I’m an American historian with a focus on nineteenth and twentieth century social and cultural history. I’m especially interested in California, popular entertainment, and youth culture. I explore all three in my first book, To Live and Defy in LA: How Gangsta Rap Changed America (2020). It’s an origin story of “gangsta rap” woven into the unique and complex history of black Los Angeles. Scholars have a habit of treating LA rap as a renegade outgrowth of New York hip-hop that only mattered briefly. But I put the music and its creators squarely at the center of the story of how hip-hop survived the 1980s and radically transformed American culture.
My next book will explore youth, parenting, and fear in late twentieth century suburban life, with a focus on “stranger danger” concerns, the Satanic Panic trials, Just Say No anti-drug campaigns, cable TV, and, yes, rap music. In the meantime, I recently published a couple of articles, including one on black mobile DJ crews in 1980s Los Angeles, a pet project inspired by my first career as a Bay Area mobile DJ.
In my classroom, we connect the present to the past. And I help all of my students –– history majors and non-majors alike –– develop the kinds of critical reading and persuasive communication skills that they can apply to any career.
- Ph.D., History, UC Berkeley, 2012
- B.A., History, UC Berkeley, 1999
- California and the West
- African American History
- Youth and Childhood
- The Reagan Era
- Popular Culture
- To Live and Defy in L.A: How Gangsta Rap Changed America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2020)
- "Video of the Police Assault on Rodney King Shocked Us. But What Did It Change?" The Washington Post, March 3, 2021.
- "Weapon of Mass Destruction: On the LAPD and Its Battering Ram," Lapham's Quarterly, February 25, 2020.
- “A Very Brief History of Authenticity in Hip-Hop (Or, Why Billie Eilish Was Wrong),” Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly Journal: No. 26, The Pop Issue (May 2020)
- “The Explicit Anthem of Anti-Racist Protest,” The Washington Post, June 22, 2020.
- "West Coast Originals: A Case for Reassessing the 'Bronx West' Story of Black Youth Culture in 1980s Los Angeles," American Studies Journal: New Directions in Black Western Studies (October 2019)
- Abraça a Tristeza’”: Fado and Fadocore Music in the California Central Valley.” In Untamed Dreams: Faces of America, eds. Francisco Henrique Dinis and José do Couto Rodrigues (San Jose: Portuguese Heritage Publications of California, 2016
- "Language Matters in the Kyle Rittenhouse Trial," The Washington Post, November 4, 2021. Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/11/04/language-matters-kyle-rittenhouse-trial/
- "Gangsta Rap and LA History," Money 4 Nothing, Podcast Episode 30, June 7, 2021
- "Lost and Found - Los Angeles (Part One)," Blueprint for Living with Jonathan Green, ABC Radio National, November 12, 2020
- "Lost and Found - Los Angeles (Part Two)," Blueprint for Living with Jonathan Green, ABC Radio National, November 22, 2020
- Author Q&A with Host Stephen Hausmann, New Books in the American West Podcast, October 26, 2020
- "To Live and Die with The Questions, Felicia Viator, and AWOL ONE," Dad Pod Rap Pod, Podcast Episode 127, July 16, 2020
- “Felicia Angeja Viator on Cypress Hill’s ‘Cypress Hill’ (1991),” Heat Rocks, Podcast Episode 139, May 28, 2020
- “It Was A Good Day: Talking the Rise of Gangsta Rap with Felicia Angeja Viator,” Los Angeles Review of Books Podcast, April 12, 2020
- “Rap, Music Video, and Policing,” for the US History Scene: The Show Must Go On web series
- “Toddy Tee and the Batterram,” for the US History Scene: The Show Must Go On web series
- “Round Table: California History at the College Level,” in California History, Vol. 95. No. 4, Winter 2018
Selected Awards and Honors
- LCA Faculty Excellence Award
- Historical Society of Southern California’s Ahmanson Foundation Grant for Book Publication
- San Francisco State University Presidential Award for Professional Development
- Arthur Ferreira Pinto Foundation Fellowship
- Luso-American Education Foundation Fellowship
- Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award
- Doctoral Speaker for UC Berkeley History Commencement 2013
- Finalist, 2021 PROSE Award for Book in Music and the Performing Arts, Association of American Publishers
- Editor, Made By History at The Washington Post (2021)
- History Discipline Coordinator and Program Designer for new Social Science Waiver Program, SFSU, 2017 – Present
- Faculty Curriculum Advisor, CURE Program Innovation Project, History, SFSU, 2019
- Faculty Mentor for UC Berkeley Graduate Teaching and Learning Working Group, 2014 - 2015
- Program Coordinator and Teacher for Urban Arts Academy After-School Program, Calvin Simmons Middle School, Oakland, 2001 - 2002
- Social Studies Teacher for the Prison University Project, San Quentin State Prison, 1997- 1999