Every year the Library of Congress adds an array of music to its national registry that they deem to be culturally significant. This year they added 25 new songs and albums, but failed to add any hip hop or rap. Despite hip hop’s growing popularity, only five hip hop songs have been included in the registry to date: Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message,” Tupac’s “Dear Mama,” Public Enemy’s “Fear of a Black Planet,” Da La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising,” and The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight.”
In a recent interview, William Boone, professor of English and African-American Studies at Winston-Salem State University, discussed why hip hop artists are neglected by the Library of Congress, despite undisputable mainstream success. Boone also gave valid reasons for the inclusion of hip hop music into the registry;
“I think we have to come to grips with the fact that America is still struggling with certain things. Whether it be race, whether it be poverty, whether it be violence. And so I think hip-hop offers an exciting opportunity to look back on these moments — and not only chronicle history and culture in America, and the tension between generations and communities — I think it’s also a great American story in regards to the way young black folk, young poor folk, folk of color in America are grappling with these things: commercialism, hyperconsumption. These are things that are not only central to young people, but central to the American experience.”
If the registry is supposed to act as a time capsule, documenting American culture and politics through music, then hip hop is clearly one of the most important genres to include.
At Mass Appeal, we figured we would help the Library of Congress out, by offering some obvious choices we think they should consider including next year. Peep our list, and let us know what hip hop songs or albums you would like to see added to the national registry in the comment section.