The Kennedy Center Is Celebrating Rap’s Pioneers With A Concert Series

The John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center has gradually created a bona fide space for Hip-Hop within its gates over the past year. It has appointed A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip as its First Artistic Director of Hip-Hop Culture in 2016 and is awarding LL Cool J as the first ever Hip-Hop representative on its esteemed Kennedy Honors list. In continuation, Kennedy Center has announced that it will be having several concerts with a multitude of rap pioneers called “The Bridge Series” beginning this month on November 20. The event is produced by Non-Phixion member, producer, and radio station host DJ Eclipse.

The concert is titled “The Bridge Concert Series: Pioneering Emcees Vol. 1” and will be hosted by Cold Crush Brothers front-man Grandmaster Caz and The Juice Crew’s Roxanne Shanté. The bill includes 1970s and ’80s Hip-Hop pioneers such as Kool Moe Dee, Kurtis Blow, MC Sha Rock (of Funky 4 + 1), Queen Lisa Lee, Spoonie Gee, and platinum-selling group Whodini. The resident DJ for the event will be Hip-Hop radio trailblazer Kool DJ Red Alert.

To evoke the authenticity of Hip-Hop roots, New York City graffiti pioneer Phase 2 is the designer for the first flyer. Phase 2 was instrumental in the development of the earliest flyers for Hip-Hop parties in The Bronx during the 1970s and 1980s.

“It’s inevitable; the music and the culture has gotten so big,” Q-Tip said of Hip-Hop and his post to NPR last month. “I think it’s a great opportunity for this country in a lot of different ways: a historic institution for arts such as the Kennedy Center, that they would want to—in so many words—institutionalize Hip-Hop. Because, for so long, the creators and practitioners of the form were [viewed] as degenerates, uneducated, hoodlums, provocateurs, cop-killers, rapers, misogynists—all these different labels. So through all the black-and-blues, to be able to have the Kennedy Center [embrace] Rap and Hip-Hop and claim it, like Jazz before it and Blues before it, and so forth as part of a true American art-form [and] to investigate not only the rich foundation of Hip-Hop and its beginnings or whatever, it helps people who may not be from this world to understand, truly, the complexity [and] what Black Complexity is.” He adds, “It’s there on exposé for all to see,” suggesting “a church of the arts.”

Hip-Hop culture has come a long way in its 44 years of monumental contributions to the cultural zeitgeist. From its migration from DJs and MCs rocking tenement basement recreation rooms and park jams within impoverished neighborhoods to performances at prestigious venues such as the Kennedy Center, Hip-Hop has proven that no matter what barriers it breaks through, it can’t stop and won’t stop.

#BonusBeat: This LAST 7 episode examines LL Cool J’s upcoming honors at the Kennedy Center:

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