Yesterday (September 6), NPR’s “Morning Edition” launched a new audio series called “The Keepers,” which tells the stories of people whose work serves to preserve culture. The first epsiode features the people behind the Hip Hop Archive and Research Institute (HARI) at Harvard University. In it, executive director Dr. Marcyliena Morgan admits that she initially had doubts when her students said they wanted to conduct research on hip hop. 

“I taught urban speech communities there,” the scholar says of her work at the University of California, Los Angeles in the late 1990s. “Students said, ‘We want to do work on hip hop.’ I said, ‘That’s performance, but it’s not a speech community. They said, ‘We’ll be back.’”

They returned with projects that decoded the artform’s various components and cultural importance, and went on to help Morgan build HARI in 2002, after she relocated to Harvard.

On the show—and in the accompanying article—Morgan and others involved in the center’s development, including producer 9th Wonder and scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., discuss their work to keep hip hop’s historical narrative alive and relevant. Listen below: