Hip-hop culture has permeated its way into the mainstream. No matter what the genre, its influences can be seen in the way we speak, the clothes we wear and the music we listen to. It has proven itself to be more than a passing fad to the point where many institutions of higher learning offer courses in its rich history. This is the subject of the Kenneth Price directed documentary The Hip-Hop Fellow. The film follows artist/producer 9th Wonder who, in 2012, received a one-year fellowship at Harvard University. There, he assisted in the establishment of the Hip-hop Archive and teaches a class entitled “The Standards of Hip-Hop.” In addition he worked on a research project called “These are the Breaks” in which he takes his top 10 hip-hop albums and tracks down the original records that lead them to being the seminal works they are today.
Scenes of him instructing his students effectively convey 9th Wonder’s passion for both music and education. Through 9th Wonder and an array of Harvard professors (including Dr. Henry Louis Gates and Dr. Marcyliena Morgan) and hip-hop artists (including Kendrick Lamar and DJ Premier), we get an inside look into the history of the art of sound sampling. The look on his students’ faces as 9th Wonder is able to identify specific notes and passages in hip-hop songs then reveals the original record from which they came is priceless.
9th Wonder's own ability to connect with intellectuals of the caliber Gates and Morgan while simultaneously connecting with his students all under the guise of hip-hop is a marvel to behold. While not having a degree himself, 9th Wonder fits in perfectly with the Harvard educated and the non-Harvard educated alike. Bridging worlds or education, influence, and multi-levels of privilege without batting an eye. The dichotomies that are presented in the film are the heart of it, and make you yearn for even more.
This is a great look into how hip-hop has been influenced and how it will influence our modern society and is highly recommended for fans of all type of music.
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