Years ago when I first heard this thing called Hip Hop, I never imagined how the culture would manifest. As young kids back in the day we emulated the style and swag of this music form as it crept out of its East Coast origins. Soon we were tasting Hip Hop music from the west coast, down south and even overseas. As I look back I am proud that I came up as a kid who understood the 4 elements of Hip Hop (rapping, DJing, graffiti writing and b-boying) and even dabbled a bit here and there as a DJ. Now with the culture of Hip Hop growing a few grey hairs (I’m collecting a few myself), we are starting to see more and more schools, teachers and organizations teaching its history. Just like American History 101 or African American History, we are starting to see more and more emphasis on the history of Hip Hop.
On a personal level I really took notice when famed Producer 9th Wonder was tasked with and given the opportunity/responsibility of preserving Hip-Hop music and culture within the halls of Harvard University. I was like, “wow Hip Hop has gone Ivy League”. It was great that 9th Wonder was given this opportunity and it was a great line item on his resume, but was Harvard the right place for this? I mean really the brightest kids in America go to this school, but are they really in the culture like that? I am sure a few kids were down and signed up immediately for his courses, but I am sure they were the minority. But I still loved the concept and the direction this culture was taking. KRS-1 once stated that many people were, “still takin’ rappin’ for a joke. A passing hope or a phase with a rope”. Now this billion dollar industry has transcended in a way that touches all cultures and mindsets.
This brings me to now. This brings me to my Hometown of Richmond, VA. Not nationally known as one of the Hip Hop Meccas in America, but at the same time this city has embraced Hip Hop since day one. Hip Hop grew in these streets just as much as it did in NYC, LA, Atlanta etc. We have had artist in the city step on the national scene time and time again. The most notable in my opinion would be Skillz aka Mad Skillz. Many know him for his lyrical delivery and punchlines, many may know him for ghostwriting hits for numerous artist over the years and many are finding out as a DJ he can hold his own with the best of them. Now I am proud to say many will know him as a Hip Hop educator at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond School of Professional & Continuing Studies has named Skillz as their artist-in-residence where he will reflect on his career as a hip hop artist, rapper and producer. Skillz will discuss the evolution of hip hop over the last 30 years. He will dive deeper into the evolving role of hip hop in today’s culture including that of a conduit of political activism and grassroots organizing.
Most importantly he will continue to promote and educate the culture!
If you are in my city (Richmond, VA) check out his class, sit down and learn about what we call Hip Hop.