YouTube Music's Tuma Basa Tells How The Platform's Bridging Generations Through Hip-Hop History
Photo Credit: Kevin Winter

YouTube Music's Tuma Basa Tells How The Platform's Bridging Generations Through Hip-Hop History

From music pioneers that have led its evolution to how the genre connects diverse backgrounds through sonic sound, it’s evident that Hip-Hop is a staple in the culture. Its revolutionary impact is what pushed Congress to pass Resolution 331, a bill that declared November as National Hip-Hop History Month.

“This was the inaugural Hip-Hop History Month and we just wanted to make sure we were day one about it,” YouTube’s Director of Black Music & Culture Tuma Basa told AfroTech.

In case you missed it, the music streaming service honored the genre’s legendary artists with a musical tribute by curating playlists of the eras of Hip-Hop. To further put all eyes on the inaugural celebration, billboards of music icons such as Slick Rick, Snoop Dogg, and Missy Elliott were showcased in New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. Along with the culture being placed on full display, YouTube Music hosted a Town Hall gathering that featured Basa, DJ Premier, Kevin Liles, Brandon “Jersey Jinx” Jenkins, and DJ Nyla Simone.

Basa spoke with us about the honor of paying homage to Hip-Hop greats, bridging generations through music, and how Hip-Hop History Month will forever influence the culture.

AfroTech: From your perspective, what do you feel like the moment of YouTube Music’s Hip-Hop History Month celebration means to the culture?

Tuma Basa: The moment will mean more to the culture in the future. A beginning of sorts. This was the inaugural Hip-Hop History Month and we just wanted to make sure we were day one about it. Shout out to the honorable Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. Jamaal Bowman for using their platforms to make this formal acknowledgment a reality. Much respect to them!
And, much respect to some of the OG’s that showed up to support us at the event too, leaders in the culture — Kevin Liles, DJ Premier, Slick Rick, Big Jon Platt, Uncle Ralph McDaniels, Julie Greenwald, L. Londell McMillan — people I look up to and intimately know the history of their contributions to both the culture and economy of Hip-Hop.

AT: During the event, Kevin Liles mentioned that “You can’t call yourself Hip-Hop if you’re not giving back to Hip-Hop.” Along with this recent celebration, how does YouTube Music plan to keep championing Hip-Hop artists that contribute to what it is today?

Basa: The most obvious way is the exposure that YouTube and YouTube Music naturally provide. Now, for the not-so-obvious. A lot of people don’t realize we do a lot of education in the Hip-Hop world with programs like Future Insiders, where we partner with youth programs like Project Level in the Bay Area and Scan Harbor in New York. Or, the community arms of organizations like The Gathering Spot in Atlanta, as well as Since The 80s down there.
So much game is shared in these sessions. All the kids participating in the programs are from the culture too. They’re aspiring artists, executives, creators and we demystify YouTube as well as teach them on career possibilities in the industry by getting industry speakers and thought leaders like G Herbo, E-40, Chaka Zulu, Anthony Saleh, Miss Diddy,  Shanti Das, Baron Davis, Fat Man Scoop and so many others talking about all aspects of life and career from our point of view.
It’s generational transfer in real-time in the same spirit as Hip-Hop History Month. As a matter of fact, we just had Kevin Liles and Lyor Cohen speak wise words to the young folks at the Year-End Session of Future Insiders. They dropped gems. This year, we have a very special initiative in the same spirit that we haven’t announced with a very important figure in the culture. Someone whose journey is incredible and we have so much respect for.

AT: I love that the Town Hall gathering featured executives and creatives in music who scale across generations. How do you hope YouTube Music can keep playing a role in extinguishing the narrative of the “Old school vs. New School” debate within the Hip-Hop community?

Basa: I’d like to quote Ryan Thornton, our Head of Catalog at YouTube Music. He said, “What a 13-year-old is discovering may be considered ‘old school,’ but it’s new to them at that moment.” So that narrative is outdated. Kids are discovering records on social media and digging in the YouTube Crates…We’re in a unique position to bridge the generations. From Young Thug videos to Young Money lyrics to Young MC performances. It’s all just a quick search away on YouTube.

AT: Following last month’s celebration, how does the YouTube Music team aim to continue helping the stories of Hip-Hop originators not get lost in history as the genre continues to skyrocket?

Basa: This is our everyday work. Both internally and externally…on-platform and off-platform.  Whether through playlists, events, or programs, it’s our mission to continue connecting the dots and being a sort of institutional memory for the culture. The one place where you can dig deep and come up better for it!