When Hip-Hop Happens – July 2013

Edu-tainment: Hip-Hop Matriculates to the Ivy League

Visiting Cornell University scholar Afrika Bambaataa
Visiting Cornell University scholar Afrika Bambaataa

“Remember Rappin Duke? Duh ha, duh ha – you never thought that Hip-Hop would take it this far…” 

                                                                                                         -    Notorious B.I.G

Many moons ago, during Hip-Hop’s Platinum era of the 1990’s, I was fortunate enough to work for one of the only publications on earth that accurately appreciated the worth of the culture.

In those days, a little over a decade since its creation, Hip-Hop was still seen as some passing fad and was routinely referred to as music without longevity or worth.

Back then, I was a monthly contributor to The Source Magazine’s news leg – “Ear to the Street,” and was evidently lucky to work for what was an industry anomaly. The Source had the ability to define the bourgeoning art form, while also shaping its full potential.

The Source, which had its roots in Boston, Mass., ironically was started out of the imagination of Harvard University students and local MC – Ray Dogg.

This week, the art form came full circle when both NaS and pioneer Afrika Bambaataa were recognized for their cultural contributions to American music and obviously Hip-Hop.

These acknowledgements by two of America’s finest institutions of higher education continue to prove the importance of urban music and is the focal point of this edition of: “When Hip-Hop Happens.”

Last week the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and the Hip-Hop Archive announced the “Nasir Jones (NaS) Hip-Hop Fellowship.”

The institute was founded in 2002 by Professor of African and African-American studies at Harvard Marcyliena Morgan. A part of the Du Bois Institute, the Hip-Hop Archive and Research Institute supports research and scholarship of the groundbreaking urban art form.


As per a press release on its website, the goal of the fellowship is to provide chosen scholars and artists with an opportunity to show that “education is real power.”NaS was praised for his ability to change the game with “his sharp wit and tough social commentary on albums filled with carefully crafted, provocative political thought and street wisdom.”

The Queens Bridge native capped off an amazing week by also performing at Citifield on Friday, Aug. 19, 2013. Despite his New York state of mind, NaS was quoted as saying he was “over the top” excited about the Harvard fellowship offered in his name.

“My hopes are that greed for knowledge, art, self-determination and expression go a long way,” NaS was quoted as saying about the honor in the LA Times. “It is a true honor to have my name attached to so much hard work, alongside great names like Henry Louis Gates Jr. and W.E.B. Du Bois and to such a prestigious and historical institution, and all in the name of the music I grew to be a part of.”

The Fellowship funds scholars and artist who demonstrate creative ability in the arts as it relates to Hip-Hop.

About a week before, Cornell University held events around the official cataloguing of Afrika Bambaataa’s vinyl collection.

Afrika Bam had already been named a three-year, visiting scholar post at the Ithaca, NY Ivy, in 2012.

The hiring, which gained little attention in the press, but was logical move for the school that possesses the largest national archive on Hip-Hop culture, documenting its birth with a combination of vinyl, as well as photos and flyers.

From July 11 through Aug. 10, 2013 Johan Kugelberg’s Boo-Hooray Gallery and Bambaataa Universal Zulu Nation will publicly document the Hip-Hop Dee Jaying pioneer and Zulu Nation leader’s disc collection each day between noon and 5 p.m. at Gavin Brown’s enterprise in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Fans and passers-by were invited to stop in and partake in the festivities

The lunch breaks featured a bevy of visiting “Ol School” Hip-Hop pioneers, including DJ Grand Wizard Theodore, BreakBeat Lou and Rock Steady Crew’s Crazy Legs.

Not too bad for this “disposable art form” which didn’t nab its first Grammy Award until 1989 with DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and Its first Album of the Year for The Fugees “The Score” in 1994.

I guess all of the protests in the 80’s must have been good for something.

At the end of the day, this week shows that all of the critics were wrong all those years ago. Some of the smartest people in the country seem to believe that Hip-Hop can still happen, even if it’s in the Ivy League.


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Masta Talka

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