Video feature: Princeton Profiles: Lorenzo Laing, connecting sociology and hip-hop

Feb. 16, 2016 noon
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Princeton University sociology major Lorenzo Laing's love of hip-hop music is helping shape his senior thesis, which focuses on how an emerging group of queer hip-hop artists of color are trying to redefine the genre. (Video by Danielle Alio, Office of Communications)

Princeton University senior Lorenzo Laing likes hip-hop music for a number of reasons: It provides an enjoyable listening experience and a good beat for dancing, and its lyrical content often reflects on societal issues important to Laing.

The New York City native is devoting his senior thesis in sociology to studying how queer hip-hop artists of color are trying to integrate themselves into a genre that has been seen as homophobic and that treats heterosexuality as the preferred sexual orientation.

"I understand that hip-hop music can be problematic and that those problems aren't necessarily justifiable, but sociology has taught me that those problems can be explained," Laing said. "In doing so, we go beyond superficial understandings that can be potentially dangerous of the genre and of the people who make the music and consume it."

Laing, who participated in sports for most of his life, knew that he wanted to do something different after coming to Princeton. After watching the Black Arts Company (BAC): Dance group perform while visiting for Princeton Preview, Laing knew dance was the area he wanted to explore.

"I auditioned my freshman fall, and I've been a member ever since," Laing said.

According to Laing, being a member of BAC has been an invaluable part of his time at Princeton, introducing him to a diverse group of students from different class years, interests and departments whom he may never have met if not for the dance company.

"Our friendship goes beyond the dance studio," Laing said. "We'll hang out together, we will help each other with homework, and we'll just be there for each other. My dance company has kept me sane essentially for the past four years, and I can't imagine what the experience would be without them."