Social Improvement Through Hip Hop

by by Sam Rosenfeld & Tana Frank

On November 5, PROOV will bring the fundamental elements of hip-hop culture to life in Brown University’s Alumnae Hall. Live DJs are coming to spin everything from classic break beats to fresh new underground rhythms. Unlike ‘Ipod DJs,’ these live artists implement scratching, mixing, and the exploitation of funky breaks to excite audiences. Bboys and Bgirls from across the country, experts in all elements of hip-hop dance, will participate in break dance competitions for cash prizes. They bring skills in popping, locking, breaking, house dancing, and many styles of freeform and choreographed performance. Graffiti artists are preparing to collaborate and create live street art pieces on College Hill to commemorate the original artists who beautified New York City.

At PROOV, DJ Dynamik of Providence’s Project 401 and DJ Rox Swift of Los Angeles’s The GR818ERS will head the turntables to provide a soulful soundtrack that will transform the space into an atmosphere reminiscent of the first hip-hop jams in the 80s and 90s. Dancers of all skill levels will have the chance to vibe out in huge dance ciphers (circles), while Bboy and Bgirl competitive battles will be judged by renowned hip-hop dancers Devious, Eddie Ed and Megatron, three professionals who have shared their talents worldwide from street corners and house parties to television programs and the silver screen. Graffiti artists from RISD and Brown will showcase their work live on a canvas outside of Alumnae Hall to pay homage to the artists in New York City in the early 70s who pioneered a now universally recognized and respected art form. There will also be showcase performances by Brown University dance groups Badmaash and Mezcla.

PROOV is hoping to show that hip-hop continues to inspire people the world over as a vehicle for grassroots organizing and social change. One has to look no farther than hip-hop’s founding fathers, among them DJ Afrika Bambaataa, to see that the movement is rooted in community, positivity and progressive leadership.

Bambaataa, a reformed gang leader, is often referred to as the “Grandfather” of hip-hop. Bambaataa began the Universal Zulu Nation and started hosting live hip-hop events, featuring DJs, MCs, dancers, and graffiti artists, to draw youth away from gangs and give them an artistic, open forum for self-expression and community building.

Anyone who has listened to Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “The Message” knows that hip-hop was originally a way of lamenting harsh social conditions in urban environments, and was intended to educate youth. Today, Project 401 and The GR818ERS carry on this spirit of hip-hop as a vehicle for social change in Providence and Los Angeles, respectively, holding open dance, music, and art workshops. These groups also support city-sponsored efforts to reduce gang violence and increase arts educational opportunities.

PROOV aspires to catalyze spontaneous artistic collaboration, break down boundaries, and ultimately rediscover the essence of hip-hop. The event is open to every one of all levels of experience. By bringing local artists to campus, PROOV promises to land on the intersection between art and social engagement.

SAM ROSENFELD B’12 and TANA FRANK B’13 want you to PROOV, November 5th, Alumnae Hall, 6 PM-1 AM.