Cheer of a black planet

Hip-Hop Worldwide: More Than a Nation conference
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  March 11, 2009

It's hip-hop week at Harvard University. And while that statement is far less ironic than it would have been 15 years ago — when rap music was considered more dangerous than didactic — it's still relatively humorous when considering how many well-known hip-hop artists attended Ivy League institutions.

In full awareness of how tough it is for college heads to earn props, the folks at Harvard's Hip-Hop Archive (founded in 2002 and currently based out of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute) collaborated with a host of major players for this week's "Hip-Hop Worldwide: More Than a Nation" conference. And not just academic cats; while writers such as Adam Bradley (Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip-Hop) and Bakari Kitwana (Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop) have taken part this week, so has Public Enemy number one Chuck D and legendary Philly b-boy and choreographer Rennie Harris, who Tuesday evening hosted a hip-hop dance/dinner party at Rialto restaurant in Cambridge.

"We're hoping to raise public awareness about the global impact of hip-hop culture," says Hip-Hop Archive program coordinator Alvin Carter, who reminds us that this is a Harvard production, so the party features more than just stunts, blunts, and boom bap. "But while this is definitely a serious conference, we also wanted to make it an enjoyable discussion about hip-hop scholarship and journalism."

Among the events popping off at Harvard's newly interactive archive: a week-long global hip-hop film festival, a Hip-Hop Worldwide panel featuring renowned anthropologist Ian Condry and rap-journalism godfather Davey D, and a series of meetings and lectures addressing hip-hop's constructive role in the global AIDS crisis. In other words, topics not addressed on the latest T-Pain and G-Unit albums.

In retrospect, it's not so surprising that Harvard takes rap even more seriously than other universities that get down with hip-hop. After all, it was the birthplace of graduate Dave Mays's The Source magazine two decades ago, as well as the school attended by Method Man and Redman in How High.

And if having a Wu-Tang member and his weedhead sidekick as honorary fantasy alumnae isn't hip-hop, then what the hell really is?

"Hip-Hop Worldwide: More Than a Nation" events continue through March 13 at Harvard's Hip-Hop Archive at the W.E.B. DuBois Institute, 104 Mount Auburn St, in Cambridge. E-mail or visit for additional information. For Chris Faraone's continuing coverage of Harvard's hip-hop week, check out

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