Ben Ortiz [Hip-Hop Archiving, Hip-Hop Education]

Now, through the years, particularly when speaking to folks who don’t necessarily understand the full depth of hip-hop, I often like to point out the acceptance of the genre and its associated culture within the halls of academia. I wait for what is often a signal that they aren’t that impressed by that fact alone, probably envisioning such a class tucked away in a tiny corner of an unimpressive university somewhere…

And then I say, you know, like the hip-hop collection archive at Cornell University

I list a few more examples of ivy league and other upper echelon examples, but Cornell usually leads the list. Their archive is seen as one of the premier collegiate collections to date, hosting artifacts from everyone from Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Caz to Bill Adler, Charlie Ahearn and Joe Conzo.

So it was a great pleasure to kick it with Ben Oritz, who serves as the assistant curator for the Cornell Hip-Hop Collection, a part of Cornell Library’s Rare and Valuable Manuscript department. As someone who is very much of the culture, I wanted to know more about his work in this esteemed position, what the collection consists of, and why it is so important to archive hip-hop culture in an institution like Cornell.

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The mission of The Center for Hip-Hop Advocacy is to broaden public perception of hip-hop music and culture, ensuring that varied and continuing contributions to multiple fields and disciplines are fairly and accurately documented and communicated. The Center focuses on highlighting hip-hop’s contributions in areas including, but not limited to, music and the arts, education, activism/politics/community, health/sciences/well-being and philosophy. In simplest terms, we exist to help tell hip-hop’s complete story, past, present and future, from an independent perspective, to inform, educate and inspire while protecting and promoting the cultural, artistic and community-based aspects of hip-hop as a whole.