Kennedy Center Appoints Q-Tip as Its First Hip-Hop Culture Director

Does the rapper have what it takes to make the Kennedy Center cool?

Q-Tip and Rosario Dawson. Photo: Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan.

The Kennedy Center certainly isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think of the hip-hop scene, but that may soon change. The Washington, DC-based performing arts complex has appointed rapper Q-Tip as an artistic adviser, alongside more traditional musicians like cellist Yo-Yo Ma and opera singer Renée Fleming.

The commissions come thanks to recently-appointed president Deborah Rutter, whose first full season of programming will pay tribute to what would be John F. Kennedy’s 100th birthday. The year-long festival will feature special programming in honor of the president’s unprecedented commitment to freedom and social justice.

As part of a shift towards more diverse programming, the Kennedy Center will feature a cohesive slate of hip-hop performances curated by Q-Tip, including the world premiere of the B-Fly commission “All the Way Live!” and the Brave New Voices Youth Summit.

The Kennedy Center. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Kennedy Center.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“It couldn’t come at a better time. As a nation, we’re dealing with issues of race, issues of racism, issues of misogyny,” Q-Tip said in a statement, originally reported by the Washington Post. “People turn to art at times like these, and hip-hop is no exception.”

While the Kennedy Center has presented isolated hip-hop acts over the past 15 years, this is the first time the genre has been included so prominently in the calendar. The decision to do so piggybacks on the various “genre-blurring” events Rutter launched following her 2014 appointment.

“We should be taking risks and growing audiences,” Rutter says.

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