It was getting late and cold. No one had shown up yet, and pre-rap anxiety was beginning to set in.
I stood outside a house on Dwight St. last Friday with Ron Yeezy and a few other members of Rosette City Musiq, a New Haven rap collective. Ron was wearing his RCM hoodie and a Yale hat. Little bits of small talk were being traded. Last night was crazy, crazy. Hope there’ll be some freaks here tonight. Look, if you’re worried about security, listen. You can’t pat down girls. Not even cops will pat down girls.
It was an unlikely group of people brought together by an unlikely idea: to bridge the cultural divide between Yale and New Haven through — what else? — an all-out insanity-fueled party.
The idea for the rap show was conceived by Alan Sage ’14, Yale student and hip-hop enthusiast. Alan is easygoing, white, well-spoken. He had already spent a great deal of time reaching out to the New Haven hip-hop community through Middleman, a group that aims to connect Yale students with inner-city residents. The Yale undergrads living at 216 Dwight St., site of many a lo-fi indie rock concert, had offered their basement as a venue. I was brought in to help out with sound equipment. And so a rap show was born.
As we chatted, someone noticed a car parked up the street. Ron and his group eyed it uneasily.
“Do you know who it is?” someone asked. “Not with us.”
The car stayed there for over a half an hour, quietly humming. Someone from RCM walked by it to take a look. A few of the guys looked a little nervous. Then again, feeling nervous seemed normal for them.
“Nothing would ever happen at a Yale event,” Alan said uncertainly.
I went down into the basement to set up the microphones. An exuberant DJ was testing out the virtual turntable. I asked him if I could give it a spin. “Wait til I get my money right,” he said. “This’ll be vinyl.” Someone wandered downstairs and asked me if they could smoke weed.
Upstairs, the car had disappeared, and everyone was visibly relieved. People were beginning to trickle in. Not Yale students, but people. Ron and Alan greeted them, an unlikely pair. The guys were met with warm hugs. Ron, to the girls: “You look overdressed. Head on in.” Small packs of curious Yalies began to show up, standing close to one another, and far away from everyone else. People clustered in the darker corners of the basement.
“I see you, Yale!” shouted the DJ. He grinned.
And then, suddenly — as always happens, but as one never quite expects — the party exploded into being. A critical mass of revelers had formed, and more were pouring in, and more and more. Everything seemed to be rising constantly, a force of nature, a bonfire. Rappers — how many of them were there? — shouted their lyrics out into the crowd; somehow, at the same time, they were the crowd. The DJ swelled up, proud of his Yale party, proud of his crew for being there. The mysterious car had already become a thing of myth: “I swear, a guy in a ski mask got out of it and ran into that house!” Two girls were making smart use of a pole. Giant bottles of alcohol flickered around. Yalies wandered in, shouted “This is awesome,” and melted into the mass. Others, intimidated, chose to escape.
I noticed Alan Sage, Yale student and hip-hop enthusiast, standing to the side. He was astonished, wide-eyed and very happy. A cheer for Rosette City Musiq roared from the crowd in unison. We gazed over the chaos and wondered at what we had created. Or whether nobody had created it at all.