Hip-Hop, The Artform - Pulitzer's, Academia & Cementing History
There is always something to talk about when it comes to Hip-Hop. It has been a staple in US Black Culture for decades and is well into it's ever present reign as a constant stream of content in the zeitgeist.
Reality shows, social media pages, it's becoming less and less about the music these days. Just look at the past weekend with Kanye Tweeting. The point about being less about the music is definitely a negative in my mind and I could get into it in depth. But I want to talk about the other side of the coin.
Because Hip-Hop is constantly in the public conversation, it is beginning to seep into things that I don't think the pioneers would've ever dreamed of. Something that probably wouldn't have been thought of at the beginning of this Century.
I am talking about one thing in particular & two things as a foundation. Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer & the recent focus on Hip-Hop in Academia.
Beginning on the latter, I should say that Hip-Hop in Academia is not new. It has been around since the 90's. There are many texts about Hip-Hop Culture and there have been Hip-Hop specific classes in US Colleges (Universities) since Howard University in 91.
But recently I have seen a couple of news items that should really be talked about more. Q-Tip becoming Artistic Director of Hip-Hop Culture at The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts & 9th Wonder recently giving lectures on Hip-Hop in the World's most famous University, Harvard.
Now for 9th Wonder, this is, I'm guessing, just another Semester to him since he has been a Lecturer/Professor at Duke University in North Carolina since 2010, but I feel like the fact that 9th has been doing all of this educating for the best part of a decade and Q-Tip, along the members of the aforementioned Hip-Hop Culture Council, (which includes legends such as LL Cool J, Common, MC Lyte, Black Thought & Fab 5 Freddy to name a few) they are bringing Hip-Hop to the cementation stage that other genres have already gone through. (Oh. I should also mention that Q-Tip is now teaching a course! ) Rock, Jazz and all the other genres have their museums and Culture Councils, they all have their experts that log the history, Hip-Hop is getting to that stage and that is something that should be celebrated. We get so caught up in the now that we forget that somebody has to account for this history. I'm not talking about just a Wikipedia page, logging the context that is necessary and passing it on to people my age.
And now we get to Kendrick's Pulitzer... The writers at all the established news sites have done well trying to scale the magnitude of this honour. But let me simplify it for you.
The main statistic used is that this is the first Non-Classical or Jazz body of work to win the award. Think about that. One of the most snobby Prizes in the world, gives "Damn" the Pulitzer. And The Recording Academy (Responsible for The Grammys) just can't quite give Kendrick its highest honour in "Album of the Year".
Now at the end of the day, it's just another award. But in the scope of Hip-Hop. As an art form that isn't even 50 years old, this is a major footnote in the history of Hip-Hop and music in general. It could have been an R&B album, could have been a Country or Rock or Pop album... But no. It was a Hip-Hop album. What does that say to you?
I'd ask 9th Wonder or Q-Tip, but they're busy cementing the past 40+ years at the moment. They'll get to it soon though I'm sure.