‘Hip hop saved my life’

Pilar Cuevas, Staff Reporter

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“Hip hop? Hip hop saved my life,” Edwin Rodriguez, vice president of Hip Hop Central, said. “If it weren’t for having an outlet to let go of my frustrations, things can impact your day-to-day and [get into] some dark places. [But] this is a tool that made my lifestyle a lot better.”

Hip hop is not just a genre of music. It is four elements comprised of art, poetry, dance and of course music. When these elements come together, a meaningful space and energy are created to develop a culture.

Hip Hop Central is a student-led club that includes four different elements of hip hop, including  DJing, MCing or rapping, graffiti art and B-boying or breakdancing. 

The group gathers every Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the lobby of Dean Hall. 

“We don’t limit [our practice time to] that,”  Rodriguez said. “Hip hop is a culture that resides in multiple facets. And some of those facets are created by the individual and so the individual will practice on their own craft and then once we come together we will build off each other’s energy and skill sets.” 

Rodriguez, who is also a senior majoring in public health, mentioned that one of the purposes of the club is to help students who relate to hip hop to have an outlet to blow off steam.

“One of the purposes of this club is to essentially give people focus into something that was created by multi-cultural roots,” Rodriguez said. “Students already have a lot on their plate and we understand that so we aren’t going to try to get into people’s personal agendas. We also don’t try to get stressed out. We are here to be a resourceful outlet to de-stress.” 

According to Rodriguez, the founder of Hip Hop Central was his friend Bilal Abubakar. 

Rodriguez kept the club running after Abubakar. He then stepped up into the president role. He said that he stepped down to the vice president role this year to keep up with school work.

Rodriguez mentioned that anyone from the Ellensburg community can join Hip Hop Central even if they don’t go to CWU.

“People who join the club don’t need to have experience,” Rodriguez said.  “And this is the fun thing about it. The co-chairs and founders navigate through people’s interest and we will help [new members] with expanding that skill set.”

Another officer of Hip Hop Central is Treasurer Robert Yew, a sophomore. He explained what Hip Hop Central is in regards to the four elements of hip hop.

Yew said tagging is the graffiti and art aspect of hip hop, “like sketching up books.” B-boying can be separated into four different categories: freezes, footwork, power moves and top rock. 

MCing is poetry and rhythm about struggles. And DJing is scratching or producing mixes.

According to Yew, the birthplace of hip hop was in the Bronx, New York in the mid to late 1970s, when there was a lot of political injustice against black people and when there was a lot of crime. 

“DJ Kool Herc had an event for kids and he just wanted to do something for the Bronx,” Yew said. “They would mix for all these kids and they would party. People got down on the floor and that’s where b-boying originated from. Whatever the DJ was spinning, people would spit to. Tagging was a part of the art form and so people would trade and tag up each other’s books.”

Yew also explained the history of B-boying and the word “breakdancing.”

“We don’t call it breakdancing because B-boying was the original term,” Yew said. “‘Breakdancing’ was created when Hip hop was being industrialized for white consumption.”

Rodriguez said a big event that the club hosts every year is the Hip Hop Rodeo, a hip hop jam event consisting of a series of battles. Such battles consist of rap battles, B-boy battles, and more. This is in collaboration with the director of Campus Activities, Robbi Goninan.

“Artists from around Washington state will come and showcase their art,” Rodriguez said. “And be part of the experience for students and create a positive ambiance and energy that is reflective for all multicultural beings. When [you’re] in that time and space, it’s like nothing else matters.”

Yew said that at last year’s Hip Hop Rodeo, different experiences occurred at the event.

“We had an MC battle between people who can spit rhymes,” Yew said. “And we had a B-boy cipher spy. This is where there are hidden judges in the crowd and whoever is rocking the hardest gets chosen for the final rounds.”

Rodriguez said people from across the country and even across the world attended the event. 

“They created an impact and influence that made the students get encouraged,” Rodriguez said. “And at that moment they felt something real and it is hard nowadays to feel that energy.”

Yew mentioned his own major personal highlights and his favorite thing about being in Hip Hop Central.

“I found people and a space where I can be comfortable,” Yew said. “When I left Hawaii, having a community where I could do [B-boying] I could get down to something I missed a lot and it brings back nostalgia.”

Yew described Hip Hop Central as a platform to express yourself. 

“There is a freedom of expression through different means of Hip Hop,” Yew said. ”If you feel like you move to music better than you create the music. If you illustrate better than you feel or write better it isn’t limited to one form.”

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