Hip Hop & Higher Education Part I

There once was a time where a black person in Mississippi could go to prison for applying to colleges now you have Historically Black Colleges and Universities that were established so we wouldn’t attend the same colleges as the white folks. However, more recently we have seen the establishment of Hip Hop Culture through fellowships and professorships at major white schools. KRS-One has been using Hip Hop in conjunction with higher education for years giving guest lectures and speaking at universities across the country. Chuck D of Public Enemy, David Banner, and now Bun B have all been speaking and lecturing at colleges and universities for years teaching college students about economics, education, philosophy, and other areas using Hip Hop as a vehicle to do so.

Why is Hip Hop Culture so popular in institutions of higher education especially at predominantly white colleges and universities? Nas will have the Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship established at Harvard University. Cornell University and The College of William & Mary have ‘Hip Hop Collections’ dedicated to cultivating and housing artifacts, recordings, and other physical collector’s items in order to preserve the culture. I am all for preserving the culture of Hip Hop any way we can HOWEVER why isn’t this happening at OUR schools? You know the HBCUs I mentioned earlier. Why aren’t there any ‘Hip Hop Collections’ at OUR schools, it’s OUR folk music! Allowing predominantly white colleges and universities opens the door for manipulation of the history. Just like white people have erased and re-written our history in the past (read my black history blog post) who’s to stop them from including commercial, more materialistic, and violent forms of the genre? This is another reason why we need the Hip Hop Hall of Fame Museum and the National Museum of Hip Hop so we don’t have to look to anyone but our own! Gene Simmons thinks so.

We have Rappers who are college educated and that information gets lost in translation. Heaven forbid a Rapper inspires a child to go to college but that will be Part II. You don’t see Rappers wearing any logo t-shirts from the college or university they graduated from. I remember seeing Roy Jones, Jr. in the “I Smoke, I Drank” video wearing a t-shirt with my alma mater’s logo and the campus was hype! There was a sense of pride and recognition despite the subpar lyrics. Bill Cosby always dawned a HBCU t-shirt on “The Cosby Show” making people inquire about those schools, look deeper, find a school that would accept them since the predominantly white schools won’t and our secondary schools don’t have the resources to teach our kids how to keep up. Now, let’s remember these rappers are the same rappers who can perform at multiple HBCUs for homecoming season and get that show money but don’t want to do the real work to inspire more to attend HBCUs. If the schools don’t have any students or money then they close down ask students from Morris Brown College. So why not keep that relationship going I’m sure you’re charging the schools an arm and a leg to perform knowing they probably can’t afford to have you. The predominantly white schools will never have these rappers at their homecoming events and festivities. They don’t respect you as a real musical genre enough to have you perform to their beloved students even if they are fans. 

On the flipside HBCUs need to support the culture because Hip Hop lives on their campuses. Hip Hop resonates throughout their campuses. At any given time there could be rap playing on the yard heard from building to building, at least on my campus it was like that. Are HBCUs afraid to publicly embrace the culture for fear of backlash? HBCUs do you even have the funds necessary to have fellowships or visiting scholars? With most HBCUs being state run institutions in the south I can see them getting slighted during statewide budget cuts. Can we point the finger to alums not giving back and just getting their education and never looking back? Or can we look to rappers for some financial buffering? If they threw scholarships luncheons like they throw money at the strip club then a lot of our youth could obtain higher education without a penny from a loan.

Hip Hop artists need to continually use their platform to effect change! They do not care about your kids or they wouldn’t rap without substance! Our youth don’t have any idea about what the future holds for them. A lot of them won’t become rappers. A lot of them need a tangible dream and college is that but they don’t know because nobody has told them! Companies and credit bureaus would rather see student loans on your credit then they would evictions, repossessions, or bankruptcies. Sixty percent of Americans who attended college borrow money to do so. (Student Loan Debt Stats)

Alums and rappers alike need to reinvest their money into HBCUs so we can compete with the predominantly white schools. They are waiting to close down our schools making it more difficult for us to obtain higher education. They are counting on our apathy and ignorance so we won’t recognize what they’re doing until it is too late. We need to hold these artists accountable! Hip Hop will become the Shakespeare of music genres. Starting off as low-brow entertainment only to be thought of as one of the greatest art forms of all time to be revered by all. By then they’ll have re-written the history and Afrika Bambaataa will be a Jared Leto look alike with Jennifer Lawrence playing Queen Latifah.

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