I can’t possibly stress 9th Wonder’s contributions to hip-hop culture enough.
Aside from the great music, the man has spent his career investing in hip-hop through numerous avenues, including his record label JAMLA and It's a Wonderful World Music Group, but it’s his many years spent bridging the gap between hip-hop and academia that have ensured hip-hop’s proper representation in history.
Not only has 9th acted as artist-in-residence at NCCU, Duke and UPenn, but in 2012 the iconic producer was chosen to be a Harvard University Fellow at The Dubois Institute, which led to his undertaking of a three-year project titled “These Are The Breaks,” which will chronicle 200 hip-hop albums that are “a standard of the culture.”
In a recent Instagram post, 9th revealed the first four albums that will be included in “These Are The Breaks,” meaning they will be archived in the Harvard Library, along with liner notes and the vinyl used in the production of the albums.
Three of the first four picks are widely regarded as classics—Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Nas' Illmatic and A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory—but it was his fourth pick that really stood out: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.
To be fair, 9th does mention in the post that the albums are being rolled out in no particular order, so this isn’t necessarily ranking Kendrick’s critically-acclaimed masterpiece as one of the four most deserving selections, but its inclusion in this project absolutely does solidify it as a masterful offering deserving of “classic” status, despite the recency of its release.
It makes sense that 9th would have a deep appreciation for—and understanding of—Kendrick’s 2015 release, as he served as an engineer during the album’s production. Still, the significance of TPAB being included in the first round of albums to be forever preserved in the Harvard Library should not be taken lightly.
As previously mentioned, there are still 196 more records that will be included in the project, which is slated to take three years to complete. I don't know about you, but I'm incredibly excited to see the formation of the lens through which future generations might view the culture and art form we hold so dearly.
For now, I’m going to run through TPAB again and relish in the fact that it will be preserved alongside some of the most treasured historical materials in the world. Thanks, 9th Wonder.