“They are straight out of the golden age of hip hop, New York City, you know, real oldies,” co-president of Hip Hop 101 Elijah McDonnaugh ’16 said, talking about this year’s headliner for Throwback Jam. The yearly event brings Vassar and the Poughkeepsie community together to celebrate the roots of hip hop. The headliner McDonnaugh mentioned, EPMD (an acronym for “Erick and Parrish Making Dollars”), is on tour for the 20th anniversary of their best-selling album, “Strictly Business,” and will collaborate not just with rapper Kari Faux, but also with live-graffiti artists, a B-boy group followed by student performers, two DJ sets and Vassar’s own MC and grill-chef, TC Weaver this Saturday for a six-hour hip hop extravaganza on the residential quad.
In years past, the organization has brought artists like Talib Kwali, Raw Kim and Ghostface Killer to campus for Throwback Jam. While Hip Hop 101 has brought some big names to campus, the headliners only make up one part of what this event is all about: community. As treasurer of Hip Hop 101 Sam Rosenberg ’16 said, “Our mission statement is ‘to bridge the Vassar and the Poughkeepsie community through hip hop and artistic expression.’ I think that Throwback is oriented to being as inclusive and open as possible.”
The event takes place out on the residential quad, which stands as an open invitation for passers by to walk over and join the party. In years past, members of the greater Poughkeepsie community have brought their family and friends to the event. “I’m excited for the Poughkeepsie community to enjoy the space, because it’s so beautiful here, it’s a great part of the Hudson Valley,” secretary of Hip Hop 101 Imara Jones ’16 said.
Inside of Vassar, there is a large community of hip hop lovers who come out to Throwback Jam and Four Pillars, Hip Hop 101’s other big event of the year. “There are so many kids on this campus who do love hip hop, whether they are listening to it on their headphones, or having discussions about it,” co-president of Hip Hop 101 Jason Ballon ’16 said. Throwback Jam provides an opportunity for all these hip hop heads in the region to come together for an event that reinvigorates the origins of the currently commercialized rap scene.
“Throwback Jam is a space where we can get back to the roots, what everything was born out of, where all this stuff like Future and Drake, Travis Scott, what they have capitalized off of,” said McDonnaugh. The event this Saturday will include all four pillars of hip hop, including graffiti and DJs, B-boying and rap, where hip hop originated.
Even though the headliners are a huge draw, the event is about more than big names. For six hours, artists and performers from all four pillars come out and exhibit their skills. “Our main events wouldn’t be what they are without the student performers, the MC and the live art,” said Ballon.
Weaver will pull together the performance as MC this year as he has done in many years previous. For many in the group, Weaver brings an energy and history to the organization that can’t be found anywhere else. “TC Weaver was really the only one around for when Hip Hop 101 was founded and he is the only one who remembers what the org used to be. Hip Hop 101 emerged as a collective for artists and musicians. It was the merging of this graffiti and B-boy group that TC had been doing for years with this group of students that was doing rapping and DJing—those are the four elements of hip hop,” said Rosenberg.
Weaver has since stopped dancing, but he has consistently been responsible for many of the logistics: putting together the poster, MCing the event and bringing along artists in residence for live art shows. The artists in residence paint on wood canvas panels during the show and give onlookers the opportunity to see graffiti art in action. Weaver’s career as a dancer on MTV has also been a source for numerous contacts in the hip hop world for the campus organization over the years.
A student DJ will warm up the stage at 12 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, and will be followed by two student performers, the b-boy group and EPMD’s opener, Kari Faux.
Jones is also the chair of ViCE film, which brought Faux to Hip Hop 101’s attention as a possible opener for EPMD. Jones said, “We’ve been trying to move away from mainstream straight-white-male cinema. So that’s part of the reason why we are so happy to bring the music-video artist Faux.” Faux is a female artist born in Atlanta but currently based out of LA and known primarily for her work as a music video artist.
Ballon added, “It’s always nice to add diversity along the lines of ethnicity, gender and geographic location to our event especially because hip hop is such a male-centered industry.”
Not just the demographic, but also the type of talent found in the hip hop industry have changed dramatically through the years. “Over time the culture of hip hop has shifted towards what we are doing right now, towards the produced artist, rather than the experienced individual who grew up in that community tagging the walls and spinning with his friends,” said McDonnaugh.
Throwback Jam offers the opportunity for hip hop fans of all ages in the surrounding area to bridge the gap between the classic and cutting age, and for the Vassar and Poughkeepsie communities to come together. For the students of Hip Hop 101 involved in the production of the event, it is an opportunity to gain real world experience.
Hip Hop 101 has provided students like Ballon and Jones who are interested in the music industry to get their hands dirty with behind the scenes work including setting up the stage or working with artists or drawing up contracts. “All the managerial experience I have has come from me being at Vassar. One thing that would be good moving forward with the organization would be to get people involved in the business side of things, coordinating inclusive agreements with the artists, filling out W9’s, communicating with the VSA, applying for funds and managing a large budget, these are all invaluable experiences,” said Jones.
Ballon noted that, while over the last seven years Hip Hop 101’s funds have not been well accounted for, under he and McDonnaugh’s leadership, the organization has managed to stay out of debt and in the green.
All the while, the two have still been able to bring one of the top names in throwback hip hop to campus.
Above all, students involved in Hip Hop 101 can bring Vassar and the Poughkeepsie community together to celebrate the origins of hip hop at Throwback Jam. As Ballon said, “We have the unique opportunity to put on an event which makes people happy.”