It has been a long time coming for Boston University Hip-Hop. Back in 2012, the group was first meeting in classrooms to discuss hip-hop. Now, two years later, the group has grown into a force on campus with more events and a second mixtape on the way.
Chances are that if you’ve been walking past the George Sherman Union week-by-week, you have noticed that, on Wednesday evenings, a small congregation of young men and women are circled in front of the building. Some brave souls have approached this seemingly terrifying circle, astonished by the way in which the people moved their heads and bodies in unison. In the center lay a set of speakers blasting loud, bass-heavy instrumentals as members of this circle each listened to each other chant rhythmically, interweaving their speech with different rhyme schemes.
In short, these brave souls were drawn into BU Hip-Hop’s weekly “cypher” — essentially a “freestyle circle,” which have been making major moves this past semester.
On Jan. 20, BU Hip-Hop released its debut mixtape, BUHH Vol. 1: The ILL RHETTORIC accompanied by two singles. The first is “Sitting at the Kitchen Table” by Sibes, E da Buddha, Forno and Blair. The second, “BOuNCe” by Yung Homie, K4BLE, Tony Jamm and JT the Professor. It features 16 tracks, more than 20 rappers and half a dozen producers from all over the BU community. That same day, the student group also took the stage at Metcalf Hall for a joint performance with the Roxbury Youth Orchestra for the university’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations.
Yet music has been just one part of the club’s activities this past semester. Aside from planning its two mixtapes, BU Hip-Hop has been hard at work promoting what they have dubbed the “Four Pillars of Hip-Hop.” This is an effort that they hope will keep the culture and spirit of hip-hop alive on campus long after the founding members graduate.
“DJing, street art, MCing, and b-boying are the four major pillars we are delving into this semester,” explained Blair Lineham, club president, co-founder and School of Management senior. “Freestyling is just one of the things we do, so we wanted to shatter some misconceptions and really take a look at the entirety of our club’s central theme: hip-hop.”
KaPo Lam, the club’s project leader and co-founder, sees more value in the Four Pillars initiative than simply keeping the club active.
“You can express yourself freely and originally with each pillar,” the SMG senior said. “As no one rapper raps the same as each other, no b-boy does it the same, no street artist and no DJs. They allow everyone to create their own style, their own flavor, and allows them to flourish without restraining them with rules.”
The group kicked off its Pillar Series on Feb. 22 with a b-boy workshop and panel. Xcel of Problemz Kru moderated a discussion panel while three students — Carl Zhang or “Zhango,” a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences senior, of the Inglorious Basterdz; Robinson Le or “Conan,” a University of Phoenix student, of WZKZ; and Alejandro Ramon, a Northeastern University junior — lead the workshop and taught attendants some essential breakdancing basics.
In an event on March 18 co-hosted with BU’s Entrepreneurship Club, Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam and executive editor of News Genius Liz Fosslien gave a presentation on the past, present and future of the two websites.
On March 27, the group teamed up with Teach for America to host a screening of the documentary Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme. An impressive display of lyrical acumen, ferocity and braggadocio, Freestyle featured videos from veterans like Supernatural, PackFM, The Last Poets, and The Lyricist Lounge, as well as high profile videos from the likes of The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Mos Def, Muhammad Ali and John Coltrane. Kevin Fitzgerald, the film’s director, hosted a discussion panel afterward and Brooklyn rapper PackFM led the club members in a highly anticipated cypher.
The next event will be a Street Art Immersion on April 4, followed by a DJ panel moderated by Dean Kenneth Elmore at the Paradise Rock Club on April 7.
The Pillar Series will conclude with the group’s new mixtape, BUHH Vol. 2. As with The ILL RHETTORIC, Vol. 2 was recorded locally in dorm rooms, Allston houses and local Boston studio The Record Company.
“There was a unanimous desire to step our game up after hearing each others’ songs on the first mixtape,” Lineham said of the project. “Everyone played into the friendly competition of wanting to have the best verse. We also had more time to craft our songs, so it will feel more thought out. In addition, this project will feature many more people than the first, which will definitely diversify the end sound.”
Vol. 2 will feature 20 tracks, 30 rappers and 13 producers. One of the artists and sound engineer Jordan Pories, a freshman in the College of Communication, has high expectations for the upcoming mixtape.
“Everyone is stepping their game up,” he said. “It is going to be an incredible release.”
BUHH Vol. 2 hits the airwaves late April.