Across the nation, celebrations for the 50th anniversary of hip-hop have continued, and Rock The Bells, the global platform dedicated to elevating hip-hop culture, joined forces with Ford to present ‘Rock The Campus’ at Alabama State University. The initiative shone a light on not only the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), but how these institutions are incubators, creating the next generation of thinkers, creatives, and artists.
“The youth are the future – that’s why it’s all about investing in what’s coming next,” Alabama State alum and rapper 2 Chainz tells ESSENCE. “‘Rock The Campus’ isn’t just about performances or my return to ASU, but about honoring Black excellence and inspiring the next generation while giving back to HBCUs.”
The immersive experience not only highlighted the deep connection between HBCUs and hip-hop, but also showcased this relationship in real-time through performances and activations. The programming utilized Alabama State University’s Department of Theatre Arts and its dance theater room, and transformed it into a captivating hip-hop-themed time capsule.
“‘Rock The Campus’ represents a tribute to the influence of HBCUs… Some of today’s most influential artists proudly trace their roots back to these esteemed institutions, often during homecomings,” said Ann Akinnuoye, head of partner relations – brand partnerships at Rock The Bells.
For the Welcome To Collegrove rapper, the return to ASU was a real homecoming. “Returning to Alabama State University, where I used to dream of being an artist, was a surreal experience,” says the ‘Money Maker’ emcee. “HBCUs are the backbone of our community and provide a place for Black students to be their authentic selves. For me, ASU provided a space to get my education and play basketball. A couple of years into school, I came to the realization that playing professional basketball wasn’t my calling, but I had found a new passion for making music. I decided to actively pursue music, and the rest is history.”
Both 2 Chainz and Skooly offered an unforgettable performance that showcased the impact of these institutions on hip-hop. Their performances called back to their earliest roots as musicians — marching bands. The Marching Hornets marching band supported the artists, which echoed the rich culture and history of historically Black institutions.
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As part of the event, Ford and Rock The Bells announced a sweepstakes with voting open to students, faculty, and alumni. The initiative encourages individuals to vote for their favorite department, and the department with the most votes will receive a $10,000 donation to support student purchases for books, meal plans, and electronic devices needed for school.
“Our partnership with Ford for the ‘Rock The Campus’ initiative is our way of giving back to the next generation of talented students, who may find their own creative sparks and world-changing ideas on their college campuses,” Akinnuoye continues.
Culture at large, and music in particular, is propelled by the creativity of Black minds, and major artists like 2 Chainz attending HBCUs speaks to their legacy, and the ability to foster creativity. “It’s a full circle moment for me to return to my old stomping grounds, Alabama State University, to show love and support to the next generation, and to drop some wisdom. It’s all about investing in what’s coming next,” 2 Chainz says.
For those unable to attend, the series of intimate performances will be released on the Rock The Bells YouTube channel in November.
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