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Special Project

Special Project
From the 14th Annual Shorty Awards

Smithsonian's Meaning in Music

Entered in Branded Series


To acknowledge, amplify and celebrate the inaugural Hip-Hop History Day on August 11, 2021 and the launch of the Smithsonian Hip Hop Anthology, the first season of “Meaning in Music'' explores the intersection of hip-hop with other musical genres throughout history. The series illuminates hip-hop’s impact on cultural trends, events, politics and societies at large while honoring the Black creators that raised their voice and paved the way for some of today’s hip-hop legends.

Strategy and Execution

This five-part digital series positions music as a jumping off point to explore the complexities of American history. In its inaugural season, award winning journalist and MTVNews Host, Dometi Pongo interviews experts and artists that include Vic Mensa, Freedia the Queen Diva, Fat Joe, Rob Markman and other key figures in the world of hip-hop. Investigating the meaning and impact of iconic songs like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP, Public Enemy’s Fight the Power and Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road, we illuminate hip-hop’s influence on American culture while exploring deep historical context through the expert lens of the Smithsonian Institution. Black feminisit historian Crystal Marie Moten of Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and Dwandalyn Reece, PhD of Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture are two of many Smithsonian experts who thoughtfully delve into the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and economics that have propelled the hip-hop genre to international recognition. Each episode leads viewers through a historical examination of an individual element of hip-hop, from fashion to sampling to genre-blending sounds. We break down the musical influences that helped create the genre that now dominates international music charts and gives voice to communities that are often unheard. The rollout of the series was tied to the release of Smithsonian Institution’s Hip-Hop Anthology and was heavily featured throughout the first Hip-Hop Celebration Month, with the intention to amplify hip-hop’s contributions to American and international culture.   


The five episodes, and pre-premiere content, drove 912K views cross-platform making this series one of the Network's highest performing original series. Episode 5, We Rock the Mic: The Many Sounds of Hip-Hop, drove the most views with 308K views cross-platform.

Episode 3, It’s the Remix: Sampling Sounds in Hip-Hop, was the second-most viewed episode, with 247K views cross-platform. Additionally, we were pleased to see a demographic shift with this series as the Network aims to broaden our reach and engage with younger audiences. Women aged 25-34 were the largest demographic to watch “Episode 1: Ladies First”. Furthermore, we were pleased to see that multiple episodes were shared by legends that were discussed within the show. Public Enemy and ChuckD voluntarily shared select full episodes across their social platforms, showing their appreciation for the series.


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