Hip-hop culture meets charity in Tucson

The Africana Studies department and JRecognize host a hip-hop charity event, The Elements, bringing a new perspective on the popular culture

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This Saturday, JRecognize in association with the UA Africana Studies department will be putting on The Elements, an all-ages event celebrating hip-hop culture. The event benefits Youth On Their Own, a charity that supports homeless Greater Tucson teens and gives them the support they need to graduate high school. Since being founded in 1986, the organization has provided financial, social and emotional support to help over 15,000 homeless students stay in school through graduation.

The event will feature performances from local hip-hop artists, a cypher, dance crews, live artists, DJs and a rap battle. The entire event has been coordinated by one UA student, Jocelyn Valencia, a global studies senior.

“It’s pretty much just a personal project,” Valencia said. “It just felt like the right time to do it.”

Valencia, who owns the blog JRecognize, took a music internship last summer and decided to combine her love of hip-hop with a long-time desire to create a community event for a good cause. After being introduced to the Tucson hip-hop scene with help from Rob Base, a Tucson local well-versed in putting on community events, Valencia spoke to local artists to put the multifaceted event together.

“Everyone you see here on the flyer, they’re friends of mine now,” she said.

Valencia chose to support YOTO for the connection between youth and music.

“It seemed like the perfect fit because I really wanted to make this event focused on the youth,” she said. “From the beginning, hip-hop was for youth and overcoming struggle and giving them a place where they can express themselves freely.”

Valencia, who’s minoring in Africana studies with a concentration in hip-hop cultures, focused on the educational and cultural aspects of the music — as well as the music itself. The event will feature the five core elements of hip hop, “DJ-ing, MC-ing, breaking or B-Boying or B-Girling, graffiti writing and knowledge,” Valencia said. The event includes two DJs, two graffiti writers doing live art and two dance crews. Valencia has incorporated the knowledge aspect of hip-hop by having the Africana Studies department bring in an informational group.

The event will be hosted by hip-hop artist Swindoe, who said the event is “right up [his] alley.”

“I was very attracted to the idea of bringing in the original element of hip-hop,” said artist Jaca Zulu, who will be participating in the freestyle cypher event. “It’s going to create a great connection between people.”

Zulu said that the event reflects the emergence and collaboration of the hip-hop music scene in Tucson.

“There is definitely a part of hip-hop culture here that is building and becoming more open and more accepting of a lot people,” he said. “Everyone wants to do things individually to push the culture and that’s collectively pushing everything, so it’s a good time right now.”

Lando Chillrissian, a hip-hop artist who will also be performing, expressed his enthusiasm for the event as well.

“Being from Chicago, charity and giving back is extremely important to me,” he said. “It felt like a way that I could give back to Arizona, because Arizona’s given a lot to me.”

The event is not only a way to give to a good cause, but also for people to explore a new style of music they may not be familiar with.

“[The event showcases the] new age hip-hop movement in Tucson,” Chillrissian said. “We’ve been able to create a platform to be able to bring people who would not readily know what real hip-hop is and expose them to some of it.”

Chillrissian describes the direction of hip-hop as “taking the reactive and turning it proactive,” giving minorities, youth and people in general a chance to express themselves as a means for social change. What separates local hip-hop from the mainstream is the level of creative control artists have over their own music, Chillrissian said.

“Half these cats don’t even own their own music,” he said. “Whatever happened to one or two men or women as a collective sitting down and composing a car album?”

The event starts at 7 p.m. at Skrappy’s. There is a $5 entry fee as well as a required in-kind donation of nonperishable food or personal hygiene items for YOTO teens.

“I really wanted to bring the hip-hop culture here in Tucson together here for one night,” Valencia said. “It’s obvious to go to have fun, but it’s definitely a place where you can network, get to know new people and get to know the culture.”

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