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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


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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Meshell Ndegeocello: No More Water | The Fire Next Time: The Gospel According to James Baldwin

Sun, Dec 16, 2018, 8:00 PM

No More Water | The Fire Next Time: The Gospel According to James Baldwin, the next evolution of Meshell Ndegeocello’s 2016 WaterWorks world premiere Can I Get A Witness: The Gospel of James Baldwin, pays homage to James Baldwin by creating a shared space for reflection, conversation and social change.

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Kokayi

Sat, Jan 26

D.C.'s own Grammy®–nominated rapper, producer, and educator Kokayi returns for an innovative and intimate club performance. Always coloring outside the lines of tradition, Kokayi blends Hip Hop, folk, funk, jazz fusion—even sounds from the streets of D.C.—to create some of today’s most versatile and ground-breaking music. He can be heard recently on Whose Hat is This? most recent album Everything’s Ok, Goldlink’s “At What Cost,” MTV's "Rebel Music" series, Kevin Hart's Laugh At My Pain, and more.

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PJ Morton

Thu, Feb 14, 2019, 8:00 PM

Grammy Award®– and Dove Award–winning singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist PJ Morton brings his distinctive brand of love and soul to the Kennedy Center for a one-night-only Valentine’s Day performance. Known for his work as the keyboardist for Maroon 5 and musical director for Solange’s opus A Seat at the Table, Morton and his live band including a full orchestra perform hits from his critically acclaimed album Gumbo and as well as his soul-stirring discography.

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Revive Music Presents: Freelance

Sat, Feb 23

Harlem based collective Freelance is a band of independent leaders with an expansive sound and encyclopedic knowledge of musical genres that afford them the ability to cross-pollinate styles and manipulate melody to create an aesthetic signature uniquely their own. Influenced by the creative footprints of Mint Condition, Earth Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Radiohead, and Robert Glasper, founding leaders, Tim “Smithsoneon” Smith (vocals) and Chad “Ausar the Ambassador” Selph (keyboards) penned the forthcoming full-length debut album Yes Today, thirteen-tracks distilled from Freelance’s dynamic live performances is a lush, groove-dominant clinic in the power of seizing the moment. To avoid putting life off until tomorrow, and instead, say yes today.

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Dior Ashley Brown

Sat, Mar 23

Dior Ashley Brown is a “Hip Hop Polymath,” as quoted by the Washington Post. An emcee, actor, poet, host, songwriter, playwright, activist, creative community curator, and Founder of the DC Music Summit. Miss dAb is a proud Washington, D.C. Native, Army Brat and graduate of both Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts and University of Maryland, College Park, Theatre Arts Programs. Dior’s style of Hip Hop has been compared to greats such as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill, and James Brown. 

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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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Javier Starks

Sat, Apr 27

Emcee, songwriter, and poet Javier Starks fuses clean lyrics with vocal melodies to create his unique flow. He has introduced his fan-base and new audiences to the possibilities and creativity of ‘clean’ Hip Hop, with his live performances filling rooms across North America and on international stages.

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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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