The Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship at Harvard University came to be due to a major endowment from an anonymous donor who specifically asked that Nas be the face of the initiative. The fellowship is meant to pay for research and Hip Hop related programs at the university for visiting scholars.
During an interview with Rolling Stone, Nas, born Nasir Jones, spoke about why he wasn’t always on board with initiatives such as this one.
“I said no to a lot of things in my twenties,” the Queens, New York rapper said. “In the beginning, I was a fighter. I’m always going to be a fighter, but I fight differently, for different reasons, today.”
Nas, who did not finish high school, explained how Hip Hop added to his education.
“One thing that drew me to Hip Hop was the things Kurtis Blow was saying, the things Melle Mel was saying.” Nas said. “I would ask my folks, ‘What do Run-D.M.C. or Rakim mean by this?'”
He continued, describing Hip Hop’s importance in education.
“Hip Hop is important like computer science,” Nas said. “The world is changing. If you want to understand the youth, listen to the music. This is what’s happening right underneath your nose.”
“In my rollercoaster 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 said in a statement provided by the Island Def Jam Music Group, which releases Nas’ music. “But I am immensely over-the-top excited about the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship at Harvard. From Queens, New York to true cultural academia. My hopes are that greed for knowledge, art, self-determination and expression go a long way. It is a true honor to have my name attached to so much hard work, alongside great names like Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and W.E.B. Du Bois and to such a prestigious and historical institution, and all in the name of the music I grew to be a part of.”
During Nas’ career, he has discussed education in various ways. On his 1994 debut album Illmatic’s “One Love,” Nas spoke about lies in school textbooks. “Fuck a school lecture,” Nas rapped on the track. In 2001, Nas claimed “teachers never cared” on Stillmatic’s “2nd Childhood.” On the same track, he said teachers were “paid just to show up and leave.” In 2002, on God Son’s “I Can,” Nas described the importance of literacy. He rapped about the importance of knowing how to “read and write.” On the same song, he asks children to “read more, learn more, change the globe.”