America’s musical soundtrack isn’t complete without mentioning the contributions of African American recording artists from every genre. From spirituals sang by our ancestors to the booming bass of hip hop, there’s no separating the importance of music from history. To close the gap, some artists have taken matters into their own hands, by meshing the arts with the music.
Most recently, T.I. created a pop-up Trap Museum in Atlanta to celebrate the history of trap music. Among the art in the museum were paintings, photographs, and exhibits that paid homage to T.I. and other Atlanta rappers such as Migos, 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, and other non-Atlanta artists like Rick Ross, Pusha T, and Meek Mill. In an interview with Billboard, T.I. explained why he decided to curate his own museum. “I want to celebrate the culture and not just me. The easy thing for me to do is set up a show and it just be me and perform all the songs from trap music, which I was tempted to do. The genre has become so significant that I felt it deserved more than that. It’s really going to be a place where people can take pictures and kind of interact.”
Earlier this year, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, dropped the instantly viral first video for their surprise joint album, Everything Is Love, which accompanies the trap song “Apesh**” and which was shot exclusively in and around Paris’s iconic Louvre museum. The video recognizes “forgotten” Black artists, since according to the Amsterdam Student, world renowned museums like the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, and the Rijksmuseum have overlooked art by African Americans, limiting it to white men.
Other American music museums do have some artifacts that represent Black music, from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Museum of Pop Culture, The Smithsonian, and the Grammy Museum, as well as all the Hard Rock Cafes around the country. The National Museum of African American Music will be an all-inclusive place to recognize the works of African American artists across a wide span of genres with displays on music imported by slaves, devotional music, gospel, minstrel, ragtime, jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop, and more. This is the only museum dedicated to preserving the legacy and celebrating the accomplishments of the many music genres created, influenced and inspired by African Americans. The collections and galleries that will be in the museum will educate, preserve, and celebrate the rich influence Black people have had on America’s music in over 50 genres.
Some artists say it’s been a long time in the making. Otis Williams, founding member of the legendary group The Temptations says it’s also important to preserve African American history so that generations to come will know the stories. “It’s very important because people need to know about the history of the artists that have brought so much enjoyment to people. It’s important to introduce the new generations to history. It’s important to have [the museum] so you can historically characterize everything so people can say they remember these guys and girls,” said Williams. 2017 Black Music Honors Crossover Music Icon, Jody Watley says agrees that’s important to have a place like the National Museum of African American Music to hold the keys to history. “It’s so necessary and so important. Rhythm and blues and soul music is the foundation for so many music genres in America. It is American music and influenced generations of people. To have that history which is often lost in our country, because it’s not just for us, it’s for the world. To have a place that is honoring the rich and profound richness of the legacy of our music, which is music for the world to me,” said Watley.
The National Museum of African American Music will open its doors in 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.