Hive Five: Libraries With Great Music Taste

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While many iconic rock, pop and hip-hop performers never sat inside a college classroom, recently many have been infiltrating their libraries. This week it was announced that the University of Houston’s library acquired the record collection of local hip-hop hero DJ Screw, who died in 2000 of a codeine overdose related to the cough syrup-laced “purple drank” that inspired his molasses-slow signature sound. The inventor of the “chopped and screwed” remix that helped bring Houston (and scene stalwarts like UGK, Paul Wall and Chamillionaire) to national attention, Screw will now help educate academics on his hometown’s sound. But he is not alone in his new found place in the “Academy;” as students get reacquainted with hitting the books this Fall, Hive presents five other artists who could make that next report filled with musical notes … and learning, of course.

1. The Grateful Dead

Few bands have built up an archive like the Dead, whose obsessive fans have been sharing and cataloging bootlegs and memorabilia for decades. So there's plenty of material for their archive at the University of California, Santa Cruz, which in 2008, dedicated an entire room in its library (called Dead Central) to the endeavor. It’s a fitting partnership: Both the band and the university were founded in 1965, and the campus is only about an hour away from the Dead’s San Francisco birthplace. Plus, as the school’s head of special collections told the Santa Cruz Sentinel in an accidental double entendre sure to lure Deadheads to the archive, “We’ve got a lot of grass outside our library.”

2. Tupac Shakur

On September 13, 1996, Tupac Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas. This year, on that same day, he got quite a 15th anniversary present. Atlanta University Center (a non-profit organization that serves a consortium of the historically black colleges Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College) unveiled the Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection, which archives his lyrics, manuscripts, notebooks, poems, fan mail and video treatments, in its Robert W. Woodruff Library. It’s not surprising that Pac left behind such a treasure trove (the collection takes up roughly 11 linear feet and includes 30 boxes of material) considering he released more albums posthumously than he did while he was alive.

3. Kathleen Hanna

The Bikini Kill frontwoman is the godmother of the Riot Grrrl movement, so it’s no wonder that when NYU announced its Riot Grrrl Collection that the “The Kathleen Hanna Papers” was one of its first major acquisitions. (It also amassed material from Bratmobile’s Molly Neuman, Le Tigre’s Joanna Fateman, Excuse 17’s Becca Albee and others.) Hanna made her donation -- which includes zines and the actual filing cabinet in which she stored her own archive --now if we can just get into a Ph.D. program so we’ll be appropriately credentialed to see the assembled artifacts (like the blue dress from the cover of Pussy Whipped) in person.

4. Rubén Blades

Though Harvard’s library includes the predictable rarities (like copies of the first printed book, the Gutenberg Bible) in its stash of over 15 million tomes, it also holds the unexpected, like the Rubén Blades Collection. Blades, the Panamanian salsa singer and Latin jazz musician, attended Harvard Law School, so in 2009, when he was ready to donate his personal papers (including rare recordings, interviews, films and books), his alma mater was an obvious choice. There aren’t many archives of the works of Latin American popular musicians at American universities, so leave it to Harvard—which created the first library in the U.S. in 1638—to be an innovator on that front too.

5. Richard Hell

If there were a list in The Princeton Review of most rock and roll college libraries, NYU would be No. 1. Not only does it have the aforementioned Riot Grrrl Collection, but it also bought the archives of longtime pack rat and punk progenitor Richard Hell in 2004. The former Television, Voidoids and Heartbreakers member and author collected personal papers, manuscripts, set lists, photos, audio and videotapes throughout his life -- and seemed to never throw anything away, thus the archive’s content list is impressive. Though he sang about being a member of “The Blank Generation” Hell sure thought it was important enough to catalog for posterity.