HIP-HOP’s FUTURE #HIPHOPMUSICED

  

#hiphopmusiced today is dedicated to learning more about the future of hip-hop. In the featured picture, you will see the tremendous variety of great emcees (musicians/lyricist) in whose hands lay the future of the culture. As a music educator, I am always looking to be able to recognize the contemporary in art. I endeavor to know the most I can about the current trends and artist of the culture. These are but a few of the great new update hip-hop artist shaping the direction of, and voicing the issues of the American experience. #kendricklamar #dejloaf #bigkrit #joeybadass #actionbronson #frankocean #jcole #hiphopfuture #hiphop 
   
    
    
   

How Do Music Teachers Use Hip-Hop Music in Their Classrooms?

I have been reviewing the literature on hip-hop pedagogy and its uses in the music classroom, and many of them see the use of hip-hop music and culture primarily as a means to foster intertextual and subjectivities within the domain of literacy, the written word. However, there are a few scholars that have written about the potential for the music’s use within music education. These music education scholars are Greg Dimitriadis and Adam Kruse. There a plethora of scholars (Akom, Morrell, Duncan-Andrade, Emdin, Soderman, Folkestead, etc) from a variety of educational areas that have written about hip-hop’s pedagogical uses in the classroom, but the focus of these articles are main centered on the cultural relevance and understandings that are created when teachers and students interact with hip-hop. I am interested in finding what is happening in the music classrooms all-around America in regard to the uses of hip-hop music and culture. Why is there a huge gap in the literature in regard to the uses of hip-hop in the music classroom, and what does this mean for its future uses?

I started to dig further and found that my initial response was one of disdain toward to the academy for not valuing the music that I so loved. I later started to wonder why there really wasn’t any data reflecting a serious study of the music’s effects on music education. Where was the empirical data? Where were the studies demonizing or reaffirming the power of the music within the walls of k-12 or post secondary school? I search and I searched and found that the researchers writings mainly reflect the experiences and interests that they have. I know anecdotally that there are teachers all across American that use hip-hop music culture in their classrooms, but no one has really taken the time to report it. Most practitioners are busy doing, and most researchers are busy experiencing and chronicling the outcomes. There are areas that are not communicated by either group. Hip-hop is one of those areas. Sam Seidel wrote a powerful book called “Hip-Hop Genius: Remixing High School Education” which recounts the story of a successful arts program in Minnesota that uses the study of the culture as a means to educate youth. So, I know that if there is one model for the infusion of hip-hop into music education there must be at least one more. As the demographic of the teaching forces changes over the next 20 years, we must be prepared to change the types of ensemble formats that pre-service teachers have access to while in college. The average 18-25 year old student is part of the post-hip-hop generation, and even if there are not huge fans of the music or culture, they have never none a time when the music did not exist. I often relate to those who know me well, that I didn’t know any Beatles music until I was in the early thirties, because the experiences and music I had at school and home were heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder, Andre Crouch and many jazz legends. So, what would my conception of relatable music and musical experiences have been if there was band or ensemble at school that was part of my enculturation as a educator? I can also recount my visit to Dillard School of the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, FL. They have recording arts program headed by one Israel Charles has developed a great program around the use of music technology to do project based learning. There have been several successful hip-hop artist that have come out of the program, as well as musicians and lovers of music that have graduated from that program, myself included.

So, how do music educators use hip-hop in their classrooms? According to Kruse (2014) and Dimitriadis (2009) there are currently three forms of Hip-hop pedagogies that have been identified by scholars 1) hip-hop as a bridge 2) hip-hop as a lens and 3) hip-hop as a practice. Each of these can be used in the musicking classroom (Chris Small). I recently shared a google survey with music educators of all levels, via social media. Link provided here —–> https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Ku6DGBwBl3VLKg6LSENP3iiuE_OVbjCVbkJcTmv17yk/viewform?usp=send_form  Please feel free to fill this out, if you are a teacher, past or present, and have or are interested in using hip-hop music/culture and its pedagogies in your classrooms. When I am finished collecting data in the upcoming days, I will share the results of what teachers are or are not doing with hip-hop.

 

P.S. I have been using the term “cultural appropriation” as of late and will start using another term to express my wishes for the use of hip-hop music in education. I have recently seen the term “musical exchange” and think this is

“The Application of Matisse’s Cut-Outs to Music Education” #HipHopMusicEd

#HipHopMusicEd

“The Application of Matisse’s Cut-Outs to Music Education”

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”  -Theodore Roosevelt

Music teachers often cringe at the idea of applying hip-hop music, or pedagogy to their classroom instruction and/or curriculum. I have been thinking long and hard about how do we approach “relevance” and “critical reflection” within the domain of the music classroom. Its a battle of tackling the topic, and really investigating the music, culture and group from which it all sprang from. Authenticity is a dangerous word that people use to give perfection power. If its not authentic then why do it, is often spewed from unaware mouths. The concept of “Authenticity” gives power and privilege to those that are in a position to judge the validity of the performance or product. I always suggest that educators focus more on digesting the actual music and investigating the places in which it inhabits. What are the concepts that are within the music, rather than what we can reduce it to and say embodies it. Lets continue to take the ethnomusicological approach to teaching music that Barbara Lundquist (ethnomusicologist) suggests. A lot of knowledge can come from challenging yourself, as an educator, as well as the students we work with. Teachers learn twice.

Speaking of teachers, I recently took a visit to the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) where I saw the Henri Matisse’s “Cut-Outs”, “Cut & Swipe” and Elaine Sturtevant’s “Double Trouble”. I really felt like I was in the midst of a showing of the hip-hop aesthetic at the MoMA, but I soon realized that what I was witnessing was the aesthetic of “DIY” and “Appropriation”. I started at the top (6th floor) and walked down stopping at the various artistic wonders housed in the MoMA. This aesthetic, that Henri Matisse shared in his work, was about simplicity and simply “doing it.”

We as artist, and educators often complicate what art is, and how it should be done. We often make art about mastery, when it is actually about communicating, expressing (emoting), sharing (community) and most importantly honesty. Matisse, was in decline (physical health) when he started to explore with cutting paper, using glue and color paper to fashion the delicious ideas inhabiting his mind’s eye, and spewing forth from his imagination. Why do we think that music and art needs to be mastered before we can allow students to birth wonderful works of art? Did Matisse, who was in the end of his physical prowess need to balance a brush in his feeble hands to create great works of art, and if he could not do that anymore was he no longer a artist, or master? Does it matter?

What I found wonderful about Matisse and the other wonderful pieces of art in the various exhibits in the MoMA is that each reach out to you in a variety of ways and speak their own truths. Hip-Hop does the very same thing. Hip-hop tells its truth(S) simply with its paper, glue and scissors. Cut and paste are the tools of the music, and critically reorganizing  pre-made material are the primary function of the hip-hop culture. Like Matisse, disenfranchised urban youth have been remixing the elements of their existence into new diversity ways since the beginning of society. The unprivileged are typically more interested in reformatting and re-organizing their lives to reflect a better tomorrow in anyway possible.  They too, like Matisse, take the same shapes and move them around until they feel right.

Elaine Sturtevant’s posthumous exhibit “Double Trouble” calls for examination of the process and the reasons why these artist produced the art they did, when they did. Hip-hop music is an amazing medium that music teachers, educators and teaching artist need to challenge themselves with digesting. Hip-hop has captured the public’s imagination for the last three decades. I am apart of the hip-hop generation and the children I work with regularly, are members of the post-hip-hop. They have been surrounded and bathed by the beats and flows of hip-hop all their lives. I liken it to seeing the pop art of Andy Warhol and Keith Haring all of my life, but never studying it formally in school. However, I do remember studying the art and history of Europe more than I ever dissected the American experience in class.  Hip-hop, like many American folk arts, begs for the examination of the society in which is resides.  It asks the participants to critically think about the messages found in the prose, and the motifs found within the ostinatos. Music educators should take a critical look at their own practices and reasons from implementing them in their classrooms. Why do you use the music you are using to teach students? Why are you uncomfortable with hip-hop music? These an many more questions should be coursing their your mind, hopefully, as you read this and other blogs about hip-hop in education (music).

As I moved from one section of the MoMA to the next I saw a Jean-Michel Basquiat piece, a Van Gogh, a Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and a variety of other artist from modernity that figured out the template concept. “Cut and Swipe” is a great example of appropriation and the profundity that can be found within it. Often, people are dismissive of the “Copy & Paste” aesthetic that is found in hip-hop music and culture. The simplicity is often where the complexity is disguised to seem easy, and that is actually the genius. Take a moment and use a MPC, Apex, turntable or other digital device to capture, edit, and perform music…without formal training. Its really hard, and takes an intuitive understanding of musical form and content. I implore all music teachers to treat hip-hop music like all other forms and hold it critically to the light and be objective about the impact it can have in your classroom. I want to clarify what critical means. I don’t mean be a critic without having knowledge in or about the topic, but I mean you should investigate and analyze the form before dismissing it. It has a utility and the ability to be a bridge, a lens or a practice from which teacher and student can connect. It is a space of inquiry that is contemporary in nature, that’s a good thing!

So, suggestion… take the idea of Template, Cut & Paste and apply them to your research in music, as well as research artist like J-Dilla, Matisse, Van Gogh, Warhol, Kanye West, and Romare Bearden with your students.

I recently read a student’s blog that discussed the Matisse Cut-Outs at the MoMA, and she used the idea of using appropriation to explore new territories, new mediums. This is exactly what I’m suggesting music educators to use popular arts forms in their classrooms for. Start where the student is, and the world they live in to help foster their exploration of the many lives worlds and shared realities hat exist. Hip-hop music is only one of many paths to enlightenment, that both teacher and student can sojourn together on.

#HipHopMusicEd

As a teacher you’re always learning twice. As a music teacher pick music that allows for you to learn as well as your students. Take the Barbara Lindquist approach to ethnomusicological teaching of music. We teach the post hip-hop generation, why not think forward to tomorrow by using the music of today instead of the music of yesterday i.e. European Classical. Granted, study of that music has its merit and positive outcomes, BUT why that music, in this country, at this time? It’s 2015 and we still haven’t got the collective nerve to sit and analyze our, American, own music.. (Insert sad face). That’s why teachers learn twice, when they have to tackle the universal design of their lessons to help their entire class population, and the second time when they are overcoming their own bias in respect to the music. music teachers, take a stand and devote a couple of lessons to analyzing hip-hop music in your classroom, regardless of what type of class. Be brave and open up the canon. Do not worry about how authentic it is, do the research in respect to the beat producers and deejays. Don’t try to synthesize black culture (stereotypes) in your approach, even though it’s an important part. Just observe, pay respect to the ethos and the people that created it (urban minorities in the 1970’s). Replicate and analyze the music while making comments on topics/themes, musical elements, and truly studying what you and your students are working together on. Ask questions like; what do you see, what you hear, what does it mean to you. There is so much potential in the use and study of this music. The goal shouldn’t be to just make it an end, but rather to allow it to be a means as well.

#HipHopMusicEd #musiced #hiphopmusic #teacherasadvocate #socialjustice #hiphop

The Utility of Hip-Hop Music in Music Education #HipHopMusicEd


 

HipHopMusicEd

HipHopMusicEd

The Utility of Hip-Hop Music in Music Education #HipHopMusicEd


 

I really love hip-hop music, …no I REALLY love hip-hop music! I have loved it, the good and the bad, ever since I was about 11 years old and my mother bought me some Addidas high-tops like Run DMC, and took me to see “Tougher Than Leather”, a movie produce by Russell Simmons and that featured Run DMC (coincidentally, it was a great album as well.) So, I’ve been in love with hip-hop music for almost three decades. As a member of the hip-hop generation I am both a critic and advocate for the power of the music, and by proxy the culture. I’ve seen hip-hop grow into a multi-billion dollar industry that started off as a mechanism for expression and agency, out of the urban experience. I fell in love with music even earlier than I feel in love with hip-hop. I can remember going to the record store, yes the Record store, to pick up new music. See, my mother was and still is a lover of good music. So, I grew up listening to Stevie Wonders “Innervision”, all of Natalie Cole, the Ohio Player’s “Honey”and “Fire”, as well as all of EWF (Earth, Wind & Fire). I watched Casey Kasem “America’s Top 10” every Saturday when I would visit my grandmother’s sister Luella. I was and still am the Hip-Hop generation. My favorite hip-hop song of all time is “Stakes is High” by De La Soul, track produced by the dynamic genius of J-Dilla. I used to play in a hip-hop band in Chicago called H2O Soul, and we often opened up for the legendary hip-hop band,  the Roots, Mos Def, and Common in Chicago, IL and Milwaukee, WI. I still make my own mixtapes (CD)of the hottest rappers out so that I can hear them in my car on either my iphone or my cd player. I am Hip-hop.

I have also been part of the conservatory method that was a huge part of the model used to design the American system of music education. I am a professional trumpet player (jazz) and I have two degrees in music performance, one a M.M. in jazz studies from Northern Illinois University (Go Huskies). But, the majority of my musical development and understanding, over the last twenty years, of what I feel real music, honest music, should be like comes from my time investigating hip-hop music on my own. Its these critical experiences in hip-hop, I believe, along with critical reflection that can and will help save American Music Education. I know that’s a bold statement, but there has to be something said about a musical genre that is global in nature. There are hip-hop cultures all over the world. Hip-hop exploded on the scene like a nuclear bomb, leaving radiation everywhere…affecting everything around the blast zone, whether it be lasting or temporary. The debates that have sprung from the addition of the music into the popular domain of culture is immense. The critical writing on the subject, in the “con” side, is a large number. However, there are a few examples of researchers calling for more investigation into hip-hop pedagogy. This groups use the music and culture as a device rather than a music making opportunity. These experiences in music that we are talking about would be called “Musicking” by the late ethnomusicologist, Chris Small. Daily we all are bathed is sound, and music in its essence, is sound. Why must we be masters in order to craft something? That’s a horrible thought, to believe that in order to take part in something you can only do so if you are the master of it. You can never contribute, or feel value until you have truly mastered it, correct? I disagree with this sentiment and believe hip-hop music’s development has helped music endure in the America of the 21st century. It helped the music industry sustain over the last two decades. It has revitalized the way we share music and how often we can do it. Hip-hop was child along with the internet, synthesizers and cable, and the little brother to Funk, Punk and Disco. Hip-hop was raised on a diet of Reganomics, budgetary cuts in Arts Education, the Crack Explosion, and the AIDS epidemic of the  early 1980’s. What a dynamic time in the world, and more specifically the United States of America.

So, I believe this dynamism that Hip-hop, the music of  the Urban America experience, encountered during that time makes it a suitable and relevant bridge, lens and practice – framework, in which to work in. Music education is behind the eight ball and needs to look deeply in itself to find the big why(s)? Why do we teach? Why do we need to teach that? Why isn’t Hip-Hop music part of the canon? Why are we afraid to use hip-hop as more than a tool? Why aren’t we treating it as a subject – space of inquiry? These questions can be very difficult to answer, for some. Hip-Hop is relevant for the millions of people that are part of the post-hip hop generation. Hip-hop, for them, has always been a part of their lives and they can’t remember a time when there wasn’t hip-hop music or culture seen all around them. They can’t think of a time before rap, or when there wasn’t graffiti somewhere, or when deejays didn’t mix records without the use of a crossfader? Hip-hop is S.T.E.A.M.. If you really want to be real about it. Its the place where technology, society (culture), and music collide (imbricate) creating a beautiful consequence. If you want to relate to this generation of people, as a music educator, you will have to overcome your fear of messing it up (experience) or not doing it authentically (realness), and truly investigate the music (black urban culture). Music education programs will have to accept change and include new things into their pedagogies on pedagogy(instruction). I advocate for change, not massive and devastating change, but dynamic change nonetheless.

The use of hip-hop music in American music education is useful, practical and relevant. The utility of hip-hop music in music education is tremendous. Its both an “end” and a “mean” and that spells out a win win for all educators. Hip-hop has an aesthetic deeply grounded in ethnographic dislocating, de-centering and disrupting what we value and what our values are. The music can be analyze by theoretician, historian and educational teachers in three different perspectives; “Hip-hop as Bridge”, “Hip-hop as Lens” and “Hip-hop as Practice” (Kruse, 2014). These delicate yet flexible frameworks, through which we can use and engage with the space of inquiry that hip-hop creates, are important to recognize prior to delineating our curriculum. In order to create lasting change we must first get teachers, students, administrators and the public at large to understand that music is sound, and hip-hop in its purest form is sound appropriation. Its similar to the renown work of appropriation artist Elaine Sturtevant (Check out the MoMA – Double Trouble) did in the late nineteen-seventies from works centered on Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollack. Hip-hop helps people combat and face their biggest prejudices by allowing an open debate between lyricist, deejays, graffiti artist, breakdancers and the audience to be had, about topics including but not limited to; freedom, identity, democracy, police brutality, violence in urban areas, racism, sexism, peace, victory and a wide array of other themes. Its a great introduction for music students interested in composition to learn about building motifs and motives. Its a perfect way to teach patience and what a groove is (Ostinato). It allows the teacher to deal with timbre and sonority, two of the most difficult topics in music education. Teachers can use the music to explore ethnomusicological approach to getting their students to learn more about the culture of America, history of our country and the various factors that contribute to our place in the world. Hip-hop helps people (that participate with it) to write their own worlds (story) in a more accessible ways than most other musical genres. Its accessible, and teachers need to know that the only thing between hip-hop music and them, is really only them and their preconceived notions about the culture and music(BAM). I prefer that the academy take a look at the programs all around the country that would benefit from culturally relevant music education, and simply attempt to expand the canon. Include a couple of famous hip-hop tunes as evidence of a willingness to engage with others about our path. Sometimes we as teachers (educators) forget that we are not in a fight with society or culture(people), but rather we are in a war with the thoughts and ideas that pollute our minds and those of the masses.

As I spoke earlier about “de-centering” “dislocating” and “disrupting” our thinking or ideological sediment, hip-hop music is great at doing that. Democracy demands controversy (Hess 2009). So, what other music has caused as much controversy as hip-hop? Lets use this space of inquiry as an opportunity to get teacher and student using discussion as a way of learning. To share is at the heart of the arts, and the vehicle of the aesthetic. Democracy is but a frame about which we demand to contribute our voices, but their must still be a system put in place to make sure everyone is heard. I am not suggesting that we simply change all of the literature and repertoire lists that exist in American Music Education, but that we simply expand it in order to make needed room for all American music genres. They all deserve to be valued as product, artifact, space of inquiry, movement, culture, etc. As American changes, demographically, so should the things that we value. We should start seeing more elements of the minority view present in the privileged position, because the Eurocentric values of our forefathers are antiquated and have never really represented the entirety of the American populous.

 

So, what I will be doing over the next couple of years, is build a case for a space for hip-hop music in music education. I hope you will join me, because will be writing about curriculum, instruction and uses of hip-hop pedagogy in the domain of the music classroom. I hope you will engage with me in this journey and feel free to comment and ask questions. I will post the link to my blog on #twitter #instagram and #facebook using the hashtag #hiphopmusiced

 

Sincerely,

Jarritt A Sheel

#hiphopmusiced #hiphopmusiceducation #hiphoped #hiphoppedagogy #hiphop #Music #MusicEducation

 

 


 

#HipHopMusicEd

Happy New Year!

2015 will be one for the history books. As we transversed the line of demarcation between 2014 and 2015, we are in for many historical changes in America. Whether it is health care, free college, the testing craze, racial violence, gay marriage rights or the legalization of marijuana 2015 will be a time of great change. This will happen regardless of our readiness or will to accept these changes. I am excited to learn, participate, and observe the radical evolution of the average American. I thought long and hard about my positionality within this historical moment and will continue to document, participate and help craft the change in my immediate community. I want to contribute to the difficult conversations we need to have. That is why I have decided to proctor conversations via social media every Wednesday about Hip-Hop Music’s inclusion into the canon, curriculum and instruction (pedagogy) of the American music classroom. I will provide a space of inquiry on social media through the use of the hashtag #hiphopmusiced.

This, I hope, will be a starting point for many to hear my ideas, thoughts and approaches for incorporating hip-hop culture into their classrooms as well as to share their own experiences. Hip-Hop, and many other American musical genres, has been part of giving voice and facilitating agency within the various urban and disenfranchised communities of America, and worldwide over the last three decades. I, as a member of the Hip-Hop generation see the value in this music. I saw it flourish and evolve, and now I see how it is seamlessly engrained into the lives of the post-hip-hop generation I currently teach. So, that is the starting point and I would like to implore all music educators to explore and incorporate more elements of the hip-hop culture into your teaching. Hip-hop is more than music, culture or a pedagogical approach(es).

Hip-hop is not just an end, its also a means. I look forward to the many conversation we will have in the coming months about aesthetic experiences through hip-hop music within the arts classroom. Come join me on social media (twitter, facebook & instagram) as well as here on my blog every Wednesday. We will use the hashtag #hiphopmusiced to allow others to follow along and share their trepidation and triumphs in tackling difficult subjects with their students, within familiar spaces of inquiry (hip-hop). I’m inspired, and I hope you are too!

My handles on Social Media

Facebook: @ Jarritt Sheel or https://www.facebook.com/JSheelMusic

Twitter: @jsheelmusic

Instagram: @jsheel

REPOST OKAY PLAYER: Ma Dukes Speaks On J Dilla’s ‘The King Of Beats’ Posthumous Boxset Release

Ma Dukes Speaks On J Dilla's 'The King Of Beats' Posthumous Boxset Release

Ma Dukes is a woman with a whole lotta weight to bear. As both survivor and manager of her son J Dilla‘s estate, one can imagine that it might be a bit daunting to get a grasp of such an immense body of work, especially after that storage unit debacle, doubling or even tripling that catalogue with tapes no one had ever heard. But whatever the downsides the upside is…it seems we’ll get yet another posthumous release. In a year that’s already seen 3 in The Diary, Lost Scrolls Vol. 1 and the Diamond & Ice EP, we’ll see another page added to what is already a deep posthumous release schedule in the form of Ma Dukes’ handpicked and supervised The King Of Beats box set.

As a longtime naysayer in regards to repackaged donuts with varying degrees of MC aptitude, to hear that there were plans to bring yet another tape to surface was actually pretty unsettling. But in this particular instance, it seems Mama may truly know best, as there don’t seem to be any swagger-jacking local MCs to spit garbage over Dilla’s fortified audible gold. She explains in an interview with Rolling Stone :

“This project came about by a lot of soulsearching and meditation as to what can I do now that my son has so many bootleg projects out by unknown artists. Now that I’m out of mourning and full of insight and feeling my son’s energy radiate around me, I wanted to do something different but iconic; Something that people would preserve and relish for a lifetime that spoke quality.”

The latest batch of funk to drop from beyond the grave will be spread across more mediums than you can simultaneously play, rolling-out on four 10-inch vinyl pressings, a cassette with 5 extra beats on it and a floppy (yes, a floppy) of an extra beat, essentially covering the gamut of how his goliath catalogue came to be. We got a taste of the aptly named “Filth” last week, and I tell ya, I get the feeling we’ll be getting a few more before that late August day. We’ll have plenty more on The King Of Beats as we creep up on its release, so be sure to hold tight. You can cop the preorder for this mammoth release tomorrow via jdillathekingofbeats.com. Head over to Rolling Stone for the full script.

 

NPR Repost: ‘Illmatic’: The Making Of A Classic

Nas in 1994, the year Illmatic was released.

Nas in 1994, the year Illmatic was released.

Danny Clinch/Courtesy of Sony Legacy

This summer Nas is traveling the world performing his debut album, Illmatic, in full. The crowds coming out to see him — in Texas, Germany and California — are turning up because the 20-year-old record is an acknowledged classic.

In the early ’90s hip-hop was just beginning its takeover of popular music. It was landing on the charts, but more often than not, the songs there were novelties (see: MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice).

For the people who took hip-hop seriously, and especially the fans in rap’s hometown of New York City, this was a problem.

“By ’91 things had become commercialized,” says Faith Newman, who was then director of A&R at Columbia Records, tasked with signing new acts. “It didn’t feel substantive.”

One day that year, she was driving around in downtown New York, listening to a song by a group called Main Source. “That’s when I heard Nas’ — Nasty Nas’ — verse. Oh, my God, I can even remember — like, it was a really gray day.” The song was called “Live at the Barbeque.”

Newman wasn’t the only one who heard that verse. At the time, Minya Oh was just a fan; now, she’s Miss Info, a radio personality at Hot 97, the most influential hip-hop station in the country.

“It was like it cut through the air. It just sounded so different, but familiar at the same time,” she says. “And a little scary. Because that era was filled with children born from a lot of struggle and born to express themselves through rhyme. And a lot of what they were seeing and then wanted to say was not pretty.”

Somebody else heard it too: the rapper born Nasir Jones.

“I’m walking through the projects late one night. And I see these older dudes by the radio — by a car. They sittin’ by their car, talking. They were drinking beers and they were — late! And they were playing the radio out they car. So I’m just sitting there; I ain’t have nowhere else to go at this point. I ain’t seen none of my boys, so I’m just hanging out where they at. And then the record comes on. So I’m like, ‘Yo, that’s me! Yo, that’s me!’ So I’m like, ‘Yo!’ I’m trying to tell them, ‘Yo, that’s me!’ But they all in they conversation, they yelling and talking amongst each other. They not listening to the radio. I’m trying to tell them that’s me, they like, ‘Yeah, all right, all right.’ They not even — so I block them out. I’m just in my zone. I’m listening to me. So that walk from 12th Street to Vernon, back to my block, I was in a trance.”

Nas was then 17 years old. Newman went on a mission to find him, and when she finally did, she signed him to a record deal. Then Nas told her what he wanted to do: assemble a dream team of the top producers of the day.

“Could you imagine?” says Nas. “I’m like this — I’m brand new. Nobody — I got like two verses out there. How am I going to get a beat from Q-Tip? How am I gonna get a beat from Premier and Pete Rock? And I was lucky to have them produce for me at that stage.”

It took Nas more than two years to craft Illmatic. He was not hard at work that whole time, but when he was, he was a perfectionist, and kept going over budget. Newman got frustrated. One night in the studio she got mad, and Nas walked out. “But he had left a yellow legal pad there with lyrics on it, and I just started reading it. And I was like, ‘Oh, my.’ ”

Meanwhile Minya Oh had gone from fan to intern at the magazine considered the bible of hip-hop, The SourceIllmatic was becoming the object of such massive anticipation that the editors were worried their judgment might be clouded, so they assigned the review of it to someone who had a little distance.

“I’m a Korean-American, girl — teenager — from Chicago,” says Oh. “Those are all different elements that really keep it blind.”

In the winter of 1994, Oh was handed a cassette with handwritten track names on it. “At the time I was using a bright yellow waterproof Walkman,” she says. “I got onto the subway platform. And when I started listening to the album and that intro comes on — ‘Genesis’ and then ‘N.Y. State of Mind,’ it felt like somebody dropped a hood over me. And I remember that many trains went by and I was still standing there. I don’t think I stopped playing it for days.”

Writing under the pen name Shortie, she gave Illmatic 5 Mics, The Source‘s equivalent of five stars. It had been more than two years since the magazine had bestowed that honor. She says she rated it so highly because it took her into a world she knew.

“There’s a line about being ‘telephone blown.’ And it’s not about your telephone blowing up, and ringing. It’s about your face being opened up with a razor, which was called a ‘telephone cut’ because it went from your ear, to your mouth and it was gruesome. And I knew lots of kids walking around — even girls — with these scars. So those are little tiny things that make it very realistic. And I think that the bravado that is in a lot of the songs was totally realistic. Everyone had to feel somewhat invincible in order to just not get downtrodden.”

Illmatic remains the pinnacle of Nas’ career. The stories within it — the disappearance of the middle class, the climbing number of black men in prison — could have been written today. So people are asking him to perform it again. He has done it at the chandeliered Kennedy Center in a tux, at dusty festivals, in clubs.

“It’s a honor,” says Nas. “I’m honored that people would still like it. ‘Cause the content is relevant to today.”

That’s the definition of classic.