For more than two decades, Nas’ prolific career has been a hallmark for hip-hop, and now Harvard University has established a fellowship in the lyricist’s honor.
The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and the Hip-Hop Archive announced the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship on Tuesday. The goal of the fellowship is to provide chosen scholars and artists with an opportunity to show that “education is real power.”
The mission of the Hip-Hop Archive, according to the announcement, is to seek projects from scholars and artists that build on the rich and complex hip-hop tradition; to respect that tradition through historically grounded and contextualized critical insights; and most important, to represent one’s creative and/or intellectually rigorous contribution to hip-hop and the discourse through personal and academic projects.
Personal projects of fellows may include manuscripts, performance pieces, album work, curriculum planning, primary archival research and exhibition preparation.
Rapper and producer 9th Wonder (Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige) chronicled his year of lecturing and research as a fellow of the Hip-Hop Archive at Harvard for the upcoming documentary “The Harvard Fellow.” For his project, 9th Wonder researched the records that created his top 10 produced albums, including Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic,” Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” and “The Blueprint,” a Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders” and, yes, Nas’ “Illmatic.” Those records would go on to be cataloged and archived in the permanent collection at Harvard.
“Having welcomed various artists and scholars, the Hip-Hop Archive and Research Institute is uncompromising in our commitment to build and support intellectually challenging and innovative scholarship that reflects the rigor and achievement of hip-hop performance,” Marcyliena Morgan, professor of African and African American studies at Harvard, said in a statement.
Morgan founded the Hip-Hop Archive and Research Institute in 2002 to support research and scholarship devoted to the genre.
Throughout his career, Nas has continued to change the game with his sharp wit and tough social commentary on albums filled with carefully crafted, provocative political thought and street wisdom. When he was 20, he issued his debut, “Illmatic,” which is viewed as one of the greatest rap albums of all time.
Nas has gone on to enjoy one of the longest and most successful careers in the genre. His last album, 2012’s “Life Is Good,” debuted at No. 1 and was largely considered a return to form.
“In my roller-coaster of a life, I’ve endured good and bad for sure, and I’ve truly been blessed to have achieved so much through art in my short life thus far. But I am immensely over-the-top excited about the Nasir Jones hip-hop fellowship at Harvard. From Queens, N.Y., to true cultural academia,” Nas said in a statement.
“My hopes are that greed for knowledge, art, self-determination and expression go a long way. 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.”
Fellows are chosen by a selection committee comprising members of the Harvard faculty.