Released January 30, 2015
The Hip-Hop Fellow is the second documentary on the Grammy Award winning producer and professor 9th Wonder during his tenure as part of the Harvard Fellowship program. The film not only follows him teaching a course titled “The Standards of Hip-Hop”, but also his research and eventual presentation of his thesis. The thesis, “These Are The Breaks” in his words, “Studying the linage between the use of vinyl sampling and how it joins the generations.”
The filmmaker Kenneth Price (who also was behind the first 9th documentary The Wonder Year) gives the audience an intimate look into the burgeoning field of hip-hop in academics. It’s not hard to find articles, course descriptions, recorded lectures, or the ability to enroll in these classes. What THHF does is show the audience the other side of this change. THHF shows us not only 9th’s thought process of how he approaches his class and thesis, but also the struggles that occur doing so.
The best scenes in the documentary is when 9th is teaching his class and presenting his thesis. This is where both the film and 9th Wonder as a instructor shine. Teaching hip-hop in schools may sound unusual or even impossible to do. How does someone attempt to do that? Will that even work? 9th Wonder proves it can work. Although the clip below didn’t make the final cut, this is an example of the kind of conversation that occurs during hip-hop studies.
The documentary does a good job setting those scenes up to succeed as well. Price takes interviews from 9th along with various artists and professors from Harvard to present the context of whatever subject is being talked about in his presentation or his lectures. It makes the transitions easy to follow, the information easy to digest, and makes a 78-minute documentary easy to watch.
One of the biggest takeaways from the film is how perfect 9th Wonder is for the role he occupies. Between his ability to create music, his wealth of knowledge about the music he samples from, and his interest in history (as detailed in the first documentary and briefly covered in THHF) places him directly center of the venn diagram of hip-hop and academia. He’s also equipped to handle the evolution of hip-hop studies in a way not may can.
Yet, the question remains. Should you watch this? If you are interested in hip-hop, no question for you. You should’ve bought it already. If you have an interest in education and academics, highly consider buying it due to hip-hop studies being so young and growing, THHF is relevant now, and may stay relevant for years to come. If reading this review piqued your interest at all, take a shot to watch it. At worst, you will finish the film having learned something. $10 is worth the price of education.