In less than a month, hip-hop has received levels of affirmation and accolades not recently seen, especially from the academic community. Corridors of intellectual power and prowess that have previously thumbed their noses at hip-hop for its “low-class” origins, seem to suddenly want to amend the error of their ways.
It all started when Kanye West appeared on the cover of Time magazine as one of Time Magazines 100 Most Influential People on April 6, 2015. And, as if that was not enough, none other than Elon Musk, CEO and founder of Space X and Tesla – companies that are revolutionizing the way we travel and live both in space and on earth, honored Kanye in the publication (Also Tony Starks in Iron Man the movie is a parody of Elon Musk). So, when Elon Musk writes “Kanye’s been playing the long game all along, and we’re only just beginning to see why,” he may well have been speaking of an establishment that has at times willfully relegated hip-hop to the back of the line.
Less than two weeks later, music news readers were greeted with the headline that Chance the rapper was invited to speak at Harvard University on April 30. Chance spoke at Harvard’s hip-hop archive and research institute. His talk focused on police brutality, streaming, Kanye West and his new music.
The next headline in this litany of tributes to hip-hop, surely must have shocked quite a few, when on May 5, 2015 The British Guardian newspaper reported that a new academic study from the Queen Mary and Imperial College London placed hip hop above all others when it comes to influence on pop music and culture, including the Beatles:
“The researchers believe they found evidence of a culture-shaking moment in pop…The emergence of hip-hop, which crash-landed in the charts in 1991, reinvented the musical landscape like nothing before or since, the study claims.”
As Diddy used to say, “take that, take that…”
The crowning moment, however of this recent awakening by academia on hip-hop as a driving force of contemporary culture to be reckoned with, came from the prestigious School of Art Institute of Chicago, SAIC, who on Monday May 11, 2015 bestowed an honorary doctorate degree on Mister West himself. Wow, Kanye is now Doctor West. Listen to his short speech, below.
Now that was yesterday. Well, today May 12, the State of California has honored Kendrick Lamar, and recognized him as a “generational icon.” Kendrick Lamar was presented his award in the State Senate Chamber and got to hang out with the Governor, Jerry Brown.
It’s certainly all well and good that these hip-hop icons are being honored in this manner. Do take note the kind of hip-hop artists they are. These are not gangsta rappers, who proliferate their music and lyrics with violence, sex and drugs. These are more enlightened artists, who came from the fringes of lower middle class backgrounds.
Although gangsta rap for a generation dominated hip-hop, there is no doubt that the newer generation with the likes of Chance the Rapper are taking things back to the original essence of hip-hop and reinvigorating the genre. And, it’s great to see their efforts paying of.