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Library Of Congress, How Could You Forget Run-DMC?

Rap group Run-DMC at the second annual MTV Video Music Awards. Does the group belong in the Library of Congress?
Rap group Run-DMC at the second annual MTV Video Music Awards. Does the group belong in the Library of Congress?

Rap and hip-hop have been around for decades and have become one of America's most successful cultural exports.

But when the Library of Congress added new recordings to its national registry this year, none of them were hip-hop.

Tell Me More guest host Celeste Headlee discusses that with William Boone, professor in the English and African-American studies department at Winston-Salem State University. He says that hip-hop artists are used to being overlooked by the powers that be.

Interview Highlights

On hip-hop pushing back against power

So in the 1980s hip-hop was viewed — actually all the way up to the '90s — as sort of this disposable, ephemeral art form. "It won't last; these are just kids; this is not important." And so hip-hop has, since its inception, been pushing back on these dominant narratives. "We're here to stay," essentially. So you fast-forward 40 years later and it's still here, it doesn't seem to be fading away. I think there's maybe a generational bias there, a bit out of touch as it relates to the pulse of American culture.

On whether Jay Z deserves a spot

I would say that I think the music should be representative of a given era or region. For example, Nas' Illmatic ... had such a profound impact on not only New York sound, and hip-hop sound, but in terms of the topics that were covered within hip-hop. So I think at the very least these songs, these albums, should be representative of a certain era or certain cultural moment. ... I'm not sure if we can include Jay Z, but clearly he's made an impact. I would answer that yes, but before we talk about Jay Z I think we have to talk about the precursors to Jay Z. Someone like A Tribe Called Quest. I think that's the significance of hip-hop in that it's bricolage. It brings a lot of different elements together to create a narrative.

On viewing America through a hip-hop lens

I think we have to come to grips with the fact that America is still struggling with certain things. Whether it be race, whether it be poverty, whether it be violence. And so I think hip-hop offers an exciting opportunity to look back on these moments — and not only chronicle history and culture in America, and the tension between generations and communities — I think it's also a great American story in regards to the way young black folk, young poor folk, folk of color in America are grappling with these things: commercialism, hyperconsumption. These are things that are not only central to young people, but central to the American experience.

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