edited by CIPHER team member Steve (and Raquel Campos). The blurb for the call is as follows:


Special Issue: ‘It’s Where You’re @: Hip Hop and the Internet’


Internet technologies have become intertwined with almost every aspect of daily Western life, as demonstrated by the mass online migration of work, leisure and cultural activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Three decades earlier, the Rakim lyric emphasizing ‘where you’re at’ coincided with the development of the first modern web browser (circa 1990). Now, with the emergence of virtual ciphers, online beat battles and hip hop chat rooms, where we are all @ is online.

This special issue of GHHS is targeted at exploring the relationship between hip hop and the internet, offering new perspectives on digital communication technologies and their impact on hip hop culture, as well as analysing the impact of hip hop culture on global online life, especially in non-Western contexts. We are particularly interested in research that reflects on the political, economic and social dynamics of hip hop culture as they intersect with internet technologies.

With examples spanning from DatPiff to TikTok, internet technologies have considerably altered the development and production of hip hop culture, creating new spaces and forms of mediation. Although digital technology and hip hop are no strangers to one another, elements of hip hop culture – especially from the global North – have appeared at the forefront of digital popular culture (for instance Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’ meme template or the viral power of Lizzo’s flute-twerking). Hip hop accounted for more than one in every three pieces of music played across on-demand streaming services, according to a 2018 Nielsen Music report. Creative communities inhabit online platforms from Twitch to Discord. Rap critics on YouTube and Genius rake in millions of views. Evidently, there is a vast online community engaging with hip hop in various forms.

However, the online public sphere also disrupts many of the art form’s analogue foundations – vinyl, block/house parties and spray paint – unsettling and reconfiguring critical aspects of locality, authenticity and identity through digital assemblages of mediation, corporatization and commercialization. How are notions and relationships of locality, visibility and anonymity in hip hop scenes altered by online tools? How do digital avatars act and become understood as creative participants and how are they linked to offline practices in the genre’s production of scenes? How does all of this operate in the shadows – or even the spotlight – of corporate big-data mining and oligopolization? We encourage researchers to reflect both on the opportunities and challenges of hip hop in online spaces.

Disciplinary focus may include, but is not limited to hip hop studies, internet studies, popular music studies, digital anthropology, digital sociology, communication studies, media studies, cultural studies, fan studies, human-computer interaction, social computing, education and psychology.

Please read the full list of suggested submission topics and formats here.


The deadline is for abstracts is 12 July 2021.

We’re hiring!

We’re looking for talented computer scientists! Here’s the formal job ad:


University College Cork invites applications for two Research Support Officers in the areas of Data Science, Web Engineering, and User Experience Design to co-lead the computational side of a high impact 5-year European Research Council project (final three years: 2021-2024). The two positions are in the areas of Computer Science and/or Digital Humanities, and are available at the Department of Music in the School of Film, Music, and Theatre at University College Cork. The positions are funded by the ERC and are associated with the research project CIPHER: Hip Hop Interpellation. This study of global hip hop knowledge flows will synergize computational and ethnographic methods to examine how hip hop “unlocks the global through the local.”  The principal investigator of the project is Professor J. Griffith Rollefson.


The successful candidates will develop a web application as part of a research project in global hip hop studies that combines cultural data analytics (crowdsourcing, NLP, machine learning, semantic web, stylometry) with ethnographic and cultural studies methods. The researchers will work closely with the PI and a diverse, world-leading team of ethnographic researchers, with computational support from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics.


The successful candidates must be able to design and engineer a user-friendly interactive web-based world map complete with search functions, user submissions, and moderation.  They will show an ability to manage the data analytics and visualization side of the project and work collaboratively with the PI and a team of cultural specialists. In the Application Letter, candidates are expected to outline how their interests and skills align with the CIPHER project – namely, how they might attend to the particular challenges that websites like Genius.com, Shazam.com, WhoSampled.com, and others have approached in the last decade—and how they might further develop and extend those solutions.  Essential skills include web app design, semantic web, API development, and potentially sonic analysis.


The successful candidates are expected to live in Cork, Ireland and become part of the research environment/network of the university and contribute to its development. The computer scientists are expected to develop computational solutions and produce web-based outputs as well as potentially collaborating with the CIPHER team in published results and otherwise contributing to popular dissemination of the research results.


In the evaluation of the applications, emphasis will be placed on:
  • The applicant’s web app development skills and experience
  • Demonstrated knowledge of computer science, data analytics, and/or digital humanities
  • The applicant’s estimated academic and personal ability to carry out the project within the allotted time frame and contribute to the research project CIPHER
  • Good co-operative skills, and the ability to successfully join in academic collaboration within and across disciplines.


Supplementary Information on the CIPHER project and the post is available at the following URL: http://www.ucc.ie/cipher.
University College Cork is an equal opportunities employer actively working towards full equality of opportunity in all aspects of University life. The CIPHER Project strongly encourages applications from underrepresented groups as part of its core mission to promote global justice and equality of access.


It is envisaged that the posts will start between August and October 2021 and run for three years.


Project Title: CIPHER: Hip Hop Interpellation


Post Duration: 3 years


Salary: €40,000 p.a. (Personal Rate)


For an information package including further details of the post see https://ore.ucc.ie/.


Informal enquiries can be made in confidence to J. Griffith Rollefson, Professor of Music, Email: cipher@ucc.ie, Telephone: +353 (0)21 490 4931.


Applications must be submitted online via the University College Cork vacancy portal (https://ore.ucc.ie/). Queries relating to the online application process should be referred to recruitment@ucc.ie, quoting the job-title and project name.


Applicants must submit the electronic application with the following attachments:
  • Application Letter (max 2 pages single spaced) describing the applicant’s qualifications and motivation for the position
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae (complete list of education, positions, and other qualifying activities)
  • Project proposal (max 2 pages single spaced). The proposal should address the following questions: (1) What computational methods will you employ to design and engineer a user-friendly interactive web-based world map complete with search functions, user submissions, and moderation? Further, what data analytics methods (NLP, Semantic Tagging, Machine Learning, Stylometry, etc) will you employ to analyse the lyrical (and potentially sonic) data as proposed in the CIPHER proposal?; (2) How will you draw upon your own technical experience when working on the project?  How will that background benefit the project?; and (3) what will be the advantages of your methodological approach, and how will you deal with potential practical and ethical challenges?


Please note that all documents must be in English.


Candidates should apply, in confidence, before 12 noon (Irish Local Time) on Friday, 30 July 2021. No late applications will be accepted.