When you think Harvard, rap legend Nas is probably not the first thing you would relate to the Ivy League university. However, as of a few months ago, the oldest university in the U.S. announced its plan to offer a fellowship dedicated to artists and scholars who demonstrate exceptional talent in the field of hip hop. The Nasir Jones Fellowship is headed by Nas who has been critically acclaimed for his progressive lyrics and commitment to educate urban youth.
The ultimate goal of the fellowship is to provide scholars funding through grants and scholarships to help them realize their efforts to promote positive hip hop, both musically and non-musically. Historically, hip-hop originated amongst the marginalized youth of Harlem and the South Bronx during the 1970s. Its culture was born from a need to challenge or express the hardships that came with living in urban hardship. Given that hip hop originated as a contrarian form of expression, it will be interesting to see how Harvard’s association to it will impact how listeners or burgeoning artists will view hip hop. As a multi-million dollar program, Harvard’s fellowship may be seen as meddling into a musical form that is meant to be organic.