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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Actor and Hip Hop impresario Nas is usually backed by a seven-piece band, but the NSO Pops orchestra will do the honors when the multi-platinum artist takes the Kennedy Center Concert Hall stage for two nights.

It's a celebration of his debut album, Illmatic, which was released 20 years ago.

The concerts are just the start of something really big and very different at the Kennedy Center. The kickoff to the three-week-long festival "One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide."

Garth Ross, the Kennedy Center's VP of Community Engagement, says this a great time for the nation's premiere performing space to explore & celebrate hip hop as a culture, not just as a commercial music.

"Hip Hop is an indigenous American art form and it's critical for us as a national center to represent a broad range of cultural practices, particularly cultural American practices as we are able," said Ross.

For two years, the Kennedy Center collaborated with local and national Hip Hop communities to bring this festival to life.

Audiences will get to experience a global gathering of Hip Hop artists -- the music, dance, poetry, theatre and art -- born on the streets of the South Bronx 40 years ago.

Kamilah Forbes, of Hi-Arts, produces the Hip Hop Theatre Festival with the Kennedy Center.

Forbes told us, "This particular festival is celebrating the different languages the form has taken, the cultural, political and social aesthetics it has taken as its gone abroad."

Among the many FREE events and entertainment over the three weeks, will be some thought provoking discussions on why Hip Hop is important.

Kat Odeyki of Lil SoSo Productions will be looking at the effect of gentrification on the D.C. hip hop scene

"As gentrification moves in - it pushes a lot of the culture that was there out," said Odeyki.

But for a time, the festival is pushing back. Hip Hop will explode all across the city and that excites Mazi Mutafa of DC Words, Beats & Life. He knows the potential Hip Hop has to teach and transform young lives.

"Teaching these elements, these artistic elements of DJ-ing, graffiti, MC-ing and B-Boying to young people, it helps transform their lives so they can see themselves as the drivers of what is possible for their own lives," said Mutafa.

The One Mic: Hip Hop Culture Worldwide Festival runs through April 13th. For a complete list of performances & events, visit www.kennedy-center.org/onemic.

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