Author: Yennaedo Balloo
In a Cooler packed wall-to-wall with cheering students, performers from across the hip-hop spectrum-MCs, DJs, crump dancers and poets-brought the urban art-form to Oxy on Friday night at the first annual KOXY Hip Hop Blast Off. Beginning with a small attendance, the event swelled in size to near maximum capacity, to what some have called a “redemption” of last month’s high-tension Apollo Night.
The event included student performers, a crump-dancing troupe, a live band, breakdancers and a rap battle. Throughout the night, a general sense of good vibes filled the room as audience members cheered loudly, sang along with performers and danced at the side of the stage.
The night began with the crump dancers, High And Mighty. The dancers performed to remixes of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang, Bang” and Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Their energetic performance set the tone for the night.
Occidental students played a major part in the night’s performances. Oxy alum Katrina Recto ’06 performed a song and recited several poems, Sam Slesinger (sophomore) and Evan Longmore (first-year) performed a pair of songs together and Mandla Gobledale (sophomore) tore it up on the turntables. Gobledale was followed by the Supa Lowery Bros, a Los Angeles band that resembled The Roots. The band played a full set of tunes that brought to mind not only the celebrated Philadelphia group, but also Parliament Funkadelic with their funked-up basslines and Dead Prez with their impassioned lyrics. Their performance was followed by breakdancing.
After the breakdancing was the KOXY rap battle. Eight contenders attempted to out-rhyme one another for improvisational lyrical supremacy and a one hundred-dollar prize. After many rounds of freestyling, profanity and verbal burns so harsh they had to be iced, Jonathan Tunstall (senior), AKA J. Quest, emerged as the victor.
The mastermind behind the Hip Hop Blast Off was Julian Mitchell (sophomore), who shouldered the task of arranging performances and producing the show. Mitchell said the lack of live hip-hop on campus inspired him to create the event.
“I just felt like there needed to be a stronger hip hop presence on campus. Every musical performance I heard about or saw in the Cooler seemed to only represent a small portion of Oxy student’s musical interests,” he said. “I knew a lot of people enjoyed the more underground, original forms of hip hop and I knew some of them had crazy talents in different aspects of hip hop so the idea just hit me, ‘We should have a Hip Hop Blast Off!'”
In addition to being a chance to bring hip hop to Oxy’s live music scene, Mitchell also said he saw the event as an opportunity to unite the student body.
“I thought this event could bring a sense of community and create a positive atmosphere where people can enjoy each other and the music,” he said.
Mitchell has every intention of making this a yearly event, planning already to work on next year’s Hip Hop Blast Off even more earnestly.
The past week’s event was the result of hard work and a long process. Julian said that he had to present the idea numerous times before obtaining the approval to do it. Even with that approval, many doubted the potential success of the event. KOXY was the main force behind Mitchell’s vision, along with assistance from Sophia Smith (first-year) and Scott Jeffers (sophomore), as well as Programming Board, who did immense last-minute work to set up the event.
Mitchell said that the positive atmosphere at the event is a step in the right direction. “Apollo Night showed signs of an infection this campus is dealing with. The Blast Off is a stride toward curing it, but I don’t think it has eliminated it,” he said.
With members of the community working as hard as Mitchell did for this event, the student body can expect more positive strides.
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