McNally Smith College of Music

Discover your life in music

Earn Your Diploma or Minor in Hip-Hop Studies

Hip-Hop Studies

The intensive Hip Hop Studies program is designed to help you grow as an artist and develop your skills as a writer, producer and performer. You’ll learn firsthand how to engineer and record your own music and make your own beats using the latest music hardware and software. Through workshops and classes like Emcee Techniques and the Language of Rap and Spoken Word, you’ll get valuable feedback from industry pros to help sharpen your lyric writing, delivery and flow. You’ll also learn essential music business skills like management, contract law, booking, marketing and promotion, giving you the knowledge and experience to thrive as an independent artist and entrepreneur.

By building a solid musical foundation combined with an understanding of music technology and the entertainment industry, you’ll be prepared to succeed in a variety of career paths.

Ready For The Real World

As a Hip-Hop Studies major you’ll receive a hands-on education in a real world environment. You’ll gain stage experience through the many live performance opportunities on campus and around the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area. You’ll also have access to state-of-the-art studios and skilled session musicians as you write, produce and record your own material. During your time in the program, you’ll build a portfolio of work that showcases your talent and highlights your technical abilities. You’ll also create a press kit and develop a social media strategy to help promote your audio resume and market yourself as an artist.

You’ll get a head start on your music career by building your professional network while you’re still in school. And with access to guest artists, internships and the thriving Twin Cities music scene, you’ll be connected to the industry before you graduate.

Teaching For Tomorrow

To succeed as an emcee, deejay or producer, you need a well-rounded education that prepares you for the dynamic future of music. That’s why our Hip-Hop Studies diploma program focuses on developing your creativity while giving you the necessary technology skills to adapt and compete in the industry. You’ll also graduate equipped

With a comprehensive education that blends artistry, technology and entrepreneurship, you’ll be ready to make and sustain a life in music.

Your Career Path

Graduates of the Hip-Hop Studies program are prepared for a variety of career options, including:

  • Emcee/Musician
  • Music/Record Producer
  • Event Deejay
  • Artist Management
  • Marketing and Promotions
  • Social Media Development
  • Author/Poet
  • Radio/TV/Web Series Host
  • Community Education
  • Teaching Artist

 Studios & Facilities

Our campus features 3 performance venues, 6 technology labs, and 11 recording studios where students learn to record, edit and mix music and audio.

Student Life

There’s a lot to explore outside of class, including student organizations, free concerts, music ensembles, and the diverse music and art scene of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

The Auditorium hosts student recitals, guest artist concerts and music industry seminars year round. MIDI Lab. Students learn to write and produce music using hardware and software, including Logic Pro. Pro Tools Lab. Students learn editing, mixing and production techniques using the latest software. One of the multipurpose classrooms used for rehearsing bands, teaching music theory and songwriting. The Sound Bite Café features an intimate performance setting for small ensembles, guest artists and workshops. The 48-input SSL Duality console in Studio 1, with a view into the main performance area. Studio 1. 48-input SSL Duality hybrid analog-digital console; Barefoot MicroMain 27 monitors. Studio 4 features a Digidesign ICON D-Command Work surface and 5.1 surround mixing system. Studio 5. Trident 80B analog console; Otari MTR-90 24-track analog recorder; Pro Tools HD2 system. Studio 10 main performance area. Studio 10 features three racks of outboard mic preamplifiers, compressors, equalizers, and limiters.
Many artists have launched their careers at First Avenue, Minnesota’s quintessential music venue. The Theater Ensemble performs rock musical RENT at the History Theatre located on campus. At The Sessions master class, industry pros like Dom Famularo help artists sharpen their business skills. EDM artist/producer Francis Preve demonstrates remix techniques using Ableton Live during a master class. The X-Tet Ensemble studies traditional cajón technique in Lima, Peru during their South American tour. Concertgoers get the full Flaming Lips experience at River’s Edge Music Festival, downtown St. Paul. The NOLA Ensemble performs authentic New Orleans-style jazz at an Open House event. The Contemporary Vocal Ensemble performs onstage in McNally Smith’s Auditorium. Music Business students plan, promote and execute a SXSW day party in Austin, TX. Students pause for a photo-op while guiding campus tours at Open House. Taking a break during the McNally Smith kickball tournament at nearby Harriet Island, St. Paul.

FacultyView All Faculty >>

Toki Wright

Toki Wright is a Twin Cities-based emcee, poet, community organizer and Rhymesayers Entertainment recording artist. He has been featured on recordings by Atmosphere, C-Rayz Walz, P.O.S. and more, and his performance credits include Scribble Jam, SXSW, Coachella, Bumbershoot, Sons d’Hiver and A Prairie Home Companion. Wright tours throughout the U.S. and Canada as an opening act and hype man for Brother Ali, and is a member of the groups The C.O.R.E., The Chosen Few and Toki Wright and Big Cats.

As a community organizer, Wright has led the nationally recognized youth organization YO! The Movement (featured in The Source magazine), coordinated seven Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop Festivals, and taught hip-hop history and performance to former child soldiers in Gulu, Northern Uganda with the organization H.E.A.L.S. Wright’s awards include winner of the Twin Cities Hip-Hop Award in 2007, Artist of the Year (KMOJ Radio) in 2006, 2003 Artist of the Year (Star Tribune), Minnesota Music Award Nominee for Best Hip-Hop Recording, and Top 10 Albums of the Year (Star Tribune). He has appeared as a Coach on MTV’s Made. Two of his songs with the group The C.O.R.E. are featured in the film Justice, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

Freddy Fresh

Freddy Fresh (born Frederick Schmid) is among the most active and prolific American underground dance music artists, having released more than a hundred records on dozens of different labels worldwide. Born in St. Paul Minnesota, Fresh’s name is more often associated with the London scene, to which he relocated in the late ’90s after having top-40 chart success with two of his songs. His first work behind the boards came via Bronx legends Boogie Down Productions. Shortly thereafter, he began piecing together a studio, collecting many of the ancient analog and modular synthesizers that give his records their distinct, studio-jam feel.

In 1992, after releasing debut singles on Nu Groove and Silvo Tancredis’ Experimental imprint, Fresh established his first label, Analog Recordings, to release his own tracks. His label empire then grew to include a host of sub labels, including Analog UK, Butterbeat, Electric Music Foundation, Socket and Boriqua. Fresh’s third album, The Last True Family Man, followed on Harthouse Eye Q and spawned two international chart hits, along with a song featuring Fat Boy Slim. His music has also enjoyed commercial success with releases featured in films like Austin Powers - Goldmember, Jackie Chan’s Tuxedo and commercials by Adidas, Budweiser and Coors. Fresh also tours regularly and has performed in over 34 countries and appeared on MTV Canada, Club TV, S2, House Viva TV and Club Spain, as well as over 300 radio programs throughout the world including 2 sessions for the legendary late John Peel of Radio One BBC England.


$12,870 per semester for full-time attendance (13-17 credits)

  • Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree: 60 credits
  • Diploma: 45 credits

$990 per credit for part-time attendance More info >>

Financial Aid

On average, more than $1 million in College-funded aid is awarded annually in the form of merit-based scholarships and need-based grants. More than 85% of our students receive financial assistance to help cover their educational costs.

Click here to learn about the many resources available to help pay for college.

Gainful Employment Statistics


McNally Smith College of Music is institutionally and programmatically accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and is registered with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. More info >>

Emcee Techniques

Through hands-on exercises, students gain a fundamental introduction to emcee techniques, expanding their abilities through an in-depth study of the fundamentals of emceeing. Students perform both composed works and freestyle in a workshop environment, receiving critique from classmates and teachers.

DJ Techniques

Through hands-on exercises, students gain a fundamental introduction to deejay techniques, advancing quickly from traditional disc jockey practices to advanced tools of the modern deejay artist.

Hip-Hop Music Production

Students learn advanced music-making techniques for the hip-hop artist using an expanding palette of software applications, including MIDI sequencing, hardware synthesizers and sound sources. Coursework is a combination of lecture and hands-on application, with emphasis on creativity and inspiration.

Language of Rap and Spoken Word

This course provides a background on free verse writing style, freestyle, and verbal poetics. Students explore writing formats, rhyme schemes, and the relationship between literary poetry and contemporary urban rap and spoken word and apply what they’ve learned via a variety of spoken word, a cappella rap and improvisational exercises and performances.