Breakdancing, graffiti art honored in hip-hop tribute

By Derek Hawkins

The Curry Student Center’s West Addition looked more like a club downtown than a food court Saturday afternoon. Black shades covered the floor-to-ceiling windows and the tables were embellished with graffiti. Students tested microphones on a stage in the center of the room, while behind them two DJs tinkered with turntables.

An audience of about 100 students collected in front of the stage to listen and learn about one genre – hip-hop.

Students showed their appreciation for hip-hop music, culture and history Saturday at “A Tribute to Hip-Hop,” an event sponsored by the Latin American Students Organization (LASO), Black Students Association (BSA) and the Hip-Hop Culture Club.

The event featured live student DJs and MCs, guest speakers, graffiti art and breakdancing.

Luz Mederos, a LASO member and junior human resources and management major, co-hosted and helped organize the event. One of her goals, she said, was to highlight the four original aspects of hip-hop – rapping, MCing, breakdancing and graffiti – and to raise awareness of hip-hop’s origins.

“It’s all these elements combined,” she said. “It’s not just a music, it’s an entire culture. I wanted to show the community what that means.”

Senior business management major Zev Salamanca, who organized and co-hosted the event with Mederos, said he hoped to educate students about the changes hip-hop has gone through since its inception.

“We wanted to show the roots to people, because hip-hop is in a different state than it used to be,” Salamanca said. “It’s moving in a different direction, but it’s important to remember the history. As students, it’s our job to have an understanding of that.”

“A Tribute to Hip-Hop” began with a 15-minute performance by DJ Shine, a Northeastern alumnus with a degree in music industry.

“Hip-hop allowed me to escape any problems that were around me,” he said, as he introduced himself to the crowd. “And DJ-ing was the perfect outlet for my artistic drive.”

DJ Shine, who called himself “a scratch DJ,” spun a mix of old-school and contemporary hip-hop that included Notorious B.I.G. and Grandmaster Flash.

An MC portion followed that featured a series of student MCs who performed a cappella covers of popular hip-hop songs from artists like Big L, Jay-Z and Tupac Shakur.

After a brief intermission several guests, including Nuri Chandler-Smith, a study skills coordinator at the African-American Institute, made brief statements about the history of hip-hop.

Chandler-Smith gave a short speech about the role and influence of women in hip-hop.

“Female artists and MCs have pioneered this movement, too, from the very beginning,” she said. “They deserve as much of our recognition, support and remembrance as anyone.”

“A Tribute to Hip-Hop” ended with a breakdance routine by United Roots, a Boston-based breakdance troupe.

About 100 audience members gathered in the Library Quad after the event to watch artists from the African Latino Alliance (ALA) and Artists for Humanity paint a graffiti mural, which showed an image of Northeastern’s husky mascot and a depiction of the word “culture.”

SWAT, a member of ALA and a director at Artists for Humanity, explained the importance of graffiti to hip-hop and defended it as an art form. He asked to be referred to only as SWAT, which he said stood for “simultaneously witnessing all things.”

“Graffiti started as a form of expression,” he said, watching as other ALA members worked on the mural. “It was an easy way for kids who didn’t have much growing up to get recognized.”

SWAT said graffiti is art’s future.

“This isn’t just for fun,” he said. “This is where art is going – it’s truly avant garde. What we do is not vandalism, it’s beautification.”

Stephen Ngao, a sophomore business administration major, attended the event and said he had mixed feelings about its impact.

“They could have gone deeper into some things,” Ngao said. “But it was good to come together for a positive event like this.

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