KENNESAW, Ga. | Feb 9, 2023
Many people spend a lifetime searching for their passion. But Regina N. Bradley found hers as a teenager growing up in the 1990s in Albany, Georgia.
Raised by educator grandparents in a city steeped in civil rights history, Bradley, associate professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Kennesaw State, said she loved two things – reading and hip-hop music.
After graduating with honors from Albany State University with a degree in English, she left the South to pursue a master’s degree at Indiana University in African American and African Diaspora Studies.
But her Southern roots were strong as was her interest in hip-hop. It was during a graduate course that she began looking further into the music genre and realized that Southern hip-hop wasn’t part of the larger culture conversation. After earning a Ph.D. at Florida State University, Bradley focused her research on the intersection between hip-hop and story of the South, post-civil rights movement.
“I just decided, ‘Well, I’m going to do something about this, I’m going to show how Southern hip-hop was not only integral to hip-hop culture, but why it has a significant role in history,” she said.
OutKast, one of Bradley’s favorite groups, has featured prominently in her work. According to Bradley, much of OutKast’s music tells the story of the South and can be used to explain how coming-of-age Black Southerners in the decades following the Civil Rights Movement used the group’s fusion of genres, including funk and gospel, to break away from the era and create new cultural perspectives.
Since she discovered her ability to fuse her love of Southern hip-hop with research that traces Black Southern youth identity through a particularly difficult period in history, Bradley has become a prominent voice and leading scholar on contemporary Southern Black life and hip-hop culture.
Her book, “Chronicling Stankonia: the Rise of the Hip-Hop South,” was named to Georgia Center for the Book’s list of Books All Georgians Should Read; she is the co-founder of a Southern hip-hop podcast called, “Bottom of the Map” that she co-hosts with music journalist Christina Lee; she has appeared in multiple media outlets as an expert on the genre, including for a Netflix docuseries; and she has even delivered a TEDx talk about the significance of hip-hop in bridging the American Black South to the present and future.
“Just to be able to share scholarship that people can relate to and dig into and have conversations about is just the icing on the cake for me,” she said. “I’m trying to make space for Southern hip-hop studies, so I’m really thankful that ‘Chronicling Stankonia’ is resonating with folks this way.”
John Havard, chair of the Department of English, said Bradley is loved by her students, whom she teaches to explore and learn about their own cultures, as well as new ones.
“She is someone all KSU faculty and staff should be proud to know as a colleague. Her scholarship, most notably her book ‘Chronicling Stankonia,’ represents KSU’s ideal of interdisciplinary research with relevance at its best,” Havard said, adding that the book illustrates Bradley’s fluency in sound research, literary history, and cultural rhetoric. “She successfully brings this vast knowledge and sensitivity to Southern cultures and identities into the classroom, where students universally praise her engagement, knowledge, commitment to inclusive classrooms.”
For Bradley, it’s just as important to teach students that they can study what they’re truly passionate about, no matter the subject, and make it a major part of their academic and professional careers, as it is to teach regular course material.
She said being so widely recognized for work she loves is fulfilling. But even more fulfilling, she says, is watching students think more critically about their favorite pop culture topics or phenomenon.
“It means a lot to me to be able to work in a space that falls at the crossroads of Black identity in the South, popular culture that has meant so much to me and then to be able to watch my students try to connect those same dots in their lives,” she said. “It’s really cool to be able to hold the door open for the folks that are coming behind me, and hopefully getting these accolades presents an opportunity to make sure those voices continue to come through the door.”
– By Thomas Hartwell
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.