No Label Academy at Harvard hopes to shape future of hip hop through education

For the second consecutive year, Harvard University hosted a summer boot camp for standout college-aged students from around the country who want to work in the music industry — particularly hip hop.

A nonprofit called No Label brought them to Boston after a long-odds application process that permitted about 25 students in each time from a pool of 3,000, according to No Label Academy.

In the same month, the country acknowledged the 50th anniversary of hip hop, the genre’s next generation of leaders were preparing in a classroom at Harvard to accept the artistic baton.

“We want the music industry, creative industries, to be more equitable across gender, race, socioeconomic status,” said Marcelo Hunta-Davis, co-founder of No Label. “Create direct access for people who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, who don’t have that access.”

Rapper IDK, a hip hop artist in his 30s, leads the education curriculum. He brings in his friends and colleagues from the music and fashion industries to lecture.

Rapper Roddy Rich and Hollywood titan Issa Rae were among the guest lecturers this summer.

“When you are afforded certain things with a career path that most people would only dream of, I think it’s my responsibility to give back,” IDK told NBC 10 Boston between classes.

Keianna Richardson, one of the 2023 enrollees who happens to be from Boston, is receiving the knowledge and industry connections with optimism for the future.

“Even though we may not be able to provide monetary value at the moment, we know that we’re playing the long game,” Richardson said. “I’m really interested to see what the infrastructure looks like within not only the next 50 years, but within the next five years.”

The Hutchins Center for African American Research and the Harvard Art Museums are partners in the program with No Label and a slew of commercial entities.

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