Tag: Nasir Jones

W.E.B. Du Bois Medal Recipients Honored at Harvard for Contributions to African American Culture

DuBois Medal recipient Nasir “Nas” Jones (PHOTO BY KAYANA SZYMCZAK FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)

Awarded since 2000, the Du Bois Medal is Harvard’s highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. It is awarded to individuals in the U.S. and across the globe in recognition of their contributions to African American culture and the life of the mind.

The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research hosted the celebration at Sanders Theatre. Ali picked up the honor earlier in September, but a video of his presentation played during the ceremony. Last year’s honorees included Shonda RhimesMaya Angelou, and Harvey Weinstein.

article by Meredith Goldstein via bostonglobe.com; additions by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

Nas To Fund Tech Scholarships for African-Americans and Latinos at General Assembly in NYC

nas instagram
Nasir Jones aka Nas (photo via allhiphop.com)

Nas is partnering up with General Assembly to sponsor scholarships for African-American and Latino students, according to reports.

General Assembly, a vocational school for engineering and programming in New York City, is opening the “Opportunity Fund” to help bring diversity into technology.  Microsoft, Google and Hirepurpose will also provide monies for the project. Each company will sponsor different populations. While Nas will give scholarships to African-Americans and Latinos, Microsoft and Hirepurpose will provide funding for veterans and Google will give scholarships to women.“This is the start of what hopefully will be a contribution to what will be a more diverse and accessible community worldwide,” General Assembly CEO Jake Schwartz told the Observer.

This is not the first time Nas has had his name attached to an educational opportunity – in 2013 Harvard University created the Nasir Jones Fellowship in his honor.  It’s wonderful that he is continuing to foster higher education, this time in his hometown.

original article by Tanay Hudson via allhiphop.com; additions by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

FILM REVIEW: Nas’ Essential Contribution to Hip Hop Highlighted in Documentary “Time Is Illmatic”

Nas Time is Illmatic

It’s unlikely that hip-hop documentary “Time Is Illmatic” will have many showings as thrilling as its opening-night slot at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, where it preceded an impassioned live performance by its subject, the artist born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones and better known by his stage name: Nas. Still, this brisk, stylish and extremely heartfelt portrait of Nas’ rise from the housing projects of Queensbridge to the heights of hip-hop royalty ably stands on its own, marked by an admirable focus on the man and his music rather than hype and hagiography. Sure to be embraced by fans (but also a fine primer for neophytes), “Time” should have a long home-viewing shelf life following additional fest and select theatrical bookings.

In his feature directing debut, the former graffiti artist and graphic designer One9 smartly avoids trying for a comprehensive career portrait of Nas, instead centering on the rapper’s humble origins and the making of his landmark 1994 debut album, “Illmatic.” Comparable in its impact on hip-hop to that of Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings on the art world, “Illmatic” seemed a prodigal work, constructed of airtight rhythms and intricate rhymes, steeped in the violent realities of ghetto life yet far-reaching in its lyric and musical allusions (including “samples” that ran the gamut from jazz to Michael Jackson), as intimate as a diary while also serving as a very public statement of artistic intent. Nas was all of 20 at the time, and best known for his electrifying guest rapping on popular singles by Main Source and MC Serch.

Two decades later, Nas is close to an eminence grise, but the figure who appears onscreen for much of “Time Is Illmatic” appears humbled by his massive success and is quick to acknowledge those who helped pave the way (like the pioneering female rapper Roxanne Shante, who gave the teenage Nas an early break as part of her crew), as well as those (like childhood friend Willie “Ill Will” Graham) who were less lucky at surviving the Queensbridge mean streets. To this, the film adds a carefully selected mix of testimonials from friends, family members, artistic collaborators and assorted lions of old-school hip-hop. But save for a couple of fleeting appearances by Cornel West and Henry Louis Gates, “Time” eschews third-party critical analysis in favor of keeping the focus on neighborhood and personal experience, a cinematic “trip down memory lane” to complement the one Nas rapped about on “Illmatic” itself.

The pic’s first half devotes much of its energy to anatomizing Nas’ childhood and early performance career, with particular attention to his parents — the jazz sideman Olu Dara and his wife, Ann Jones — who raised their two sons (Nas and younger brother Jabari, aka “Jungle”) in a bohemian cocoon of art, books and music very different from the Queensbridge norm. After a brief childhood flirtation with the trumpet, Nas had already begun writing rhymes by age 8. Curiously, it was Dara himself, by then divorced from Ann, who persuaded both boys to drop out of New York’s public school system (where he believed they were receiving an inferior, resource-starved education) after completing the eighth grade. He wanted them to follow their entrepreneurial dreams, which was easier said than done in the New York of the pre-Giuliani, crack-besieged late ’80s and early ’90s.

Fans of old-school hip-hop will take particular delight in the docu’s evocation of the neighborhood rivalries and MC battles that played out in the form of tracks like Marly Marl and MC Shan’s “The Bridge” and KRS-One’s “South Bronx,” and helped to stoke the young Nas’ creative fires. (The opening cut of “Illmatic” featured a prominent sample of the seminal 1983 hip-hop feature “Wild Style,” also excerpted here.) Returning today to the old neighborhood, Nas reflects emotionally on the devastation wrought by drugs and gang violence and how, but for a few strokes of luck, he too might have become another victim.

In its second half, “Time” shifts gears to the recording of “Illmatic,” with Nas and his quintet of illustrious producers (Nas, Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S. and DJ Premier) offering insightful, track-by-track deconstructions of the album’s most enduring cuts: “Life’s a Bitch,” “One Love,” “The World Is Yours” and “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” with its inspired sampling of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”

The documentary occasionally reveals its multiyear gestation period in the variable range of video formats used to capture the interviews, but otherwise sports a polished, professional sheen.

review by Scott Foundas via Variety.com

 

Nas Gives a Benediction for Harvard’s Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship

Nas performing in New York in June.
Nas performing in New York in June (Karsten Moran/The New York Times)

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.”

Continue reading “Nas Gives a Benediction for Harvard’s Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship”

Harvard University Creates Nasir Jones Fellowship in Honor of Acclaimed Hip-Hop Artist Nas

Source: Mats Andersson/WENN
Nasir Jones (aka Nas) Source: Mats Andersson/WENN

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.

article by Lauren R.D. Fox via madamenoire.com

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