What Is Hip-Hop Culture?
That is the question Dr. Joycelyn A. Wilson, a hip-hop archive fellow at Harvard University’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute, is attempting to answer. Consequently, Dr. Joyce founded HipHop2020.org, a curriculum project aimed at critically analyzing the evolution of Hip-Hop culture in relation to contemporary black youths. Fortunately, after her conference at Morehouse College on Thursday, June 21 she sat down with Rolling out and discussed many important topics including hip-hop and black youth.
What initially drove you to choose and further explore Big K.R.I.T?
I saw him recently in concert in Boston and how the crowd responded to him. I had been listening to him before since one of my former students is a DJ and about 2 or 3 years ago he had put some music on my computer and K.R.I.T’s Krit Wuz Here mixtape was one of them. I have all of his mixtapes and when his album recently came out (Live From the Underground) I heard how he was channelling Outkast, UGK, Goodie Mob, and just all of the classic southern MC’s I felt that he was worthy of a lesson from the HipHop2020 curriculum project. We’ve done others in the past including, Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, and T.I. and I also want to do artists that these kids are listening to.
Are there any younger and newer rappers in this generation aside from Big K.R.I.T that you could see yourself doing in the future?
I would like to do a Stalley lesson at some point. It’s really not that much of a method behind the message, it’s more about who’s dope, who I’m kind of feeling, and their music has some substance. Socially conscious is one of those phrases I hate to use because I don’t really know what that means, but I do want to use somebody who has something to say. The point I wanted to make about Tyga’s “Rack City” earlier was that he wasn’t saying anything, I mean his lyrics were very simple and he wasn’t saying much. I wouldn’t do a Tyga lesson because I don’t think I could get a whole lot out of that.
What do you hope the kids take away from the HipHop2020 lesson?
I want them to move beyond looking at hip-hop just through a musical lens. I mean although we use the music to access these conversations, it’s way more than that, it’s way more than the music, or what you have on. I want them to be able to walk away saying, “I know how to practice hip-hop leadership even if I don’t listen to hip-hop music,” because one of the principles of hip-hop leadership is “I can be me,” and “I can be dope regardless of my sexual orientation, color of my skin, or how much money I have in my pocket as long as I’m comfortable being me and I’m being humane in that process then I’m on the right track.” I don’t want them leaving thinking they know how they’re going to contribute to the world. These are young men who are still trying to figure it out so I want them to leave here having some sense of how to figure it out because I think hip-hop can help them figure it out. It helped me figure it out and tons of other people.