This past weekend USF hosted its second annual hip-hop conference. Over 150 students signed up to attend the RE: DEFinition Conference in search of understanding where hip-hop went wrong. The purpose of the conference was to redefine the four elements of hip-hop: DJ, MC, break dancing, and graffiti. At the conference participants stepped out of this “hip-pop” culture and took a look at what hip-hop culture was founded on.
James Taylor, a politics professor at USF, noted the difference between hip-hop and “hip-pop,” suggesting that the music has fallen subject to commercialization. “Hip-hop used to be the CNN of the streets,” said Taylor. Now, commercial hip-hop music is lyrically associated with supporting consumerism, sexism and oppression. A lot of new age hip-hop culture has stemmed from the music, but as many learned on Saturday, music was only one part of the hip-hop culture. The four elements of hip-hop were broken down into presentations facilitated by experts in the field.
Among the facilitators was Juan “Wonway” Amador, a member of The Secluded Journalists hip hop group. Amador introduced many participants to the art of being a master of ceremonies (MC). He gathered students in a circle and challenged them to dig deep into their values and create an inspirational rap. With instrumental music in the background and pens on paper, newcomers to the hip-hop culture became masters of ceremony. Raquel Wiggins, a volunteer, said, “I think the most valuable thing I took from it was the realization of the impact that hip hop has on the world, and the way it can influence almost every aspect of a person’s life.”
At the conference, fame came second. Wonway has performed with popular performers such as MF Doom, ZION I, Hieroglyphics, Immortal Technique and many more, but he was not here for recognition. “All that we know about fame leads us to Hollywood,” said SPIE a local bay area artist. Artists like SPIE invited students to develop a home grown sense of fame. Fame is associated with somebody that does something better than we know otherwise, and SPIE demonstrated that there is a little fame in everybody. The art of graffiti and its originality dates back to the history books way back before the spray can was invented.
Much of the conference involved its participants being active, as a sign that everybody is a participant when it comes to the hip-hop culture. Although commercialization of hip-hop is still very much alive, some of the participants left with a new sense of redefined music taste. Kirstyn Schilling, a sophomore at USF, said, “I try to really keep my ear to the ground for the more ‘underground’ artists… the artists that haven’t been commercialized and are still true to the roots…and make sure that when I spend the money, it goes to those artists.”
The elements of break dancing and dee-jaying were also covered through separate presentations and ultimately integrated into a performance to demonstrate how all four elements work together. While Wonway was on the microphone, his band was building beats and stimulating the audience. B-boys and B-girls jumped into center stage; they spun around and jumped to the flow of the music. The flow of poetry was alive, the people were participating, and a community was reborn. Since the origin of hip-hop, the message was clear and at the conference resurrected; hip-hop is here to stay.