You can help make the NOLA Hip-Hop Archive accessible.

Mannie Fresh photo by Holly Hobbs
Mannie Fresh, by Holly Hobbs

[Updated] Hip-hop now occupies the place rock ’n’ roll once did in a number of ways. It has been the soundtrack for teenage rebellion (I’d argue that EDM does that now), and it has been around long enough that it’s clearly not a fad. But it hasn’t been around so long that it enjoys widespread cultural respect. For that reason among others, its history has been only occasionally and selectively told, and The NOLA Hip-Hop Archive hopes to remedy that. The project is the brainchild of Holly Hobbs, a PhD student at Tulane in ethnomusicology, who founded it in 2012. A collection of 30 videotaped interviews with New Orleans hip-hop figures she shot forms the core of the archive so far, along with materials from Alison Fensterstock and Aubrey Edwards’ “Where They At” 2010 bounce exhibit at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

The archive will be housed at the Amistad Research Center starting some time in the spring of 2014, and currently Hobbs and the archive are in the final stages of a Kickstarter fund-raising campaign, and it’s looking for your help. The Amistad Center on the Tulane campus will house the project, but Amistad is technically an independent archive and as such is not an internal part of the Tulane system, so fundraising for Amistad is always a challenge.The money will go toward launching the project online and a work station in the Amistad Center for materials that can’t be broadly displayed such as Matt Miller’s bounce documentary, Ya Heard Me, which lacks the necessary music clearances to be publicly screened.

For Hobbs, it was important to do the interviews on video. “it was a way for artists to speak nearly directly to those watching, while I had a limited role, which should be the way it is,” she says. “And you get so much contextual information from video that you can't in any other medium. Video is also a very important tool for engaging younger generations; far fewer younger people would access this archive if it were in any other medium. But video is harder to do and more expensive.”

So far, the archive’s collection includes interviews that cross the New Orleans hip-hop spectrum - new, old, bounce, No Limit, Cash Money, and indie, and it plans to broaden the net as much as possible.

Working on the archive has been a learning experience for Hobbs. Because of the centrality of the DJ in hip-hop, there’s a tendency to think of its performers as less traditionally musical, but she found in her interviews that many rappers and DJs played other instruments and/or came from parents who played. The interviews furthered her understanding of the lives and culture that produced hip-hop in New Orleans as well. It’s not news that block parties played a large role in fostering hip-hop and giving people a chance to perform, but her interviews helped her appreciate how inter-generational they are. “Hip-hop and its various subgenres are considered a music of youth culture,” Hobbs says. “In New Orleans it's a little more intergenerational in forms of public celebration.” 

The NOLA Hip-Hop Archive Kickstarter campaign ends Sunday December 22, at 2:36pm CST. Help make this happen.

Updated 12:26 p.m.

The description of what the money will go to was made more accurate, and the publicity photo of Mannie Fresh was replaced with one shot by Holly Hobbs.