It’s cool growing up in a family of “nerds” because there is never a shortage of someone willing to discuss books, music, and ideas with me. And on a more technical level, there’s always someone willing to help me outline, proofread, and think through ideas. It's cool watching my family—my parents, Howard and Phillis Tean Rambsy, my big Sister, Phillis h. Rambsy & my big Bro and Sis, Howard Rambsy & Psyche Southwell—evolve as (refined) Jay-Z critics.
As an undergraduate and graduate student, Drs. Joceyln Wilson, Jerry Ward, William “Billy Joe” Harris, and Tony Bolden, provided me with the intellectual framework to think critically about the intersections of music and literature.
My mentor, Dr. Maryemma Graham provided me academic and financial resources to nurture my intellectual curiosity as a graduate student and beyond. She introduced me to Brian Rosenblum, Associate Librarian for Digital Research, a person who facilitated my development as a "DH" scholar.
As a professor, many people helped me think about the usefulness of merging my research interests of data and black art: Dr. Adam Banks (Stanford University), Dr. Kalenda Eaton (Arcadia University), and the entire Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture team, especially Dr. Larry Summers, Rachel Savant, Sharon Carson, and junior board member Justin Moore, invited me to speak about #theJayZMixtape at their respective institutions. I am grateful for those invitations and opportunities to think about the scope of this project before its release.
From 2015 - 2017, at the University of Texas at Arlington, I worked with an innovative group of thinkers who guided me in developing key content for this project. In 2015, Rafia Mirtza, Peace Williamson, and an entire army of librarians helped me to craft a course that merged digital humanities and hip hop studies. Saif Sayed played a significant role in designing the interactive graphs using Tableau Public. Hillary Green and the UTA's University Communication team members Hanny Lee, Jeremy Strawn, and Dena Adi, created an amazing video that captures the spirit of the course I teach on the rapper.
I have also had casual conversations with colleagues such as Dana Williams, Tim Morris, Tim Richardson, Cedrick May, Estee Beck, and Sonja Watson. These interactions contributed immensely to the organization and visual development of this project. Bridget Lewis, of Mouthpiece Communications, negotiated the first local and national features on #theJayZclass my first year at UTA. Her advisement, early on, helped me craft my public talks and descriptions of the course.
So many friends have advised me on this project. Desmond Handon, David Hill, Varkeneus Berry, DaMaris Hill, and Goyland Williams have been especially helpful at crucial moments in the developmental stages. Their engaging conversations about Jay-Z, listening to various songs on repeat with me, and being a sounding board for a range of ideas helped me shape a "literary canon" of the rapper's music.
The entire Publishing Without Walls Family, especially Drs. Ronald Bailey and Marilyn Thomas-Houston, have been extremely helpful (and encouraging) in terms of providing a new way to publish my research. Chris Maden's, Harriett Green's, Janet Swatscheno's, Josh Lynch's, and Sara Benson's support throughout the assembling of this project has made all of the difference.
This project charts new territory for African American literature, hip hop studies, and digital humanities scholarship. I am excited to see more visual studies using data to analyze black art.
The future of the field looks bright.
Dr. Kenton Rambsy