This week I had the pleasure of attending to the screening of the new documentary The Hip-Hop Fellow. The 78 minute documentary follows Grammy Award Winning producer 9th Wonder’s tenture at Harvard University as he teaches the principles and culture of Hip-Hop. We see him conducting research for his thesis as he deeply explores Hip-Hop’s roots and his role in academia. 9th has produced for Ludacris, Erykah Badu, Destiny’s Child, Mary J. Blige, and Jay-Z, and he’s also a lecturer at Duke University.
“As a producer and musician 9th is passionate for Hip Hop” – Kendrick Lemar
As part of research the documentary also features Kendrick Lamar, Young Guru, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, AB-Soul, Big Pooh & DJ Premier along with some of Harvard’s professors such as Dr. Marcyliena Morgan and Dr. Henry Louis Gates is the (Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard); Marcyliena also shares her love and knowledge for Hip-Hop.
Whilst watching the documentary I was able to pick out the comments that were really empowering. One thing that was clear throughout the documentary was that through Hip-Hop, producers are able to sample music from the 60’s 70’s and 80’s era to create beats.
Young Guru breaks it down quite easily on producers source materials, he mentions that the materials comes from different songs just to create an album. We also have to look at people’s mindset, Where is their mind at when making music? This point Guru made was really interesting because as the listener of others music we can often tell when the artists or producers have really thought carefully about their music and when the albums are rushed.
So what does the word Producer mean in the music world? The doc does begs the question as some may not know what the term “Producer” means! A producers role is very hands and basically owns the beat that people may use for all sorts of creativity. Most producers have the the advantage of using the most important instrument, the turntables.
The term sampling is used quite a lot throughout the documentary, where sampling maybe seen as stealing from the original , I don’t see how using someone else’s tune and putting your own creativity on a track is bad, especially if whoever has sampled a track earns a lot of money from it and pays the original’s their cut.. that’s fair right?
Dr. Henry Louis Gates breaks down what sampling really is. Samples are taken from vinyls, so basically “sampling means to take a fragment of something that imitates the other” Dr. Henry Louis Gates”
The documentary shows a great deal of research and history of what samples were used to make albums by Nas, Jay-z and Ghostface Killah. When Nas introduced Illmatic to the Hip-Hop world in April 1994, some say that this album changed everything. Still today Illmatic is described as an album that the young and older generation can listen to.“Illmatic is close to being the perfect album” 9th Wonder.
1992 was the year Dr Dre gave the world The Chronic Album. The Album is described as “Sounding like a movie” 9th Wonder
“not pre-mediated and pure organic” Kendrick Lemar
Another thing I found interesting towards the end of the documentary is the contrast in hip hop in the 80’s to how it is now. DJ Premier and others all mentioned that in the 1980’s rappers were not so important back then and people paid more attention to the DJ’s. I think this continued in to the 1990’s, then rappers became the focus and occasionally putting the spotlight on their DJ’s.
September 11 2001 Jay-Z 6th studio album BluePrint is released. “BluePrint by Jay-Z changed the way producers made beats” 9th Wonder.
Whilst watching the documentary I had a few questions in mind that I wish I had asked during the discussion, So here are a few questions to my readers and anyone else.
Why is it that we can easily talk about who had the best Top 5 Hip-Hop albums or who the best rappers are in America but we can’t seem to decide on who has made classic Hip-Hop albums or who are the Top 5 rappers in the UK?
Why doesn’t England teach Hip-Hop as part of Black History Month or combine it with Shakespeare in English or other subjects?
I tell felt so inspired from watching The Hip-Hop Fellow and if you have watched the documentary please share your thoughts.
To find out where the upcoming screenings will take place click here http://thehiphopfellow.com/screenings/
Watch the trailer here
Words By Vanessa Ryan