Hip hop at Harvard? I’m sure you never expected to hear those two words in the same sentence.
Rap icon, Nas, ventured to Harvard University last week to introduce the Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship, a scholarship awarded to two scholars dedicated to inciting change through hip hop music.
The fellowship is designed to help visiting scholars partake in hip-hop related research at the Cambridge institution. The scholarship is the result of a substantial endowment from an anonymous donor who wanted Nas to be the poster child of the unique program.
The donor got his wish when the Queens native agreed to lend his name to the fellowship following an email request from Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates (the current host of PBS’ The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross).
During the introduction ceremony, Nas said, “Hip-hop is important like computer science. The world is changing. If you want to understand the youth, listen to the music. This is what’s happening right underneath your nose.”
I totally agree. If you want to understand why the current generation of young adults and adolescents act the way they do, check out the music they listen to. It’s not the main reason, but it’s a good indicator. Nas’s involvement with this program showcases his support of music as a cause rather than pure entertainment.
It may be ironic that the 18-time Grammy nominee is the face of an Ivy League scholarship despite never obtaining a high school diploma but Nas’s successful rap career epitomizes the belief that music is more than just lyrics and tempo.
Nas claimed that he was drawn to hip-hop because it is an education in it itself, aiming to address different problems. Despite being a middle school dropout, Nas used hip-hop to abandon his past mistakes and channel his struggles into songs that uplifted others.
Throughout his career Nas appealed to millions of people with message-filled songs like “The World is Yours” and “I Can.” Now he wants to open the door for others to do the same. Who would have thought he’d start the search at Harvard?
By Brandon Kesselly, Staff Writer
In honor of the recent solo debuts of 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar and Meek Mill, as well as the coming debut of A$AP Rocky (2012’s four hip-hop heavy hitters), I wanted to list some of my favorite solo debut LPs of the genre:
Illmatic – Nas (February 1994): While it is not a very well-known fact, Nas actually debuted before Biggie. Nas’ debut—at the age of 20 – laid the groundwork for his later hit albums and his future beef with both Biggie and Jay-Z. The most notable feature of this album was that it lacked star guest features, focusing the attention on Nas from beginning to end.
Ready to Die – Notorious B.I.G. (September 1994): Biggie hit hard with this album, and—combined with his sophomore double-disc Life After Death—solidified himself as the most popular rapper of hip-hop’s “golden age” The storytelling and lyrical complexity on this album still make me shiver when I listen. “Juicy” and “Big Poppa” became major hits.
Reasonable Doubt – Jay Z (June 1996): The first of many great debuts for Jigga, this album has one of the rare moments where Jay Z and his friend, Biggie, traded verses in real life as opposed to recycled recordings (“Brooklyn’s Finest”). “Dead Presidents II” was also famous for sparking the beef between Jay and Nas.
Get Rich or Die Tryin’ – 50 Cent (February 2003) – 50 Cent made his major label debut with this 2003 classic, featuring hit songs such as “In Da Club,” “21 Questions” and “P.I.M.P.” The album went on to go eight times platinum as of 2011.
The College Dropout – Kanye West (February 2004): Kanye West is a name as synonymous with hip-hop production as Jimmy Hendrix is synonymous to epic guitar playing. When the “Izzo” producer finally began to put out his own songs, his own rap legend soon began, combined with further production work on songs for Jay-Z, Ludacris, Twista, Alicia Keys and more. Dropout gave the genre classic songs like “All Falls Down,” “Jesus Walks” and “Through The Wire.”
The Documentary – The Game (January 2005): 50 Cent’s (former) lieutenant, The Game, had a strong debut with The Documentary. A mixture of gritty gangsta rap and heavy-hitting party songs, the West Coast native was helped by his energetic delivery and production work from 50, Kanye West, Timbaland and Dr. Dre. His tracks “How We Do” “Dreams” and “Hate It or Love It” became instant classics.
Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor - Lupe Fiasco (September 2006): Lupe Fiasco—a Chicago native—found an interesting niche in hip-hop, choosing to combine spoken word, nerdcore and skateboarding influences with the dark tales of the streets of his hometown. However, he balanced the tale of a slowly corrupted youth with fun stories and some of the most clever imagery and wordplay in the genre. “Kick, Push” and “Daydreamin’” became classics while songs like the Howard Zinn–inspired “American Terrorist” show Fiasco’s knack for historically driven raps.