Cheryl L. Keyes

Professor and Director of Graduate Studies


African American music; rap/hip-hop music; gender in jazz and popular music studies; vernacular music analysis; performance theory

Ph.D., Indiana University; M.M.E., Indiana University; B.M.E., Xavier University

Cheryl L. Keyes is the author of Rap Music and Street Consciousness (University of Illinois Press), which received a CHOICE award for outstanding academic book titles. Her areas of specialty include African American music, gender, and popular music studies. Professor Keyes, recognized as a pioneer of hip hop studies, ranks as the first scholar to conduct ethnographic research on rap music. Additionally, she has produced essays on funk-rock diva Betty Mabry Davis, legendary jazz trombonist-composer-arranger Melba Liston, and New Orleans piano rock pioneer Professor Longhair. Her research has been published in major journals such as American Studies, Black Music Research Journal, Ethnomusicology, Journal of American Folklore, Journal of Popular Music Studies, and has appeared as book chapters, reference articles and as reviews. Currently, she serves as a member of the executive committee for the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings anticipated project, Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap.

Professor Keyes has also forayed into other areas of research and artistic productions including a documentary that she wrote, produced, and directed called Beyond Central Avenue: Contemporary Female Jazz Instrumentalists of Los Angeles and performances on piano, voice, and flute with the Women's Jazz Orchestra of Los Angeles at legendary venues such as the Hollywood Bowl.  Other selected works include “Lady Jazz: Blues in the Summertime,”  commissioned  by Instrumental Women Project™ for its Lady Jazz summer concert series held at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre and  “Swinging to a World of Strings” conceived and produced by Professor Keyes and supported by HASoM’s David and Immgard Dobrow Fund.  (Please refer to these links, respectively: and Additionally, she won an NAACP Image Award in the category of “Outstanding World Music Album” for her debut CD, Let Me Take You There (Keycan Records) and a recipient of the Indiana University’s Herman C. Hudson Alumni Award.

In the areas of leadership, Professor Keyes became the first woman as well as the first African American to serve as the president of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, US Chapter (IASPM-US) from 2007-2009. She has been a member of the Board of Directors for the Society for Ethnomusicology, a chair of the Faculty Executive Committee for the School of Arts and Architecture at UCLA, and an Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the UCLA Herb Albert School of Music.  Currently she serves as Director of Graduate Studies and Vice Chair for the Department of Ethnomusicology and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for Society of Americanists Review, the flagship journal for the Society of Americanists.