Yesterday, Cal Poly students had the chance to learn about the four cornerstones of hip-hop culture: DJing, emceeing, breakdancing and graffiti art. And the conversation was about more than Kanye’s latest release.
The Multicultural Center, along with students from ethnic studies lecturer Jenell Navarro’s Hip Hop, Poetics and Politics class (ES 310), took over Chumash auditorium to educate Cal Poly about the roots of Hip Hop. Along with students reading essays they had written for their class, other students from around Cal Poly’s campus performed by emceeing and breakdancing.
Navarro opened up the Hip Hop Symposium by discussing hip hop culture’s 1970s roots in South Bronx among underemployed youth who longed for a different reality. She also connected it to the present day by touching on the recent Jordan Davis case in Jacksonville, where a young black man was shot in part because a white male did not like his “thug music.”
“While I do not think hip hop is perfect or it’s the perfect tool for resistance or that every song of the genre is worthy of study,” Navarro said. “It does continue to have a conscious pulse and agenda to implement social and political change in the national context that desperately needs to deal with its racist past and present.”
The rest of the event drew on both the political nature and poetic background of hip hop. Psychology freshman Cameron Andrews was the first student to take to the podium to share a shortened version of an essay he wrote about the authenticity debate surrounding hip hop.
The authenticity debate asks whether a hip hop artist’s must be black and adhere to street values to be a “true” hip hop artist.
“Hip hop is no longer just a black thing,” Andrews said. “It’s a life thing. The driving force behind hip hop is a specific purpose, a worthy purpose. Rap is poetry, but at it’s finest, rap is art.”
Along with the essays from students to give attendees context about the hip hop genre, student members of Cal Poly’s hip hop community performed as well. One of these performers was graphic design freshman and Hip Hop Congress member John Duch, who showed off his breakdancing skills.
Duch said he’d been disappointed with the dance scene in San Luis Obispo before discovering Hip Hop Congress, which allowed him to continue his passion for breakdancing.
“At first, I wanted to learn to breakdance to be like the cool kids, but I soon found out that it was much more than that. It has the power to bring people together,” Duch said.
Aerospace engineering sophomore Logan Kregness shared a similar feeling when he arrived at Cal Poly and realized the hip hop scene was so small. He started Music Production Union his freshman year, a club dedicated to producing and creating music. Kregness performed his own original music at the event.
“I wanted to follow the conscious side of hip hop, so that we can fix the problems that exist with it today,” Kregness said.