June is Black Music Month!

Declared in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter, June is Black Music Month. This month celebrates and recognizes the influence that Black music has had on the U.S. and on the world. 

Black people have had a role in spearheading the creation of nearly every major music genre in America. One of the leading genres that have made a major impact on society and have helped shape HBCU culture is hip hop.

Hip-hop has its origins in the Bronx Borough of New York City during the early 1970s. Intersecting communities of Black, Latinx, and  Caribbean Americans would come together at block parties that featured DJs playing soul and funk music. New York City DJs and Hip Hop pioneers like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa began to experiment with different techniques during block parties, including longer percussive breaks (called “breakbeats” or simply “the breaks”), turntable techniques, scratching, freestyle, and improvised vocals based on Jamaican “toasting.” 

As this year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, we are taking a look at the genre’s longstanding relevance at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). 

Hip-hop has been the soundtrack to HBCU campuses throughout every era. From the conscious rap craze to the blog era to the rise of trap music, hip-hop continues to be a staple in the community.

Anyone that has attended an HBCU during the 2010s knows the thrill of ‘swag surfin’ or the right of passage to sing Dreams and Nightmares by Meek Mill or Faneto by Chief Keef at the top of your lungs at a party or an event. This music brings people together, strengthening the HBCU community and creating long-lasting memories with friends. 

As much as the HBCU community loves hip-hop, the hip-hop community has shown love back.

Throughout the years, artists have performed at homecomings and events and have referenced black colleges in songs, and featured them in music videos.

In 1995,  The Notorious B.I.G. put on a performance at Howard University’s Yardfest alongside Diddy and Foxy Brown—largely regarded as one of the most memorable moments in Howard homecoming history. 

Additionally, Atlanta rappers natives have given some love to the AUCC (Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, and Morehouse College) All three schools have been referenced by artists like Ludacris, Gucci Mane, and Trinidad James. Self-proclaimed “King of the South” T.I. even taught “Business of Trap Music,” at Clark in 2020. 

Fellow Atlanta native rapper and Alabama State University alum, 2 Chainz dedicated his 2020 hit “Money Maker” to HBCUs and shot the music video on the campus of Fort Valley State University. Fort Valley’s Blue Machine Marching Band is also featured in the music video as well as band footage of several other schools including Southern University’s Human Jukebox. HBCU dance teams like Alabama State’s Honeybeez and the Stingettes, as well as Southern University’s Dancing Dolls also got some screen time. 

Rapper E-40 also paid homage to his alma mater Grambling State University in the music video for his single “Bands” back in March. In the video, the rapper is accompanied by The Grambling State University ‘World Famed’ Tiger Marching Band and is shown rapping the lively song across various hot spots on Grambling’s campus.

During homecoming this past year, chart-topping, hip-hop, heavyweight, Drake made a surprise performance at Spelhouse, joining Atlanta rapper 21 Savage on stage.

From performing at HBCUs to featuring and referencing them in songs, to giving back to these institutions, it’s clear that hip-hop artists and hip-hop culture have always been ingrained in HBCU culture.