K. Lovisa
K. Lovisa Hogstrom


The Kennedy Center Partners With Rapper Q-Tip to Create Hip-Hop Program

Influences on the Kennedy Center’s Decision

The Kennedy Center has finally made the long, overdue decision to create a hip-hop program. To start this program, the Kennedy Center has brought on the much respected and influential rapper, Q-Tip.

The decision to start a hip-hop program comes from obvious influences such as the popularity of hip-hop and the cultural importance it contains as well as the current political climate. What better way to “stick it to the man” than to endorse a musical genre that was heavily influenced by protesting social injustices.

It’s also long overdue. Hip-hop deserves recognition for the massive influence it has had on all aspects of society and culture. Music has evolved dramatically over the last few decades and a lot of this is due to hip-hop. Artists like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and The Black Eyed Peas, have all created music that is heavily infused with heavy drums, looped melodies and rhythmic tempos - characteristics of hip-hop.


The Challenges of Institutionalizing Hip-Hop

The genre itself was founded on resisting the institution and protesting through art. So, the public relations struggle is obvious. The challenge facing the institution was incorporating a musical genre historically opposed to the power of institutions. The answer came in the form of an influential member of the hip-hop community.

Having to marry the foundational identity of hip-hop with sticking it in an institution could have the potential of sending the message that it will not be respected or it will be turned into a ploy that dismisses the integrity of hip-hop.


How to Fix This

Put someone who represents the meaning of hip-hop in charge – this is where Q-Tip comes in. He’s influential and highly respected by hip-hop fans and artists.

Q-Tip is still involved in the genre – his group, A Tribe Called Quest, recently reunited to put out an album and performed it at the Grammy’s and festivals. He is also a producer for many different artists, both in hip-hop and other genres. It is hard to have a conversation about the past, present and future of hip-hop without Q-Tip coming up.

His vision for the program is aligned with honoring the past by forcing the conversation about the origins of hip-hop on a societal level as well as discuss the positives and negatives of both the past and present music being created.

Q-Tip doing all of this while still holding society accountable for the part it plays. In recent interviews with The Washington Post and NPR, he talks about misogyny, sexism and racism and the role it plays in hip-hop, other genres and society in general.

The Kennedy Center will benefit greatly by having Q-Tip play such an important role in the hip-hop program. It was smart public relations move to bring him on board and shows a promising future for this program.