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Hip-Hop and Jazz Meet in New NYU Course

A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip and JazzTimes’ Ashley Kahn will show undergrads the links between two great American genres

Hip-hop artist Q-Tip
Hip-hop artist Q-Tip

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There’s a new course on jazz and hip-hop coming to New York University this fall, and it’ll be taught by no less an authority than Jonathan Davis, a.k.a. Kamaal Ibn John Fareed, a.k.a. Q-Tip. This is the first foray into teaching for the rapper, producer, DJ, prime mover behind legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest and current artistic director of hip-hop at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Sharing instructional duties for the seven-class undergraduate course at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music (part of the Tisch School of the Arts) will be author, educator and regular JazzTimes contributor Ashley Kahn. Together, Q-Tip and Kahn will explore the historical connections between jazz and hip-hop on many levels—including the sociocultural, compositional, business and technological—from the 1970s to the present.

Appropriately, Q-Tip’s own work with A Tribe Called Quest will be examined in the course, along with that of the Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, Stetsasonic, Public Enemy, the Roots, Lauryn Hill and Kendrick Lamar, among others. In their ’80s and ’90s prime, A Tribe Called Quest not only sampled a bin full of classic jazz records but were also the first hip-hop act to record with a live jazz instrumentalist (Ron Carter, on their landmark 1991 album, The Low End Theory).

The NYU course will begin Sept. 5 and take place on Wednesdays through the fall semester. Besides learning about jazz and hip-hop’s shared history, students will work collaboratively under Q-Tip’s mentorship to create, refine and produce their own original musical work. “I couldn’t be more excited to share with the students what I know,” Q-Tip said in a statement, “and I look forward to them also teaching me. Teaching is an exchange of sharing and receiving for all involved.”

Get information on this class and other programming at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute.

Read a 2002 JazzTimes feature on Q-Tip.

Check out a 2006 JazzTimes review of Ashley Kahn’s book The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse! Records. 

Originally Published