With a new book that has been a decade in the making and a weekly seminar that brings together new UCLA artists-in-residence with a wide range of hip-hop scholars, UCLA’s Hip Hop Initiative is thinking globally in 2023, the 50th year of the art form.
Those involved with the initiative are seeking to set the tone for the next half-century of hip-hop with the recent publication of “Freedom Moves: Hip Hop Knowledges, Pedagogies, and Futures,” a volume of essays that passes the microphone to scholars and artists from around the world, and from and outside the mainstream, giving voice to Indigenous, queer and disability activists across hip-hop culture.
And this year, the initiative — launched in 2022 by UCLA’s Ralphe J. Bunche Center for African American Studies with Public Enemy’s Chuck D as its first artist-in-residence — welcomes two new artists-in-residence: Medusa, known as “The Godmother of West Coast Hip Hop,” and Emile XY?, a world-renowned b-boy, author, organizer, teacher and founding member of South African hip-hop crew Black Noise. Both have been participating in the initiative’s weekly “California Love” seminar, which explores the evolution of West Coast hip-hop’s cultural landscape with graduate students and scholars from UCLA and other California and U.S. universities.
The mission of these and other ongoing Hip-Hop Initiative projects, organizers say, is to inspire thinking about the art form that goes beyond the mainstream and uplifts ideas and grassroots efforts that advance hip-hop as a means of education and social progress and that decenter traditional academic notions of knowledge production.