A funny thing happened when the Kennedy Center decided to book Kendrick Lamar for a performance alongside the National Symphony Orchestra last year: tickets sold-out in a snap, journalists flocked to Washington to cover the show, first-time visitors flooded the concert hall and the gig itself went off with flying colors.
It’s refreshing to hear that the Kennedy Center has decided to make hip-hop a pillar of its 2016 programming schedule, but it’s also a no-brainer. Hip-hop is America’s most vital contemporary pop idiom. It deserves a place at the Kennedy Center.
So while Lamar wasn’t the first rapper to ever perform with the NSO, (Nas did it in 2014), he probably won’t be the last, either.
According to its season announcement on Tuesday, the Kennedy Center has named Q-Tip its first artistic director of hip-hop culture. The 45-year-old rapper, a founding member of New York City hip-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest, is expected to begin curating performances at the Kennedy Center this summer. According to a press release, “Q-Tip will establish a dynamic, new program that will stretch across all disciplines, bringing the historic roots, contemporary expressions, and transformative power of Hip Hop to the [Kennedy] Center and local and national audiences.”
Let’s hope he does the job as well as Jason Moran, the jazz pianist who the Kennedy Center promoted to artistic director for jazz in 2014. Moran’s fingerprints aren’t entirely evident on this year’s season announcement — the big news is that trumpeter Terrence Blanchard has been named an artist in residence — but Moran is a self-professed hip-hop enthusiast.
A collaboration between Moran and Q-Tip? That seems like another no-brainer. Let’s cross our fingers.