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July 2024. It has taken three months to actually post this hard news: Dr. Will Patterson passed away unexpectedly on April 2, 2024. In the words of his colleague, Dr. Adam Kruse: We are devastated by the sudden passing of Dr.  Patterson….His leadership was integral to our work. His decades of programs empowering underserved youth, his committed partnerships across our community, and his innovative approaches to teaching with Hip Hop and technology were exemplars that have touched countless lives. The list of initiatives and accomplishments of Dr. P’s career are unparalleled, and his leadership and friendship are irreplaceable. He was the visionary; the connector; the iterator; the dreamer; the conscience that kept the community and Black youth at the center; the can’t stop, won’t stop, and it don’t stop. This loss hurts and just like our campus and community we are feeling it deeply and profoundly. Rest in power, Dr. P. Thank you for everything.
Here’s one of many tributes to Dr. P from this spring:

Dr. P’s non-profit STEAM Genius continues to do the work and honor his legacy.

Founder and director of the Hip Hop Xpress, Dr. Will Patterson, is being recognized in April 2024 as a Distinguished Alumnus by the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation. The News-Gazette, the local paper, recently ran a background story on Dr. P.  Keep it movin’, Dr. P!

Dr. P with the Hip Hop Xpress, photo by Sydney Laput, 2022

As of spring 2024, the Hip Hop Xpress is back on the road with the Lovin’ U tour (see below) after interior customizing with colleagues at the University of Illinois, especially Associate Professor of Architecture Kevin Erickson and his students. Professor Erickson and team won four awards for their work on the Xpress! In 2022, they received an Interior Design Elements Award, sponsored by Rethink the Future Awards. See photos of the project in the link.  The team also won an honorable mention in the S.ARCH Berlin International Design Award in 2023. Another honorable mention came from The Architect’s Newspaper in the Best of Design Award, Social Impact Category, also in 2023. And then 2024 got off to a great start with the 2024  Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Design Build Award. Congratulations!

Follow the Bus!

The STEAM Genius website posts the calendar of engagements for the Hip Hop Xpress.

Systemic Design Association 2022 Presentation

Drs. Will Patterson and Sharon Irish presented a paper about the Hip Hop Xpress virtually at a conference in Brighton, UK, in October of 2022. The conference was organized by the Systemic Design Association and the theme was “Relating Systems Thinking and Design.” The paper, “The Hip Hop Xpress Double Dutch Boom Bus: Remixing the university and co-designing futures with Black youth in the United States,” is now available in the Proceedings. Kudos to the organizers!

2021 Award from the Office of the Provost

The Hip Hop Xpress team won an award in 2021 from the Office of the Provost at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign! Thanks to the entire team and to Dean Kevin Hamilton for supporting this effort! There will be a ceremony at some point. Also, big congratulations to the other winners!

Helping Champaign Schools Launch the Year

The Hip Hop Xpress parked at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Champaign on August 19, 2021, to help the school start the year off with a boom! We’ve returned to the school since August to share beat-making and other activities.

STEAM Genius Website Launched

STEAMGenius is the parent organization comprised of a host of programs, scholarship, and services. Check out the team and connect with us! The offerings are the result of applied research where we identify specific “cool factor” engagement methods, show up consistently and authentically in underserved spaces, and attract the curiosity of underserved youth and young adults. Sparking their curiosity provides us with an entry point to offer STEM and STEAM educational opportunities that allow youth and young adults to witness their own genius and future possibilities.

The Hip Hop Xpress Leads the Lovin’ U Campaign

Dr. Will Patterson (aka Dr. P) launched the Lovin’ U campaign in Champaign in Spring 2021, inspired by Tony Toni Tone’s song and aimed at the dual pandemic of COVID-19 and racism. 

City of Champaign teamed up with the Hip Hop Xpress, Summer 2021

In August, the City of Champaign joined the Lovin’ U campaign by organizing a series of block parties around the city. The Hip Hop Xpress parked in various neighborhoods to highlight the local talent and feature the legacies of Black cultural wealth. DJs spin on the bus, with speakers outside the bus providing a soundtrack for other City-sponsored activities. More than that, though, the Hip Hop Xpress brings programming such as spoken word, RC cars, and boombox design to youth in historically excluded areas. Dr. P notes, “The Hip Hop Xpress builds community one track at a time.” By fostering connections within neighborhoods, the Lovin’ U campaign aims to counter gun violence with love, respect, and music. WCIA-TV provided some coverage.

Rantoul ftw!

We teamed up with DREAAM in Rantoul, IL, to offer Street College June 21-25, 2021. At a fabulous location–the Methodist Church–with lots of space, we experimented with DJing, RC cars, and boombox building. Thanks to the entire team!

On a very hot Saturday (June 12, 2021) the Hip Hop Xpress joined with other groups at Silverwood’s block party in southeast Urbana. Silver Hearts, the neighborhood group, organized the event with the City of Urbana, the Urbana Park District, the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, the Urbana Police Department, Natural Path Nutrition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out! Kids and adults shared donated food and water, played games, got gift bags, and strengthened connections.

On May 8, 2021, the Hip Hop Xpress participated in the #Votercade, a national day of action to support voting rights. The parade started in west Champaign and ended at Lincoln Square in Urbana. The mayors of Urbana and Champaign read a joint proclamation and Minnie Pearson, president of the CU chapter of the NAACP spoke, along with County Clerk, Aaron Ammons and others.

The event was co-sponsored by Bend the Arc:CU Jewish Action, NAACP Champaign County Branch, League of Women Voters of Champaign County, When We All Vote Champaign County, CU Moms Demand Action, First Followers CU, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Champaign-Urbana Alumnae Chapter, and the City of Urbana. Thank you all!

Photos L to R, top to bottom: 1. Mayors Marlin and Feinen; 2. NAACP CU President Minnie Pearson, 3. Dr P and Joe Bolton; 4. DJ Joe Bolton; and 5. Dr. P, Joe Bolton and the HHX. Photos 3 and 5 by Kanittha Fay.

UC2B gave the Hip Hop Xpress funding to expand our network this spring (2021). This will allow us to provide robust support to our programming across the county and in other parts of the state.

Thank you, Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband! (UC2B)

Dr. P received a welcome shout-out from a former student in The News-Gazette recently. She recalled when then-Senator Barack Obama spoke to his class on Black Leadership Development.

Fall 2020

The Hip Hop Xpress went to East St. Louis and the House of Miles on October 17, 2020, and to Chicago and the Musical Arts Institute on October 24, 2020.

Professor Tiffani Saunders (L) with Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, September 26, 2020, Springfield, IL
Photo: Tiffani Saunders

On September 26, 2020, the Hip Hop Xpress visited Springfield and recorded a number of artists at two locations. Thanks to the amazing organizing of Professor Tiffani Saunders, the day was a huge success! Coverage of the visit is here and here.

Summer 2020 News

The Hip Hop Xpress was at The Canopy Club in Urbana on July 11-12 as part of the What’s Goin’ On? celebration. The event not only featured music but presentations by local organizations working hard to address social inequities.

Since the pandemic of Spring 2020 and the shift to online courses, we pivoted to using the bus as a backdrop for recording local artists and attracting interest in the Black music experience and legacy around town.

Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, back in Champaign, shared his stories with Dr. P. He kicked off the “In the Zone” dance in the NFL.
The Double Dutch Boom Bus was able to record people who came for the Juneteenth celebration in Beardsley Park in Champaign.

We installed wifi equipment that makes the Hip Hop Xpress a mobile hotspot. Thanks to Technology Services at the University of Illinois for their amazing help!

Dr. Will Patterson organized the World Education Community Awareness and Action Network (WECAAN), a group of about 17 youth-serving organizations to collaborate on providing young people with positive activities during the pandemic. Summer offerings at various locations–Youth for Christ, Dream Girls Academy, Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club, DREAAM House, BOyz2Men, Lincoln & Hill, First Followers/GoMAD and the Stephens Family YMCA, among others–have started already.

Driver’s Side of Double Dutch Boom Bus, January 2020
Entry door to Double Dutch Boom Bus, January 2020

Our team was able to purchase a school bus at an affordable price! The bus has now been customized by It’s a Wrap . Artist John Jennings designed the graphics, and artist Stacey Robinson is helping out with more imagery.

January 2020 News

We are collaborating with the School of Architecture and the School of Music to design and build the inside during a class co-taught by Professors Erickson (Architecture), Kruse (Music) and Patterson (Music and Engineering). WCIA (TV) showed up in late January and did a short video piece about the bus and WAND (TV) did a video story about the bus in February 2020. The News-Gazette also featured Dr. Patterson’s opinion piece on collaborative efforts to support youth, with a photo of the bus in the background.

Rear of Double Dutch Boom Bus, January 2020
Some of the folks involved in the Hip Hop Xpress project. L to R: Joe Bolton, Don McDonald, Will Patterson, Kevin Erickson, and Adam Kruse with his daughter.

We received some funding from the Student Sustainability Committee to install some solar features on the bus. We hope to obtain further funding to develop programming for the Xpress.


In January 2019, the team behind the latest Hip Hop Xpress effort received $150,000 in funding from the University of Illinois System’s Presidential Initiative to Celebrate the Impact of the Arts and Humanities.

Some links regarding this award are here and here and here.

Drawing on the model of George Washington Carver’s Jesup wagon, this current project  will be an internet-connected mobile classroom and sound studio, a means to collect oral histories, a cross-generational catalyst for music sharing and production, and a method to link communities across the state through music, dance, visual arts, and history. The Xpress will be available for use by university faculty, classes, and community groups. A central tenet of the project is to transform  various curricula across University of Illinois campuses: the improvisational and multimedia aspects of hip-hop appeal to and enhance many disciplines. The Xpress would be parked near accessible facilities and sometimes partnered with other mobile units in public spaces that are accessible.

Exploring the Legacies of the Tracks of Our Years