African American Museum investigates


It’s people reflecting real circumstances. Generally, you look at the country being prosperous in the 1980s and things like that. But there’s still class issues, there’s still poverty, there’s still violence, there’s still discrimination, racism. So hip-hop and rap is a community voice; it’s real people speaking about real circumstances of where they lived and showing their social conscience. It’s really speaking for the underrepresented and people who don’t have a voice for themselves.

What happens is that you start to have this message and then the musical elements of it catch wildfire, and it starts feeding into evolving genres. Like the social message coming out of rhythm and blues in the 1960s and 1970s, and soul music and funk and jazz, it coalesces into something new on its own. It’s a contemporary reflection of another way of voicing not only creative expression, but cultural expression and commentary on social circumstances, which really is a historical tradition in African-American music. It’s always been that quest for freedom and voicing the concerns of the communities and life circumstances of African Americans, and so it’s our contemporary evolution of that.

he revolutionary, controversial and too-short life of Tupac Shakur has inspired books, documentaries and films from the time he was killed at age 25 in 1996. The latest is the new biopic All Eyes on Me, starring Demetrius Shipp, Jr and directed by Benny Boom. But while the film touches on the forces that shape Tupac as a defining voice of the 1990s hip-hop movement, it doesn’t dive deep enough into the historical context of the genre. In search of a better sense of the musical legacy that molded the legendary artist, sat down with Dwandalyn Reece, curator of music and performing arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Reece delves into the long history of hip-hop and explains why Tupac is the Bob Dylan of his generation