Growing up in the 1980’s, hip hop shaped my image and culture. I was lucky enough to grow up during the golden age of hip hop and saw strong women like Queen Latifah and Moni Love on their way to the top. Hip Hop was an emerging culture – little did we know it would be bastardized into the over sexualized, emasculating pop music it has become. Hip Hop used to be a place where people of color and poor people could find their power. It celebrated “do it yourself” ingenuity and told the story of a post Vietnam urban society.
This weekend I was invited to the Hip Hop Archives to hear DJ Spinna give a talk, sponsored by Red Bull Music Academy. DJ Spinna is a pillar in hip hop, a DJ who grew up in the 80’s and was looked up to some of the pioneers of DJ’ing like Funk Master Flex. Spinna’s mixed tapes were ones I could listen to with my mom cause they included Motown and Apollo originals that she loved.
Finding out about the Hip Hop Archives at Harvard warmed my heart. It also gave me hope that the roots of what we now call hip hop will not be lost in the dust bin of society, but rather will live on for anyone who may want to explore it. The Hip Hop Archive will help my generation tell its story.
The Archive is in the WEB Dubois Center. Its physical space is reflective of the cultural journey that helped create hip hop. Their collection includes:
- Interviews: Video, audio, print and web interviews of artists, fans, producers and youth committed to the continuation and preservation of the art form.
- Magazines and Journals: Newsletters, on-line magazines, chat rooms and other forms of print dissemination.
- Promotion Materials: Advertising art and various depictions and documentation of individual artists, record companies and fans.
- Academic Materials: All publications, university and college debates, events, courses and other activities.
- Recording Histories: Organized according to artists, families and crews.
- Social Organization: All forms of meetings, groups and gatherings that represent and contribute to hiphop culture.
- Youth Symbols and Signifiers: A special selection of drawings, graffiti and recordings of regional, national and international symbols used to represent the surroundings and location of urban youth.
- Material Culture: All products generated by and used in hip hop culture nationally and internationally not specified above.
Finding out about the Hip Hop Archives was a great treat. Hip Hop is an international phenomenon and hosting its history is a tourist and cultural must-see for our city. If we could learn how to highlight our cultural gems we could take another step forward in defining the true nature of our city which is broader than sports and St. Patricks day.
– Malia, Future Boston Director