On Tuesday, the Kennedy Center named Q-Tip their first artistic director of hip-hop culture. A press release from the Kennedy Center stated, “Q-Tip will establish a dynamic, new program that will stretch across all disciplines, bringing the historic roots, contemporary expressions, and transformative power of Hip Hop to the [Kennedy] Center and local and national audiences.”
As a member of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip helped usher in an alternative, soul-infused form of hip-hop embracing intelligent lyrics, witty wordplay and Black empowerment. After the group disbanded, Q-Tip continued to push the traditional artistry limits associated with rap artists, from crafting more mainstream work like Amplified to more jazz-influenced, introspective oriented work like Kamaal/The Abstract. Q-Tip is breathing hip-hop history and a living chronicler of hip-hop’s indelible mark on America’s societal canvas.
“With Hip Hop constantly changing and evolving, it is easy to forget the history and legacy that precede it,” Q-Tip said in a released statement. “I want to begin at the beginning of the Culture to help people see its roots, better understand its present, and responsibly create its future.”
Though thorough in its permeation of every crevice of American society, hip-hop has long battled for acceptance as a viable art form. Hip-hop’s beginnings are rooted in young Black artists expressing the harsh realities of their circumstances, or uplifting their race to strive for better living and higher thinking. Q-Tip is an ideal choice to intersect every avenue and all sides of hip-hop.
The Kennedy Center has made a concerted effort in the last couple of years to address hip-hop’s contributions to music and art. In 2014, Nas celebrated the 20th anniversary of his landmark album Illmatic with a special performance. Last year, hip-hop’s reigning and undisputed champion Kendrick Lamar performed several songs from To Pimp A Butterfly along with the Kennedy Center’s National Symphony Orchestra. Both performances received overwhelming positive reactions from critics and fans alike.
Q-Tip’s appointment only serves to create more prestigious projects at one of the most hallowed halls for performing artists worldwide, and it serves to show the best art hip-hop has to offer.