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The Kennedy Center

Hip Hop Culture

With Hip Hop Culture serving as one of our nation’s greatest cultural assets and ambassadors, the Hip Hop Culture programs at the Kennedy Center recognize Hip Hop’s contributions to global culture and its power to build and transform communities through art and action. Through this programmatic platform, the Center aims to create a dynamic home for Hip Hop Culture and celebrate Hip Hop’s role as a catalyst for innovation, exploration, and transformation with a dynamic mix of performances, humanities events, film screenings, workshops and interactive experiences, in person and online. In 2016, the Kennedy Center appointed iconic rapper, producer, and DJ Q-Tip as its first Artistic Director of Hip Hop Culture, and in 2017, LL COOL J became the first Hip Hop artist ever awarded a Kennedy Center Honors. In 2018 the Center announced the founding members of its Hip Hop Culture Council.

This season we will not only continue to celebrate our history, but look to our future, highlighting powerful women, pivotal creatives, and events that capture the breadth and influence of the Culture today.

Dance Parties

A dance party series showcasing pioneer and leading DJs.

Film

A film series showcasing a diverse mix of documentary, classic, and contemporary films rooted in the Culture as well as works from Hip Hop generation filmmakers.

The Bridge

A concert series designed to showcase musical innovators in the Culture — past, present and future. The Bridge will be a mix of straight ahead performances, unique collaborations and one-of-a kind experiences, creating bridges between artists, audiences, and beyond.

Theater

A theater series featuring presentations by emerging, mid-career and established playwrights and directors who are creating work grounded in and pertinent to Hip Hop Culture. The theater series is also the DC home for Critical Breaks — a theater residency program that creates a development and presentation pipeline between NYC based Hi-ARTS and the Kennedy Center for theater artists who are in the pivotal phases of developing new work.

Hip Hop is our past, our present, and our future — a reflection of who we are as a people and a projection of what we might become. In our first year, we were trying to say, ‘Hip Hop has a home at the Kennedy Center.’ We introduced new audiences to new artists, celebrated pioneers, and threw some dope dance parties. Now in this second season, we’re going to build on that momentum and fortify our home, spotlighting powerful women, seminal creatives, and art that captures both the vernacular and the academic of the Culture today.

– Q-Tip, Artistic Director of Hip Hop Culture

Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council

The Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council (HHCC) is a dynamic community of high-profile visionaries who graciously lend their names, talent, expertise, and resources to a wide range of initiatives. Council members bring greater visibility to our programs by forging new pathways that deepen public knowledge and appreciation for Hip Hop Culture — all to help establish a home for creative projects that are strategically aligned with our institutional mission and vision.

Read more about the council

  • Questlove

    Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson
    Drummer, Co-Founder – The Roots, DJ, Producer, Author, Lecturer


    theroots.com

  • Bobbito Garcia

    Bobbito García a.k.a Kool Bob Love
    DJ, Filmmaker, TV/Radio Personality, Author, and Ballplayer


    koolboblove.com

  • Common

    Common
    Emcee, Actor, Poet & Film Producer


    thinkcommon.com

  • Fab 5 Freddy

    Fab 5 Freddy
    Artist, Filmmaker, and Hip Hop Pioneer


    fab5freddy.com

  • Grandmaster Caz

    Grandmaster Caz
    Emcee, DJ, Historian, Hip Hop Culture Ambassador & Pioneer

  • Grant Hill

    Grant Hill
    Owner/Vice-Chairman Atlanta Hawks, TNT/ NBATV/ CBS Broadcaster, and seven-time NBA All-Star


    granthill.com

  • J. Period

    J.PERIOD
    DJ, Producer & Musical Storyteller


    JPERIOD.com

  • Jason King, Ph.D

    Jason King, Ph.D
    Associate Professor and Director of Global Studies, New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music


    jasonkingonline.com

  • Kierna Mayo

    Kierna Mayo
    Writer, Brand Architect, Media Visionary & Senior Vice President of Content and Brands at iOne Digital


    cassiuslife.com

  • Large Professor

    Large Professor
    Emcee, Producer, DJ

  • LL Cool J

    LL COOL J
    Emcee, Actor, Author, Entrepreneur, 2017 Kennedy Center Honoree


    llcoolj.com

  • MC Lyte

    MC Lyte
    Emcee, DJ, Actress, Entertainer, Speaker, and Philanthropist


    mclytenow.com

  • Pharoahe Monch

    Pharoahe Monch
    Emcee, Recording Artist, Producer

  • Mimi Valdes

    Mimi Valdés
    Film/TV Producer & Chief Creative Officer, i am OTHER Entertainment

  • Robert Glasper

    Robert Glasper
    Pianist, Composer, and Producer


    robertglasper.com

  • Black Thought

    Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter
    Emcee, Co-Founder – The Roots, Actor


    theroots.com

  • Xavier Jernigan

    Xavier "X" Jernigan
    Head of Cultural Partnerships, Shows & Editorial and Host of Showstopper for Spotify


    Listen on Spotify

  • 9th Wonder

    9th Wonder
    Producer, DJ, College Lecturer, and Social Activist

Upcoming Events


MC Lyte: Lyte as a Rock 30th Anniversary Concert (part of The Bridge Concert Series)

Fri, Sep 21, 2018, 8:00 PM

Grammy-nominated emcee MC Lyte takes it back to the beginning with a 30th anniversary celebration of her debut album Lyte as a Rock.

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Roxanne Roxanne

Tue, Oct 9, 2018, 7:30 PM

From the producers of Fruitvale Station and Dope comes this Netflix film that chronicles the journey of Lolita “Roxanne Shanté” Gooden from a fierce teenage battle emcee to Hip Hop legend. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council member and film producer Mimi Valdés, Roxanne Shanté, and more.

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Maimouna Youssef (part of The Bridge Concert Series)

Sat, Oct 13, 2018, 7:30 PM

Baltimore born and D.C. raised, Maimouna Youssef is a global citizen, a musical healer, a cultural philanthropist, and a community pillar. Her latest project is already making its mark on the international music scene with her single “Shine Your Light"; she returns to the Kennedy Center for a one-night-only concert. 

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Dance Party: Soul in the Horn with Natasha Diggs and DProsper

Sat, Oct 13, 2018, 9:00 PM

This NYC-based dance party, social gathering, and music showcase aims to bridge the gap between all music and culture, with events featuring horn-infused sounds from around the globe and sets played by world-renowned DJs and today's most innovative musicians.

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Lyrics from Lockdown

Oct 18 - Oct 20, 2018

A critically acclaimed exposé of the ways race, class, power, and privilege shape prisons and policing in America, Lyrics from Lockdown is a story of survival that reveals how the justice system can radically change a young person’s life. In this one-man multimedia production, prison activist, actor, author, and Hip Hop theater innovator Bryonn Bain tells his own unbelievable true story by weaving together the voices of more than 40 characters. Each show is followed by a town hall dialogue.

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Hip Hop Listening Session: #LifeIn5 Edition

Wed, Oct 24, 2018, 7:30 PM

Drawing from the “Top 5” concept, participants create a collaboratively generated musical experience exploring the top five songs that tell their Hip Hop stories, facilitated by special guests and with a live soundtrack spun by one of today’s most exciting DJs.

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Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop: Book Talk, Panel Discussion, and Signing

Fri, Nov 16, 2018, 7:30 PM

Journalist, author, and producer Vikki Tobak and special guests participate in a panel discussion celebrating Tobak’s new book, which takes readers on a chronological journey from old-school to alternative Hip Hop and from analog to digital photography.

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SHAOLIN JAZZ: Can I Kick It? - The Warriors

Sat, Dec 8, 2018, 7:30 PM

This innovative film experience pushes the envelope of sound syncing, where classic martial arts films are remixed live by 2-Tone Jones, accentuating specific scenes with well-timed DJ techniques. For this special presentation of Can I Kick It?, SHAOLIN JAZZ focuses on the 1979 cult classic The Warriors, an influential film in Hip Hop culture. 

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Oddisee & Good Compny, Phonte, and Olivier St. Louis (part of The Bridge Concert Series)

Thu, Dec 13, 2018, 8:00 PM

A respected underground MC both locally and abroad, Oddisee returns to his hometown for a specially curated evening with individual sets by his group Oddisee & Good Compny, North Carolina emcee Phonte, and Berlin-based singer/songwriter Olivier St. Louis.

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Moon Medicin (part of DIRECT CURRENT)

Thu, Apr 4, 2019, 9:00 PM

This multimedia concept band, fronted by Harlem-based interdisciplinary artist Sanford Biggers, performs original compositions and re-imagined covers against a backdrop of sound effects and images of sci-fi, punk, sacred geometry, coded symbology, film noir, minstrels, world politics, and ceremonial dance. 

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Queen Latifah (part of The Bridge Concert Series)

Sun, Apr 14, 2019, 8:00 PM

The Grammy®- and Golden Globe®–winning artist is one of Hip Hop’s pioneer feminists. Queen Latifah became the first Hip Hop artist to be crowned with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and she makes her Kennedy Center performance debut in this program.

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HERstory: Love Forever

Jun 14 - Jun 15, 2019

Drawing inspiration from Common’s 1994 classic “I Used to Love H.E.R.,” playwright, performer, poet, and teacher Goldie Patrick will examine the roles of several women and their changing relationship with Hip Hop in this immersive full-length play. 

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