The rapper Nas made his first appearance at Harvard University on Thursday, not to perform but to give his blessing to a new fellowship in his name – formally, the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship. The fellowship will be awarded to two scholars or artists annually, chosen by a Harvard faculty committee. It is primarily a research fellowship, although Marcyliena Morgan, a professor of African and African American Studies and the founder and director of the Hip-Hop Archive and Research Institute, which will administer the fellowship, said on Friday that fellows could teach courses as well. The application process, she said, has just started.
“The main purpose of the fellowship,” Ms. Morgan said, “is to support people doing work that has to do with the ways hip-hop itself reaches out to youth through the world, and particularly how it brings together issues of social justice, art and politics. That relationship – and how difficult it can be – is an important aspect of what we’re looking at. Hip-hop has been a way of getting the word out in very difficult situations.”
Nas has found a new home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard University’s W.E.B Du Bois Institute and Hip-Hop Archive announced the creation of the Nasir Jones Fellowship. The fellowship named after the rapper who is known for his philosophical bars, will allow scholars and artists to use their education through a creative outlet. The Nasir Jones Fellowship key purpose is based on the motto: Education is real power.
The Hip-Hop Archive press release states the mission: “To seek projects from scholars and artists that build on the rich and complex hip-hop tradition; to respect that tradition through historically grounded and contextualized critical insights; and most importantly, to represent one’s creative and/or intellectually rigorous contribution to hip-hop and the discourse through personal and academic projects.”
The fellowship will cover the works of Nas and other prolific hip-hop artists who contributed monumental work to the genre. Recipients of The Nasir Jones Fellowship will be selected by Harvard faculty.
The MC who received the privilege of his own fellowship at the Ivy League states:
“In my roller coaster of a life I’ve endured good and bad for sure, and I’ve truly been blessed to have achieved so much through art in my short life thus far. But I am immensely over-the-top excited about the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship at Harvard. From Queens, NY to true cultural academia. My hopes are that greed for knowledge, art, self-determination and expression go a long way. It is a true honor to have my name attached to so much hard work, alongside great names like Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and W.E.B. Du Bois and to such a prestigious and historical institution, and all in the name of the music I grew to be a part of.”
Before forming his own fellowship, Nas has helped Grammy-award winning music producer 9th Wonder with his own academic research project called These Are The Breaks. The research was based on compiling original samples from hip-hop albums that were permanently archived in the Harvard Library; Nas’s Illimatic was a part of the research. 9th Wonder’s research project and journey to Harvard has become a documentary called, The Harvard Fellow.