Nas is one of the most respected rappers in the history of the genre. Now the Queens, New York rapper born Nasir Jones is being honored by Harvard University with “The Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship,” which is being established by the Hip-Hop Archive and The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at the revered Massachusetts school of higher learning. The fellowship is designed to fund scholars and artists who demonstrate exceptional, productive scholarship and creative ability in the arts, as they relate to Hip Hop.

“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.” 

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 says that Nas’ affiliation will benefit the institution. “Nas is a true visionary, and he consistently shows how boundaries can be pushed and expanded to further the cause of education and knowledge,” Gates, Jr. says. “The work of the Du Bois Institute is enriched by the addition of the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship.”

Nas’ most recent album, Life Is Good, was released in 2012. He put out his first album, Illmatic, in 1994. The project is one of the most acclaimed rap releases of all time thanks to Nas’ poetic, story-driven rhymes and production from DJ Premier, Pete Rock and others.

The Hip-Hop Archive was established at Harvard University in 2002 to support and establish the emerging research and scholarship devoted to the knowledge, art, culture, materials, organizations, movements and institutions developed by those who support and follow Hip Hop. The Hip-Hop Archive and Research Institute organizes and develops collections, initiates and participates in research activities, sponsors events and acquires material culture associated with Hip Hop in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Harvard University’s Hip-Hop Archive has three objectives, according to the press release from the Island Def Jam Music Group. “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/or intellectually rigorous contribution to hip-hop and the discourse through personal and academic projects,” the release says. “Personal projects of fellows may include manuscript projects, performance pieces, album work, curriculum planning, primary archival research, and exhibition preparation, among others.”  

“Having welcomed various artists and scholars, the Hip-Hop Archive and Research Institute is uncompromising in our commitment to build and support intellectually challenging and innovative scholarship that reflects the rigor and achievement of Hip Hop performance,” says Marcyliena Morgan, Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University and founder and director of the Hip-Hop Archive and Research Institute. “With the introduction of the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship, we will continue to be the leading resource for those interested in knowing, developing, building, maintaining, and representing Hip Hop.” 

Named after William Edward Burghardt Du Bois who, in 1895, was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University, the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research is the nation’s oldest research center dedicated to the study of the history and culture of Africans and African Americans. The Institute was established in 1975 to sponsor fellowships that would facilitate the writing of doctoral dissertations in areas related to Afro-American Studies. The Institute awards up to 20 fellowships annually to scholars at various stages of their careers in the fields of African and African American Studies. 

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