The end of the school year isn't supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be about exams, final papers and stressing over passing your classes. But not for the students in El Centro Community College's Hip Hop Studies 101 course. No, for them it means hosting their own hip hop festival, complete with live performances from rappers and DJs, graffiti artists, discussion panels, film screenings and even break dancing. Fortunately for the rest of us, the festival is free and open to the public, and it takes place today.
The course itself, which we profiled right here on DC9 at Night back in April, is equally extensive and by no means easy. "The kids had to talk about everything from hip hop to race and the prison system," says co-instructor Joel Salazar. The class aimed to cover hip hop from every conceivable angle. "It was pretty strenuous for them," he says with a chuckle. "They didn't think it was going to be that hard." But all the students made it through the class and everything is falling into place for today's meticulously planned event.
Salazar is the founder of Too Fresh Productions, manager of hip hop artists like $kaduf and Kilo Art of Fact and host of Fresh 45s at Crown & Harp. He volunteers as a liaison for the 16-week Humanities course in conjunction with instructors Vanessa Taylor and Derrick Payne. Throughout the term, Salazar booked guest speakers and made suggestions for themes. "In my 16 years of doing stuff for Dallas music this has been by far the most rewarding experience," he says. "It's been great to see the students grow and be a part of it."
The students, however, will be the ones running the festival. They were assigned different roles like organizing food for artists, gathering the necessary equipment and supplies, running the stage, directing attendees and booking. "They had to run all the aspects of booking a show," explains Salazar. With the exception of a few artists who had scheduling conflicts, everyone who was asked to perform was happy to volunteer. "That means a lot to me," Salazar says, "because it shows that there are other people in this community who want to give back to the students who are growing up and want to know about this culture."
Like the class, today's event aims to cover all aspects of hip hop culture. It all starts at 10 a.m. with a "DJ Wake-Up Call" that includes DJ Tums in the main area of the school, the Student Center, where most people enter. DJ Menace from BOOM 94.5 will be performing at the outdoor amphitheater where the kids' graffiti workshop will be setup. There will be a room strictly for films: Wild Style, which is typically considered the first hip hop film with a heavy focus on graffiti; The Freshest Kids, the most comprehensive film on B-boying; and Beat Street, a film with a plot that revolves around early hip hop culture.
In the Performance Hall, there will be a local hip hop showcase featuring Tru Def, Alsace Carcione, Dustin Cavazos, Joey the Bull, Shoose McGee and Terrance Spectacle. A Producer Showcase/Panel and Dallas Hip Hop Panel/Discussion will also take place in the Performance Hall before a much-anticipated screening of the local hip hop documentary, We From Dallas, which Salazar co-produced. The film is a vital component of the day's plans. The event exemplifies the current state of local hip hop and We From Dallas explains how it came about.
After DJ Tums warms up the Student Center, there will be a spoken word open mic, a b-boy panel, hip hop fashion show, dance cypher, a discussion on hip hop and race and turntablism. There will be hip hop karaoke and a kids' dance workshop. There will also be a gallery for artwork, photography and crate digging. The last part of the event is a dance party that will take place in the same area.
The current plan is to offer the course again for the spring 2016 term. "This semester was a good evaluation of what to do, how to do it, what to talk about and how we can implement it within the community," says Salazar. The course is an ambitious undertaking and the time off will allow the staff to revaluate, refine and put together a definite structure for how it will be taught moving forward. Salazar is surprised and very pleased with the curiosity and demand that this first run has created. The youthful culture of hip hop is a natural fit for a student population and Salazar says the school has been very supportive in all aspects. "The staff and students love it," he says.
A carefully organized, comprehensive introduction to hip-hop in an academic setting is a refreshing approach. For young adults interested in being a part of the local hip-hop scene, it can be difficult to get started. Even if they are familiar with some local artists or which clubs to frequent, it can still be difficult to find their way in and understand all the different elements. This is where a difference is being made. Hip Hop 101 has made it easy by bringing MCs, DJs and producers to the campus to provide direction.
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