9th Wonder Explains Black Colleges' Failure To Embrace Hip Hop History
Exclusive: The Harvard Fellow readies the first New York City installment of 95 Live, a four hour dedication to music made before 1995.
Grammy-winning producer 9th Wonder brings his music and cultural celebration, 95 Live, to New York City’s MIST Harlem tonight (February 1). Featuring guests Statik Selektah and Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg, 95 Live is a four-hour dedication to music made prior to 1995.
In describing the difference between music produced before and after 1995, 9th explained to HipHopDX that pre-1995 tracks prominently featured bass drums or a thick bass line—creating a sound that is often referred to as the “bottom.”
“Pre-1995, everything was all about the bottom; all about having the boom behind it,” said 9th. “It was more than just the 808s. Early 1980s and mid-1980s music was mastered way louder. If you listened to ‘It’s Like That’ by Run-DMC, the whole record is really turned up as opposed to how it’s mastered [now]. But it’s not as kicking and hitting as hard as those old Run-DMC breaks.”
9th Wonder was accepted into Harvard University’s prestigious Harvard Fellows program in March of 2012. The North Carolina-native will teach a class on the history of Hip Hop as well as complete a research project entitled “These Are The Breaks” where he will examine the original records sampled on his ten favorite albums, including Nas’ Illmatic, Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, and The Minstrel Show—which he produced as a member of Little Brother.
When asked if he is surprised by higher academia’s embrace of Hip Hop culture, 9th shared that he’s more surprised that historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have yet to show the same acceptance.
“It’s incredible to me that they don’t study [Hip Hop] at every Black college,” he said “I think that it’s just a sign of the times, man. It happened with Jazz. Jazz was studied somewhere else first. African-American studies was studied somewhere else first. At some point we have to break that cycle. There are some: Florida A&M, North Carolina A&T State University. And then you have some that don’t want that because they think that we’re gonna teach about what happened on BET last night.”
9th also believes a generational divide between staff and students is part of the reason there is a dearth of Hip Hop history courses on HBCU campuses. While he began his professorial career as an Artist-In-Residence teaching Hip Hop history at his alma mater North Carolina Central University—where Little Brother was founded—the program was cancelled after only three years.
“They felt like the budget [wasn’t there] or that [the course] didn’t serve a purpose or whatever it was, but they stopped it,” 9th tells DX. “After that I went to Duke [University]."
He continued: “We try at our historically Black colleges to make those strides and be first at things and be frontrunners but it’s tough because you’re dealing with three generations of people. You’re dealing with us: The 38-year olds. Then you’re dealing with the 18-year olds and then you’re dealing with the 60-year olds who run these colleges. All of that together is a tough communication to get going.”
95 Live was first created by one of 9th’s fellow Universal Zulu Nation members, Roman Castro. With Castro’s consent, 9th extended the brand into a bi-monthly party held in North Carolina. Previous special guests include DJ Premier, Erykah Badu, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, among others.
“For four hours we don’t play anything past 1995,” said the North Carolina-native. “We tried to go to 2000, but that’s just a little bit too far. It’s not only Hip Hop. It’s R&B, Reggae—just celebrating that time of culture of music.”
Tonight is 95 Live’s first New York City installment and is presented in conjunction with The High End Agency and includes a visual presentation by UpNorthTrips.com.
On Wednesday, February 6, 9th will present his research findings at Harvard University’s Barker Center at 12PM.
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