Q-Tip Will Curate New Hip Hop Programs As Artistic Director For Kennedy Center

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will celebrate its 100th anniversary during the 2016–2017 season, which will also see the arrival of three new “artistic partners,” one of which is veteran rapper and producer Q-Tip, who will join the institution as its first artistic director for hip hop culture. The genre will also be added to the center’s core programming, notes the Seattle Times.

“With Hip Hop constantly changing and evolving, it is easy to forget the history and legacy that precede it,” Q-Tip, Kennedy Center Artistic Director for Hip Hop Culture, said in a press release. “I want to begin at the beginning of the Culture to help people see its roots, better understand its present, and responsibly create its future.”

In addition to Q-Tip, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and soprano Renee Fleming will serve as at-large artistic advisers, and Terence Blanchard and violinist Joshua Bell as artists-in-residence.The lineup was announced Tuesday morning by center President Deborah F. Rutter. The new hip-hop programs will deal with social justice, courage, and freedom.

“This is not an emerging art form, this is an established art form, and we’ve been doing it for a number of years,” Rutter said.

The Kennedy centennial initiative runs from April of this year to May, 2017, and involves 35 artistic events, including highlights from Irish arts and culture — that will screen documentary films about President Kennedy’s 1963 visit to Ireland. The event will also pay tribute to activist artists Pete Seeger, Nina Simone, and Abbey Lincoln, as well as Cesar Chavez.

“An important aspect of our identity here at the center is the fact that we are a living memorial,” Rutter said. “You can’t really, as a performing arts center, recognize his achievements, but you can extrapolate the ideals that we associate with him and bring these ideals to life through performing arts activities.”

The 2016-2017 Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Season schedule listed below.

  • July 12-16, 2016 — Family Theater, Concert Hall — Brave New Voices Youth Summit
  • October 12-16, 2016 — Family Theater — All the Way Live!
  • November 3-5, 2016 — Terrace Gallery — Words, Beats & Life Teach-In
  • November 5, 2016 — Grand Foyer — Top Notch
  • May 23, 2017 — Eisenhower Theater — DJ Spooky: Rebirth of a Nation
  • June 5-11, 2017 — Family Theater — /peh-LO-tah/

Born Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, Q-Tip embarked on his music career as part of the critically acclaimed 80s East Coast hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest. The band released five studio albums before calling it quits in 1998. All members of the original lineup reunited in 2006 and played a limited number of dates. During his impressive career, Q-Tip has been named many times over as one of the top lyricists of all time. Mobb Deep’s Havoc recently spoke to Complex about how Tip’s influence helped cultivate his music.

“He was one of the producers that came in and actually helped me cultivate my sound. I was a huge fan of A Tribe Called Quest. The music they put out—sonically—was just ridiculous,” Havoc explained. “To this day, it’s some of the best music that I ever heard in hip-hop. I always looked at that as a benchmark for production. I aspired for my music to sound that good—the drums in particular. When he came in and gave me his expertise, it was him really looking out for a brother. He didn’t have to do that s**t at all. I don’t know where I’d probably be if he didn’t help out. Definitely shouts out to Q-Tip.”

Havoc also explained how the prolific artist helped him get on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.

“Q-Tip is one of the reasons why I even got on this project. I think he mentioned it to Kanye. Threw the bug in his ear. Everything just went 360 [degrees] from working on The Infamous album to him throwing the bug in Kanye’s ear. Like, ‘You know, I think you should work with Havoc.’ That was dope.”

Q-Tip will also be working with the visual arts organization Hi-ARTS, which has been collaborating with the Kennedy Center for the past 15 years in developing Hip Hop festivals, per Billboard.

[Photo by Jonathan Short/Invision/AP]