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Smithsonian Museum to Celebrate Hip-hop and Rap with Inaugural Block Party  

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (photo courtesy of  NMAAHC)

In celebration of the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap, The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is set to host an inaugural Hip-Hop Block Party on Saturday, August. 13 from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Block Party will include local talent, acclaimed national lyricists, and activities centered around hip-hop culture and its origins. 

The event will host performances by Vic Jagger and Mumu Fresh, two DMV natives turned artists,  a panel-led discussion on hip-hop, and dance workshops by Culture Shock DC. NMAAHC has also partnered with the National Museum of The American Indian to bring in further performances. 

“Chuck D had an interest in doing something with hip hop and giving it the Folkways treatment, which is really more than just putting together an anthology of songs, but also a story,” said Dwandalyn Reece, associate director for curatorial affairs at NMAAHC. “Hip-hop is very present in all facets of our lives and everywhere throughout the museum. And so it was just kind of the perfect moment.”

With a 14-year partnership with Smithsonian Folkways, the Smithsonian record label focusing on cultural heritage and folklife, the original Anthology of Hip and Rap was inspired by the presence of the genre, and the legacy of community and story therein of African Americans. 

“It’s not contained and that’s part of the narrative of hip hop, you can’t contain it. It’s something that continues to evolve and push the boundaries and create new innovations,” explained Reece.

The event serves as more than a celebratory occasion to those involved, acting as deeper means to reverence the genre and accompanying culture in not only society but also history. 

“The Smithsonian has been dealing with hip hop for years now, in a variety of ways. From our folklore festival to other programs at other institutions,” shared Reece. “And we wanted to treat it just like any other historical cultural movement that we revere and continue to research and continue to learn from. That hip hop, even though it is the current thing at the moment, it falls right in line with all the other past phenomenons that have gone out for the last 400 years.”

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When asked “why a block party” the resounding message was community. “You cannot separate the meaning of community from hip hop, no matter how commercial it comes, that’s its roots. This really was a community endeavor and a community voice project and what better way as an institution to celebrate [than] in a format and structure that really embraces that concept.” said Reece.

Reece shared hopes that the event and performances serve as a way for the public to not only experience the genre but understand “what the music is all about”. 

“We have a lot of local groups, we have a lot of national groups. We have things oriented for youth in any way. There’s really something for everybody.” explained Reece. “And for those who may not have grown up with the hip-hop generation, there’s also opportunities to learn and to experience and understand what the music is all about.”

With stars of many different ages set to hit the stage of the event, offering intergenerational community, Reece shared the importance of hip-hop and its impact on the lives of many.

“Hip- hop is a part of everyone’s lives and they are just as much part of the story as the well-known artist…[hip-hop] continues to live and continues to be important…” stated Reece. “It will continue to be part of our storytelling…hip-hop is equally as important as any other historical movement in African American history and culture.”

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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