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Composition Contest

The English Department at Western Kentucky University is pleased to announce the 2023-2024 Composition Essay Contest. Students should visit the links on the right to complete an application and submit a 500-750-word essay (MLA style; pdf format) based on the prompt below. The English Department will invite finalists, their teachers, and family to campus for a reception and ceremony on April 20 where they will be recognized.

The winners will receive cash prizes: First Place: $150; Second Place: $100; Third Place: $50.

Application and Essays are due March 23, 2024.

Prompt: As NY Times cultural critic Jon Caramanica recently writes, hip-hop is not solely an art form, but “is woven into television and film, fashion, advertising, literature, politics and countless other corners of American life. It is lingua franca, impossible to avoid.” If hip-hop is indeed a lingua franca, however, that doesn’t mean that it is spoken the same way by everyone, nor does it mean we all have the same relationship to it. Like anything else in the world of culture, hip-hop lives in us in a wide range of expressions – and certainly in some of us more than others.


For this year’s essay contest, you are invited to place yourself in conversation with a few prominent cultural critics in thinking about what hip-hop’s past, present, and future might mean for us. In an original essay of around 750 words, please explore what these essayists are saying about hip-hop, but also discuss how (and to what degree) hip-hop is meaningful to you in your own lived reality.


To do so, please place yourself in conversation with at least two of the sources and incorporate them into a coherent, well-developed essay that reflects on hip-hop in the light of its 50th anniversary. Additionally, please specifically discuss at least one hip-hop song of your choosing that helps you demonstrate your points and make your case. Although there is a personal element at work here, please center your essay on an argument, and use the sources to develop your ideas in the context of what others are saying on this issue. Avoid merely summarizing the sources. Indicate clearly which sources you are drawing from whether through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. You may cite the sources by using the author’s last names in parentheses below.

Source A: “How Do You Tell the Story of 50 Years of Hip Hop?” (Caramanica)

Source B: “The Future of Rap is Female (Orr)

Source C “How Hip Hop Conquered the World” (Morris)




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 Last Modified 9/18/23