May 26, 2013 - 9:00pm

Cast your mind back to the 80s when bands like Run DMC and the Beastie Boys were filling the airwaves with a new kind of music – hip hop.

Niel Scobie, who graduates from VIU’s bachelor in digital media studies program on June 3, believes that era and that music changed his life.

“I discovered hip hop in high school and it grabbed me. It was electric, completely different than any mainstream music.” Scobie was soon mixing his own playlists from the comfort of his bedroom.

That interest took Scobie into a successful 20 year career behind the scenes in the music business. He held various roles including recording engineering, producer and DJ, playing clubs and opening for acts like the Black Eyed Peas, The Roots and George Clinton.

He also collaborated on recordings that were nominated for Junos, in 2003 and 2005, for Rap Recording of the Year, but Scobie never dreamed it would lead him to a successful ‘second’ career – in academia.

“When I hit my mid-30s I began to think about doing something different,” says Scobie. “I just didn’t know what.”

He’d been working in Vancouver and decided to return to his home town of Nanaimo. While perusing a local paper, a program at VIU caught his eye – digital media studies. In September 2009, a nervous Scobie took a seat in his first university course.

“I was there as a mature student and wondered if I’d fit in,” he explains. “Well, I had an amazing time. My instructors had a welcoming vibe and introduced me to new perspectives. Suddenly I was taking theory and applying it to an area I was passionate about. It was a wonderful eye-opening experience.”

It’s also been a stellar four years. Scobie received the CanWest Global Communications Scholarship, the Gerry Schroh Memorial Award for academic excellence, and was invited to present a paper at a conference at Bishop’s University in Quebec. He’s also been granted a prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant.

Now he’s looking towards the future, turning his passion for hip hop into a completely new but fitting career. In September 2013, he’ll fly to Ottawa and start a master’s in music and culture (funded by a substantial scholarship) at Carleton University. His final goal is to become a professor of Media Studies, where he hopes one day to inspire his own students to study a subject they’re passionate about – even if it’s outside of traditional academic fields.

Tags: In the Community

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