Yale’s Afro-American Cultural Center on Saturday night hosted its third annual Hip Hop Bloq Party, complete with performances by jazz, hip hop, freestyling, rap and spoken word groups.
Sponsored by the Black Student Alliance at Yale, the Bloq Party featured Yale student groups, such as BSAY, WORD Spoken Poetry, the Yale Breakers, the Freestyle Collective and the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective, as well as performers from beyond the New Haven area — including Princeton’s free-style, urban art and B-boy/B-girl dance group, Sympoh. The event celebrated hip-hop culture and invited the community to join together and enjoy the various art forms.
“We want to come out and show them what we got,” said Adeniji Ogunlana, a Sympoh board member.
Yale’s Undergraduate Jazz Collective provided a vibrant live-music experience that accompanied the multiple freestyle dancers. Sympoh was the first to perform. As members stood around the perimeter of the performance area, individual dancers hopped into the circle and burst into a series of breakdancing moves. Audience members gathered loosely in the back, applauding after each dancer’s turn.
Valerie Garcia, an audience member whose brother attends Yale and performed Saturday night, said that her brother loves the hip-hop scene and that she came not only to support him but also to learn about the community.
The evening also featured rapping by Yale’s Freestyle Collective, which holds freestyle rap cypher sessions weekly. In a typical cypher, rappers, beatboxers and break-dancers gather in a circle to jam together. On Saturday, freestylers stood near the back of the stage area as individual rappers walked to the center to rap. The audience reacted with hoots and applause as it listened attentively to the rappers.
Rappers covered a wide variety of topics — from the event’s high-energy atmosphere to more serious matters of politics and immigration. Jake Diaz ’20, leader of the Freestyle Collective, also invited non-members to join the cypher.
Ruoji Guo ’21, a member of the Freestyle Collective, called participating in the group “a really liberating experience.”
“You’re exploring your own limits and pushing yourself [when freestyling],” he said. “Everyone comes together and has fun.”
The event’s organizer, Kevin Zhen ’20, said this year’s Bloq Party drew larger crowds than ever before.
The party also featured a performance by the Yale Breakers, who were met with excitement and cheers from the crowd. The Breakers, formerly known as the Cerebral Addicts, are a freestyle hip hop group.
“I love the culture of breakdancing,” said Cesar Garcia, a Yale alum and also founder of the Yale Breakers. “I had a vision to promote a place for hip hop at Yale.”
The party also featured spoken word poetry. WORD poet Sidney Saint-Hilaire ’20 spoke of God, family and race in his poem. In one line he described, “tasting God for the past eight years,” while in another he spoke of “how this nation could spit me out.”
The final event of the night included friendly dance battles between the Yale Breakers and Princeton’s Sympoh.
The Yale-hosted event brought together not only disparate forms of art but also disparate communities within New Haven. One man from the Elm City brought his ten-year-old son, who freestyled at the end of one of the dance sessions. Garcia called the event a “beautiful collection of expression.”
“You take all of these disparate cultures like 1980s New York Bronx and a bit of step … it’s like mixing fog and metal,” he said.
Kaylaen Burchfield ’18 said she wished she had arrived at the event earlier because she was hooked by the performances. She added that the Yale Hip Hop Bloq Party brought New Haven and Yale closer together.
“Yale preaches about being part of New Haven as a guest,” she said. “This event shows that Yale and New Haven can come together whether it’s arts [or] academics.”
Allison Chen | firstname.lastname@example.org