Fellowship Created At Harvard University Honors Rapper Nas

The fellowship celebrates the hip-hop artist's talents, and gives scholars a chance to show "education is power."

One of rap’s most prominent performers is getting a head nod from the likes of some of Harvard University’s most prestigious professors.

Lyricist Nas, known for his genre-changing album Illmatic, and his long-time career selling multi-platinum records that provide real-world insight through social commentary, said he is “over-the-top” about the Cambridge school’s announcement and decision to create a fellowship in his name. “In my roller-coaster of a life I’ve endured good and bad for sure, and I’ve truly been blessed to have achieved so much [through] art in my short life thus far,” Nas, whose real name is Nasir Jones, said in a statement. “But I am immensely…excited about the Nasir Jones HIP-HOP Fellowship at Harvard.”

Describing the honor as an epic tale of rising from “Queens, [New York] to true cultural academia,” Nas said he hopes scholars will have a “greed” for knowledge, art, self-determination and expression through the fellowship.

Established through a joint venture between the university’s Hip-Hop Archive and the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, the introduction of the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship will “be the leading resource for those interested in knowing, developing, building, maintaining, and representing Hip-Hop,” said Marcyliena Morgan, Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and founder and director of the Hip-Hop Archive and Research Institute.

Officially formed in 2002, under Morgan’s direction, the Hip-Hop Archive strives to support emerging research dedicated to the art, institutions, and movements developed by those who empower and follow the hip-hop culture. The Archive’s mission is “three-fold,” according to the university:

[It aims] to seek projects from scholars and artists that build on the rich and complex hip-hop tradition; to respect that tradition through historically grounded and contextualized critical insights; and most importantly, to represent one’s creative and intellectually rigorous contribution to hip-hop and the discourse through personal and academic projects.

Those projects pursued by fellows can include manuscripts, performance pieces, album work, curriculum planning, primary archival research, and exhibition preparation, according to the program’s director.

Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, called Nas “a true visionary,” and said that the rapper has consistently pushed boundaries to further the cause of education and knowledge through his music and life choices. “The work of the Du Bois Institute is enriched by the addition of the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship,” he said.