Haverford College is pleased to announce that Mutulu Olugbala, better known as M1 of the hip-hop group Dead Prez, will be coming to campus this semester as an Africana Studies Scholar-Artist In Residence. During his stay on campus, which is sponsored by the Africana Studies concentration, the John B. Hurford ’60 Humanities Center, the Multicultural Affairs Office, Student Activities and the African Studies Consortium and co-organized by the annual student AcadeMIX hip-hop symposium, M1 will visit classes, give lectures, run creative workshops and speak on a panel. He will, however, mostly be focused on the creation of an experimental multimedia music project, called The Africana Digital Project. The project will center on an M1-produced EP, which will be recorded on campus, featuring musical and lyrical contributions from faculty and students. After its completion, it will be made available to the public as a free download.
“[I’m] excited about working on The Africana Digital Media project and doing some groundbreaking collaborative work,” says M1 of his impending residency. He plans to use both sound and video to create a piece that takes creative, political and historical approaches to exploring and expanding the concept of Africana. Assistant Professor of Anthropology Jesse Shipley, the coordinator of the Africana studies program and the person responsible for bringing M1 to campus, feels that the collaboration will not only give students an opportunity to learn about different creative processes, but will also allow them to engage with political and social issues in a creative way. “Bringing M1 here as an Africana scholar-artist in residence is a way to acknowledge the complex nature of what scholarship is,” says Shipley. “And to have him engage with faculty and students in processes of production is a creative forum for both sides, because in some ways it brings a different kind of energy to what he’s doing, and it brings his kind of energy and his engagement as a performer and musician to the campus.”
M1 has had a 15-year career as a politically charged rapper, activist and writer. He formed Dead Prez in 1996 with stic.man (Clayton Gavin), and together they released four mixtapes and three studio albums (one of which was a collaboration with Outlawz). A new album, Information Age, is on the way. The duo’s most popular single, “Hip Hop,” off their 2000 debut, Let’s Get Free, was the entrance music on Chappelle Show, and Dave Chappelle also featured the duo in his 2006 Michel Gondry-directed documentary, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. M1 released his first solo album, Confidential, in 2006. “His work is powerful, and he’s an incredibly productive and creative producer, but he’s also very down-to-earth,” says Shipley of why he wanted to bring the MC to campus. “He’s very engaged with different kinds of audiences and very sensitive to what his music can do in the world. He’s not afraid to engage in complicated dialogues with people. He sees his music as a way to engage in the world, and that’s something we can really learn from.”
Africana studies, an interdisciplinary concentration at Haverford and Bryn Mawr colleges, is a developing synthetic field that brings a global frame of reference and a variety of disciplinary perspectives to the study of Africa and the African Diaspora. Drawing on anthropology, economics, history, linguistics, literature, music, philosophy, political science and sociology, the field reflects processes of emancipation, decolonization and development—against a background of international economic change—in Africa itself and in societies worldwide with populations of African origin.