Q-Tip Joins Kennedy Center As Hip Hop Director

Hip hop is heading to the Kennedy Center – this time, to stay.

Fresh off last year’s critically acclaimed performance by Kendrick Lamar with the National Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced Tuesday that veteran rapper and producer Q-Tip will join the institution as its artistic director for hip hop culture. Hip hop also will be added to the center’s core programming.

Photo: John Sciulli / Getty Images for Samsung
La Zona Rosa, SXSW, Austin, TX

The announcement was made as the Kennedy Center released details of the more than 2,000 performances that will be staged there during the 2016-2017 season.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and soprano Renee Fleming also are taking on new roles at the Kennedy Center. Both will serve as at-large artistic advisers.

The center, which is a memorial to President John F. Kennedy and the nation’s busiest performing arts venue, also will mark the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth with programming that honors his ideals and legacy.

Q-Tip is a founding member of the seminal hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, known for its genre-bending music and socially conscious lyrics. He’s also worked as a solo artist and producer and has become an elder statesman of sorts for the genre.

“I really believe that he has an important voice for all of us, for those art forms that don’t have the central stage,” Kennedy Center president Deborah Rutter said at Tuesday’s announcement.

In pre-recorded comments, Q-Tip said he looked forward to bringing relevant content to the nation’s largest performing arts venue that explores issues including racism, misogyny and poverty.

“We see hip hop in our films, we see it in our commercials, we hear it everywhere. We cannot escape that beat,” he said. “That beat, that pulse is what we’re going to connect to at the Kennedy Center.”

Other highlights of the center’s upcoming season include “The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family,” a three-play series about the 2016 political season from playwright Richard Nelson. As usual, the center will also welcome several Broadway productions, including “Into the Woods,” ‘‘Wicked” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

The center also will present a strong comedy lineup including Trevor Noah, the Second City and Kevin Nealon in addition to the previously announced appearance by John Oliver.

Jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard will take up a yearlong residency at the center, with programming that includes the East Coast premiere of “Champion,” an “opera in jazz” he co-wrote with Michael Christopher.