From the Breaks to the Books: A Lecture with 9th Wonder

My name is Korbin Felder, I am a junior majoring in History and Afro-American/African Studies, and I am with the student organization Hip Hop Congress. We use Hip Hop as a tool for social, economic or political change. The Hip Hop Congress uses the culture of Hip Hop to inspire young people to get involved in social action, civic service, and cultural creativity. Hip Hop Congress is the product of a merger of artists and students, music and community. It is significant because it provides one of few paths for highly creative and often disenfranchised youth where they can channel their energy into a strong and organized force aimed at improving their community. We translate Hip Hop into a tool for youth to create change in their communities. For the many detractors of Hip Hop we translate the heavily stereotyped and misunderstood art form into an important art form and culture with societal importance. Our biggest event annually is the Midwest Summit, where we bring together people from around the region to campus for concerts, workshops and discussions. We use the kickoff concert to get people excited about the weekend and to introduce them to many artists that are also activists. The following day we have workshops and discussions where we bring many pre-college aged youth from around Southeast Michigan to campus to participate in the workshops and discussions. The purpose of the discussions and workshops is to translate the language and culture of Hip Hop into a vehicle for change. Here is a recap video of last year’s summit:

On Thursday, September 13th in the Rackham Amphitheatre at 7pm, we will host a lecture with arguably the most influential Hip Hop artist that has transitioned from Hip Hop into academics, 9th Wonder. He is world famously known as a Grammy award winning producer and DJ; he has worked with the likes of Jay-Z, Mary J. Blidge, Destiny’s Child, J. Cole, Drake and many more. The casual fan may know him from his music, but he also is a lecturer, social activist, CEO of his own Independent record label, Jamla Records, and a soon to be Ivy League Professor. He begin his quest into academia in 2007 teaching a Hip Hop history at North Carolina Central University’s school of music, in 2010 he began teaching a course entitled “Sampling Soul” at Duke University, and more recently received acceptance to become a fellow at Harvard in the Hip Hop archive. He serves as a professor and advocate of Hip Hop and its history. In this lecture he will discuss Hip Hop as American art form, the influence of previous Black American music on Hip Hop and Hip Hop’s place in academia.

The purpose of this event is to translate Hip Hop into academia. We intend to better understand how a topic that is so frequently misunderstood and stereotyped, such as Hip Hop actually does have a great history; societal importance and is relevant to the world of higher education. 9th Wonder, a pioneer in Hip Hop that crossed over into academia, will help to translate the art form of Hip Hop into academic terms to better understand the value of Hip Hop as an art form and culture. This event is all about the implementation of an art form into academia and uncovering the value of an art form that is often misunderstood and stereotyped. This event can transform lives, educate and help people better understand as an art form and the Hip Hop culture. 9th Wonder will lecture on the legacy of American music and how Hip Hop is the next in line of great American musical genres. Hip Hop grew out of those previous genres of music: the blues, jazz, funk, soul and gospel. We will delve into the importance and place of Hip Hop in academia, by placing it among the same ranks as other forms of great American music like jazz, blues, gospel or funk. In academia, the value of studying these art forms is understood, due to the social conditions they grew out of and to the messages which the music convey, whether they are songs of protest or celebration. In his lecture 9th Wonder will explain the social conditions and history which helped create Hip Hop, to have people understand that Hip Hop was an art form created by a population with little or no classical music training to express the issues relevant to their lives. This information is an important part of Hip Hop that not many people understand, and it is this same information which makes Hip Hop a genre that is important to study in higher education. Art forms such as jazz or the blues can be studied in a variety of academic units, from anthropology to history to sociology. Hip Hop fits in place with those previous musical genres and is next in line of great American musical genres. Like those previous genres it will be very important to incorporate it into academia due to the history, its influences from those previous genres, and the messages it conveys. Currently, Hip Hop is often a hotly contested topic and to many it is misunderstood and stereotyped due to the reputation it gained in mainstream America. Hip Hop Congress as an organization embraces the Hip Hop that remains true to the origins of the art form, and Hip Hop that is used in a positive manner to be used as a tool for social, economic or political change and doesn’t fall victim to the stereotypes of what Hip Hop is. This can transform lives by having people think deeper into what deserves to be studied and encourage people to look past just the traditional topics in academia, but to also understand that the arts have equal importance in academia and society.
We believe that this event, with the help of the Translation theme semester and the co-sponsoring academic units can be used to open the door for Hip Hop into Michigan academics. This will be an educational, inspiring and enlightening event which will connect artists, fans, and academics alike.