Whittling down the mission of the Columbia University Society of Hip-Hop could be hard to do, but Alan De Leon Taverna, CC ’15 and cypher coordinator, makes it pretty simple: “We really want to do very, very dope things in very, very positive ways.”
CUSH members say that they hope their events—including poetry, rap, and discussions— help students analyze and engage with hip-hop.
“What we’re hoping is to focus and channel the ideas and energy from the discussions into a vehicle for social justice and activism on campus,” discussion coordinator Bryant Brown, CC ’15, said.
CUSH feels that they have cultivated a community with a variety of interests and backgrounds by uniting poets, rappers and intellectuals to provide “space for people not only to showcase their talent but also to explore new talents they didn’t even know they had,” executive coordinator Lubeen Hamilton, CC ’13, said.
Attracting students from Columbia, City College, and elsewhere in New York, CUSH hopes March Madness Battle Cypher, this Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Intercultural Resource Center, will bolster the group’s connection with both students and the city.
“With the three different sides of CUSH, we bring a really diverse crowd,” said poetry coordinator Taylor Harvey, CC ’14.
For members, these kinds of events speak to CUSH’s connection to New York and its goals to expand their impact into the outer boroughs and the greater Harlem community. “New York makes it very possible for something like this to exist,” De Leon Taverna said.
“CUSH is rooted here, but by no means do we limit ourselves to Columbia outreach,” Hamilton added.
Events such as the Feb. 16 “Words.Words.Words” open mic night and poetry slam have fostered more connections outside the group’s membership.
“We hope in the future to work with Barnard poetry slam and cultivate a cross-school poetry relationship,” Harvey said.
“Radio Freq: The Revolution and Threat of Hip-Hop,” the Feb. 23 discussion CUSH held the following week at the IRC, focused on “examining the existential aspects of hip-hop, what it means to be and represent hip-hop,” Brown said. “We’re hoping the conclusions we reach in the discussions will eventually trickle out into the rest of the city.”
Hoping to build on last year’s inaugural event, CUSH’s March Madness battle will feature eight emcees competing in a bracket-style tournament.
“We’re going to do a real traditional battle, draw names out of a hat, and see what happens,” De Leon Taverna said, while nearly jumping out of his seat in anticipation.
Even with a diverse crowd, the criteria for a good CUSH rap is the same: a successful performance in a battle is “about the wit, the craftiness, the ability to think on your feet,” Hamilton said.