In little more than two short years, one particularly ambitious Boston University club has seen its membership and online following grow to over 450 ‘likes’. Now, after months of event organization and recording, BU Hip-Hop has positioned itself to take BU’s campus by storm.
Formed in 2011 by Guillermo Antonini, a 2013 School of Hospitality Administration graduate as an unauthorized group, the current incarnation of BU Hip-Hop was initially founded on pre-existing friendships and a deep love for rap.
“We unofficially started meeting in CAS classrooms, just getting the vision together,” Antonini said. “The [BU Hip-Hop] Stans group was started in early 2011. My whole vision with BU Hip-Hop was to bring like-minded individuals together. Once I added some friends to a private Facebook group and we started building a grassroots movement, I realized something: Hip-hop is a culture, and a culture shared amongst many on campus.”
Upon first creating this collective, Antonini did not anticipate any tremendous growth. However, over a period spanning several months, he saw a tangible community take shape.
“At first, I had no idea how big this thing could be,” Antonini said. “I just wanted to find some friends to go to hip-hop shows with, but every gathering brought a new face and every day a new member or two would be added to the Facebook group. Within some time, we didn’t just have an online community. We had a family of dedicated members who go together [to shows] regularly in person for the love of hip-hop.”
The following year, BU Hip-Hop was legitimized by Boston University, even counting Dean Kenneth Elmore as a fan. A decidedly positive outlook adopted by the group’s early leaders became the bricks for a strong foundation. Soon the club’s staple practice of weekly cyphers, in which a group freestyle raps in a circle, began to attract dozens of others.
“Freestyling is such a fantastic creative outlet because it’s all in real time,” said School of Management senior and current BU Hip-Hop President Blair Lineham. “When we do it as a group, in the form of a cypher, it feels like a hive of energy. In the spirit of spontaneity, people will play off of what other people have said and keep the content cohesive. There’s something about the lack of preparation for cyphers that makes the sense of connection so much stronger. You rap what you feel like rapping in that moment.”
The familial ties that hold BU Hip-Hop together are clearly on display at its weekly 5 p.m. cyphers in the George Sherman Union. Acceptance and companionship, two virtues that serve as unspoken requirements for all members, combine to create an invaluable safe haven that is free of judgement. Lineham, originally reluctant to rap in the freestyle circles, quickly found his comfort zone in this welcoming setting.
“At first, I didn’t rap in the cyphers,” Lineham said. “But then as I just absorbed the openness and welcoming vibe of the group I jumped in. It’s funny looking back on that.”
No matter what, a circle of club members consistently set up shop midweek at the GSU. When the weather is nice and meetings are held outside, the visible and audible energy draws dozens of passersby towards the group’s epicenter: a large boom box pumping out some of hip-hop’s most memorable instrumentals. Each participant brings a unique style and energy reflective of the larger sense of diversity on BU’s campus.
In an attempt to further expand the reach of BU Hip-Hop, the club is preparing for the launch of Pillars, a comprehensive, four-part event meant to provide an interactive education of all aspects of hip-hop culture.
“The ‘Four Pillars’ [which include DJing/producing, B-Boying/dancing, MCing and street art] all tie together in an educational yet enjoyable way that will be great for the community,” said Marci Wolfish, Director of Social Media for BUHH and a College of Communication sophomore. “We’re looking forward to building an even larger support system and continuously improve. Each event is meticulously planned and we’ll be collaborating with other student organizations as well.”
In addition, the club released its inaugural mixtape, The Ill Rhettoric Vol. 1, on Monday for free download.
“At the end of the day,” Lineham said, “It’s just a bunch of fun.”