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Hip Hop Summit defies labels

The Hip Hop Summit is a day-long, interactive event at Concordia that teaches attendees about the elements of hip hop. This year’s summit will be held on Mar. 6 and will include four sessions teaching the arts of graffiti, break dancing, and how to be an emcee or disc jockey; a discussion panel consisting of students, community members, and hip hop artists; and evening performances featuring visiting hip hop artists.

Concordia is home to a chapter of the Hip Hop Congress, a national organization that supports underground hip hop’s promotion of positive messages. It is on this basis that the Hip Hop Congress hosts the Hip Hop Summit each year, said Imran Vaghoo, advisor of Concordia’s Hip Hop Congress.

“A lot of people use hip hop as a positive social movement about raising awareness,” Vaghoo said.

There is a collaborative student planning effort in charge of organizing the Hip Hop Summit that combines the efforts of some of the campus’s organizations, including the African Student Union, the International Student Organization, and the Hip Hop Congress.

Junior Dawit Endale, president of Concordia’s chapter of the Hip Hop Congress, said this year’s artist lineup consists of a diverse group of emcees and one break dancing group.

The diverse backgrounds represented by the visiting artists at this year’s Hip Hop Summit prove there is no one type of person who participates in hip hop, Vaghoo said.

“Everybody has hip hop, and everyone can be a part of it,” he said. “That’s one of the main goals of [the summit], is to show that it isn’t limited to a specific group of people.”

Visiting artists include M.anifest, an emcee from Ghana who works out of Minneapolis and raps about struggles in Africa; Shin-B, a female emcee from Los Angeles who focuses on hip hop and jazz music, while mixing in the art of the turntable; and Promotion, a break dance crew from Fargo, N.D. The summit will also include performances by Big ROB, Ernie Rhodes, and Me and You Crew.


Me and You Crew, represented at the Summit by Kipp Gabriel, an emcee from Grand Forks, N.D., will make their third appearance at Concordia’s Hip Hop Summit this year. Their name is a reference to unity, said Gabriel, between himself, his friends in hip hop, and the crowds that come to watch performances.

Gabriel explained what hip hop music meant to him with a wide smile on his face. Hip hop music is music of peace, within the context of poverty, guns, and drugs, he said.

Some messages sent out by mainstream hip hop music make a lot of money for record companies because they are catchy and easy to sing along to, but their messages can be negative, Gabriel said.

“I call it candy coating,” Gabriel said, “because it has a fake, sugary outside, and a bad inside.”

From funny dating stories to difficult stories about people with alcohol additions, Gabriel’s raps are about his life experiences. He prefers the style of hip hop that cares about people and has a positive message, he said.

“I talk about not drinking or smoking or doing drugs,” he said, “just being high on life.”


The four workshops held at the summit will inform attendees of the basics of hip hop and introduce them to the positive messages hip hop can offer, Endale said. The workshops will focus on the main elements of hip hop music: the arts of emcee, DJ, break dance, and graffiti.

“The nice part is the artists won’t [only] be singing,” Endale said. “They’ll be part of all the workshops.”

Although the actual format of each session varies each year, depending on which artist is speaking or teaching at the summit, there are general ideas covered in each session.

Mixing Music, Message, and Fun:

The session on DJ techniques focuses on scratching, which consists of moving a record back and forth while it is playing to alter the sound. This creates a sound popular in hip hop music that is similar to a swift brush of a scratch. In this session, they will use real DJ equipment, such as a double turntable. A DJ will be on hand during this session to show their skills and stylistic recommendations. This skill helps an artist be stylistically true to the art form, but also adds to the fun of hip hop, Endale said.

Vaghoo said it is important to remember to promote a positive message while having fun.

“I mean, that’s the whole idea,” he said. “Enjoy the music, have a good time, and there’s a message behind it.”

Break Down the Dancing:

Participants in the break dancing session will have a lesson on simplified basics of the dance form. Fargo-Moorhead area break dance group Promotion will show and teach their talent. They will start with the basics of the dance form, with foot placements, and arm and body movements. After the basics have been covered, Endale said, more complex moves will be incorporated. These include spins and holds on the ground, and combinations.

Painting to Be Heard:

Last year’s Hip Hop Summit did a session on graffiti art as a lecture, but this year it will be interactive, Endale said. The Hip Hop Congress is planning to have wooden planks for participants to spray paint to practice graffiti as an art form. He said this session will also cover basic techniques of spray painting.

As with the theme of conveying the positive messages of hip hop at the summit, Endale said graffiti art is more than the trend known for defacing public property. It can be used to spread hip hop’s message with vibrant decorations, when allowed by the owner of the property, he said.

“Instead of dull, white walls,” Endale said, “you can have eye-catching graffiti that communicates multiculturalism, diversity, or intercultural consciousness.”

The Art of the Emcee:

Emcee (MC) is short for “master of ceremonies.” The emcee is the person who leads the concert, whether they are rapping or hosting other rappers. In the session, emcees will talk about their experiences on stage, Endale said.

He said this session has a strong emphasis on written and communication skills, so people can learn how to interact effectively with their audience and tell stories people can relate to. This session focuses on generating ideas, creating one’s own style of rap, and connecting with the audience, Endale said.

Kipp Gabriel will be speaking at the emcee session of the summit, where he will talk about writing and improvising rap lyrics, as the two styles require different skills, he said.

Both are dependent on internal rhyme patterns and syllable placement to create a good beat, Gabriel said, while different delivery and performance styles are necessary to involve an audience. Gabriel will tell session attendees how to engage a crowd and help them interact with the beat, he said, because it is important to be able to create a beat with your words to get the crowd moving.


The panel discussion at the summit, called the Hip Hop and Diversity Panel, will focus on today’s issues in hip hop, including issues with the mainstream hip hop overriding people’s perceptions of all hip hop music, giving the genre a negative connotation, Endale said.

The summit aims to show people that hip hop is more than what they hear on the radio, Vaghoo said. There are different types of hip hop that many people are not familiar with, he said. Drugs, cars, fame, exploiting women, and money are overemphasized in mainstream hip hop, and this creates a stereotype about hip hop music, Vaghoo said.

“That’s not all hip hop is about,” Vaghoo said. “I mean, I want [people] to come listen to M.anifest, what he has to say, and the messages involved.”

Vaghoo said he understands some Concordia students feel they will not fit in at the summit, but he said he would like to see the students who are wary about attending visit the panel discussion and workshops, along with concert to learn more about underground hip hop.

“I want those students who think hip hop is just absolutely negative and that it doesn’t have any good to it [to attend],” said Vaghoo. “I want them to come and experience it. Not everybody gets wild, and there are actually good, positive messages that come out of hip hop. It’s just a matter of what you listen to.”

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