Crate Digging Is A Timeless Art Form That YouTube’s Tuma Basa Wants to Tap Back Into

Many of us can recall discovering hip hop gold through deeply memorable instances. Whether hearing a dope beat on the radio that we can’t get out of our heads to listening to an iconic album for the first time, these moments not only stick with us for life, but influence how we engage with culture. With this in mind, YouTube has launched Fifty Deep, a comprehensive, archival collection of content geared to holistically acknowledge the impact of hip hop on the music landscape and beyond.

Recently named Billboard’s R&B/ Hip Hop Power Player of 2023, YouTube’s Director of Black Music & Culture Tuma Basa has been leading the charge in brining increased visibility to Black music’s impact on the platform, especially in light of Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary.

Tuma Basa caught up with EBONY to chat about the platform’s latest venture, Fifty Deep, and how YouTube continues to keep its finger on the pulse of culture.

EBONY: YouTube has uniquely carved space for artists and creators of all kinds to be seen & heard. What excites you most about the ways in which the platform continues to elevate as Director of Black Music & Culture at YouTube?

Tuma Basa: A big part of letting YouTube elevate is connecting with the people directly and not interfering with their experience while providing something additional.

For example, with the Fifty Deep campaign, we identified a problem. There are Gen Zers who don’t know any hip hop from before 2012. My generation had a lot of mechanisms to find new music, such as the radio or old school joints on countdown. In order for a generational transfer to happen, we’re simplifying the process. In the past, for those culturally curious about hip hop, we had our elder siblings or relatives who put us on to music. We wanted to discover a way to simplify this overwhelming bottomless treasure trove of videos, songs and artists that happened before our time in a manner that’s easy for like someone who’s young to not only discover but to consume and want to participate in. Through our Fifty Deep libraries, those interested can actually just go in and do what we used to call “digging in the crates.”

What is your earliest memory of hip hop?

My very earliest memories of hip hop are of the Beat Street days when breakdancing was a big thing. We’d watch it over and over again and try to replicate the moves.

Growing up, I lived 12 miles from Des Moines, Iowa, and there was only one urban station at that time. This is the early 80s and the DJ’s name was Kalonji. He used to play a song that I’ve never been able to find to this day. I have no idea who created it. I heard it when I was six years old and my dad— who is not a hip hop fan—was playing it in the car. So those are my earliest memories.

Why is it important for YouTube to show up in this way in celebration of the 50th with the inception of the Fifty Deep campaign?

YouTube is the leader in music consumption in the world. As a leader, when there’s a major milestone, you acknowledge, you stop the dinner and you give a toast. You that’s that’s what leaders do. It’s not an opportunity—this is a responsibility.

YouTube is bringing back its grassroots education program Avenues. How does it look different this year and in alignment with hip hop 50?

Like I mentioned earlier, we knew there was a disconnect when it came to discovering music. But, the street swill always keep you informed of what’s popping and on trend. With that, how do we show up in a manner that sticks and lets people know that we’re being for real and not just promoting something? How do we ensure that the streets aren’t being left out of cultural conversations and can learn how to release content on YouTube music, monetize it and learn new features? So through Avenues, we are focused on further building a community.

This year, And what makes this year, we’re in full speed. The whole gist of avenues is to share information, connect with others and have this accountability of humanization. It’s just like when EBONY used to go on the road with the Fashion Fair and go state-to-state. Word of mouth transcends technology every time, especially with music.

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Updated: August 10, 2023 — 12:01 pm