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. Keyes, recognized as a pioneer of hip hop studies, ranks as the first scholar to conduct ethnographic research on rap music. Additionally, she has written 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 is 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 is a member of the executive committee for the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap (forthcoming, December 2018) and recently appeared as a commentator in the television mini-series documentary, Death Row Chronicles (BET, Feb. 2018).
Keyes’ scholarship has advanced into other areas including producing a documentary in which she wrote and directed called Beyond Central Avenue: Contemporary Female Jazz Instrumentalists of Los Angeles. She has also produced and served as musical director for the “Lady Jazz: Blues in the Summertime” concert, 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” concert at Schoenberg Auditorium at UCLA, supported by the David and Irmgard Dobrow Fund.
In the area of performance, Keyes has appeared on piano, voice, and flute with the Women’s Jazz Orchestra of Los Angeles at the legendary Hollywood Bowl. Previously, she has performed with the All-Girl All-Star Invitational Band under the direction of the legendary jazz flugelhornist Clark Terry at the Wichita Jazz Festival, and featured as artist-composer-arranger on The Other Side of Eddie Bo with New Orleans rhythm and blues icon Eddie Bo. Keyes has also performed and recorded with jazz clarinetist-educator Alvin Batiste on his debut album as leader, Musique D’Afrique Nouvelle Orleans. Her work as an artist-songwriter-composer culminated with an NAACP Image Award in the category of “Outstanding World Music Album” for her debut CD, Let Me Take You There (Keycan Records). In recognition of Keyes’ scholarly and artistic achievements, she is a recipient of the Indiana University’s Herman C. Hudson Alumni Award. Her most recent project is a double-single CD, Hollywood and Vine (Keycan Records) in which Keyes produced, performed, and composed-arranged-orchestrated.
In leadership, 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 served on the Board of Directors for the Society for Ethnomusicology, 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 (SOAR), the flagship journal for the Society of Americanists.
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