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Hip-Hop Nation, BU Education

Student club delivers beats, fresh flow to GSU Plaza

17

Guillermo Antonini can pinpoint the exact moment he fell in love with hip-hop. His aunt had taken a 12-year-old Antonini to a Kanye West concert at the American Airlines Arena in Miami during the artist’s famed College Dropout Tour. It blew his mind.

“I don’t want to leave,” Antonini (SHA’13) remembers thinking that night. “I don’t care if I need to go to the bathroom. This is where I want to be.”

Antonini’s made good on that youthful wish. For the past eight years, he’s immersed himself in the hip-hop scene. Since arriving at BU three years ago, he has not only launched a music website from his freshman dorm (shout-out to Warren Towers Room 1102A), but become the moving force behind the student club Boston University Hip-Hop. In addition, he’s promoted rising hip-hop artists in the area through events like 12for12 Boston Cypher at the Green Street Jungle.

Oh, and he managed to do it all while earning enough credits to graduate in just six semesters.

Boston University Hip-Hop student club Wednesday night cypher on George Sherman Union GSU Plaza

Esteban Da Cruz (SMG’14) (from left), Guillermo Antonini (SHA’13), Gina Mucciardi (SAR’13), and William Belt (CGS’14) during a Wednesday cypher with student club Boston University Hip-Hop. Photo by Vernon Doucette

Born in Venezuela and raised in Miami, Antonini moved to Boston hoping to find a vibrant hip-hop home here. Both his parents had attended college in Boston and often talked about the city’s diversity and lively cultural scene. But when he arrived in 2011, Antonini encountered a different reality. “It was tough that first six months,” he says. “I only knew the campus, and the campus wasn’t that diverse.”

Instead of complaining, Antonini got to work. He had a light academic load, thanks to a number of AP credits, and spent much of his time seeking out hip-hop everywhere. He attended concerts, started his blog, and later launched a Facebook group for hip-hop fans, which grew from 25 to 225 members in less than two years. Then he decided to move his diverse community of online friends to an offline space where they could discuss their “love for hip-hop as not only a musical genre, but as a culture relevant to our students”—an idea that morphed into BU Hip-Hop’s mission.

Club members were afraid meetings might be irrelevant, because, as Antonini says, “we can all sit down and have a discussion about who’s a better rapper, but we’re just going to have that same discussion every single week, every single year of our lives at BU.” That’s when they came up with cyphers, two-hour meetings each Wednesday on the George Sherman Union Plaza, where hip-hop fans could gather to rap stream-of-consciousness to smooth beats.

On a recent February evening, the sun was melting over Commonwealth Avenue when Antonini plopped a boom box down near a pile of snow. As he connected his iPhone to the system, a handful of students gathered in a circle. The young men shook hands and gave one another bro hugs as they shuffled around in heavy-duty boots, backpacks and headphones slung over their shoulders and around their necks.

The beat of Dido’s Thank You broke the silence first. Collectively, the amateur rappers’ heads bobbed with the beat, smiles on their faces as they caught the flow—one after another taking turns weaving words into the music. Each cypher has its own cadence, its own urgency, and the man with the mic poured his soul into quickly crafted phrases that often, miraculously, rhymed.

Boston University Hip-Hop student club Wednesday night cypher on George Sherman Union GSU Plaza

Justin Jones (SMG’14) (from left), Alexandra Desir (CAS'14), Howard dePass, Jr. (CAS'14), Jimmy Kable (SMG’14), and Ka Po Lam (SMG’14). Photo by Vernon Doucette

At the weekly cyphers, everyone participates, regardless of skill level. No topic is off limits. And no one leaves unhappy.

“We let it flow,” says Antonini, aka Yogi. “The only rule is, don’t rap too much. It’s really just freedom of expression. There’s no reason why we have to put any caps on it.”

At one point on this Wednesday, Howard (Howie D) dePass, Jr. (CAS’14) delivered a fresh freestyle that touched on his goals, weekend parties, London Study Abroad trip, and—in a play on words—his study of broads. (Few women attend the cyphers, which Antonini and others hope to change.)

“That was nasty!” Antonini declared, as others piled on praise. Ever the English major, dePass confessed: “I wrote that. I ain’t too proud for that sh*%.”

Throughout the evening the group’s circle expanded and contracted. Toward the end, a graduate student known to the club only as “TJ” showed up with his five-year-old son to spit out lyrics. Ka Po Lam (SMG’14) was told to “Filter, filter, filter!” his cyphers given the young ears listening.

For Antonini and his friends, cyphering is a mental workout, an emotional boost, and a means to create family within a sea of students. Antonini says that members have told him they appreciate the club “because I walk around campus and see faces I never would have known.”

Boston University Hip-Hop student club Wednesday night cypher on George Sherman Union GSU Plaza

Brandon Kesselly (CAS’14) (left) and Da Cruz. Photo by Vernon Doucette

It’s that opportunity to create a sense of community that jazzes Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, a huge hip-hop fan and club supporter. Elmore (SED’87) invited Antonini to rap in his entry in the Shorty Awards competition, an honor given to social media standouts. For some people, Elmore says, the club “might be the first time they’ve heard their voice, the first time they’ve been able to understand that they can make music.” He hopes the experience gives students a deeper appreciation for writing, poetry, and music in general.

Antonini says his hip-hop mission won’t end at graduation this spring. He plans to dedicate more time to promoting hip-hop artists in Boston and across neighboring college campuses. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll inspire others the way Kanye once inspired him.

Boston University Hip-Hop is promoting the Joey BadA$$ concert at BU Central, GSU basement, 775 Comm Ave, on Friday, March 1. The show is free and open to BU students, who can each bring a maximum of two guests. Doors open at 8 p.m. The show begins at 8:45 p.m.

17 Comments
Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Follow Leslie Friday on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

17 Comments on Hip-Hop Nation, BU Education

  • Alex M. on 02.25.2013 at 6:56 am

    OH MY GOD!!!! JOEY BAD IS COMING?!!!!!!!!

    • PhDJ on 02.26.2013 at 10:06 am

      Kind of a big deal. Hope BU can rally. There were only like 20-30 people there for the Killer Mike show last semester…

  • Adam V on 02.25.2013 at 10:31 am

    I was like oh damn i know kapo, kabels, and jay i gotta see em spit that fuego

  • Tony on 02.25.2013 at 10:51 am

    When I started working here, I was told that I would love it here. Knowing that Hip-hop (the Rappin’ aspect of it)is alive on this campus gives me a sense of belonging or connecting. It needs to be told that when Rakim, BDP, Kool G Rap and Polo, Public Enemy dropped essential lyrics that put you in a daze, it had you thinking critically. It gave me options that helped me made better choices for my life while living in that life. a life wherre my name went from Tony to “icey Lord”, Popeye, and now as an adult “Bost’n Pops”. God Bless Hiphop and America

  • Max Belin on 02.25.2013 at 11:06 am

    Guillermo is one of the best things about Boston University. He embodies the spirit of optimism with the skill set of an entrepreneur. So proud of you dude for all your accomplishments. It’s an honor to call you a friend.

  • Well Said on 02.25.2013 at 1:48 pm

    I particularly enjoyed the shoutout to Kyle Trotman.

  • Kenny on 02.25.2013 at 5:44 pm

    The only one I respect in this video is that Blade/ Wesley Snipes lookin dude.

  • Guillermo Antonini on 02.25.2013 at 8:24 pm

    Guillermo is incredible what little steps has done in your quest for embracing the Hip-Hop culture at your school. You have set the foot steps for others to follow. Just remember these moments in your life, they will live with you forever. I am very proud of you son, I love you.
    Your Dad…

  • BX HIPHOP on 02.25.2013 at 11:41 pm

    My 4 year old brother can rap better than this.. I’m mad these kids call themselves rappers with these Sesame Street rhymes garbage.. Never been less proud to BU

    • JOSEPH SINGLETON on 03.17.2014 at 3:46 am

      WHAT U MAD FOR? THESE “KIDS” IS DOIN WHAT THEY GOTTA DO. THEY ARE IN BU TRYING TO BECOME SOMEBODY. AND BEFORE YOU THROW A 4 YEAR OLD INVOLVED YOU NEED TO SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE ON THE EXAMPLE YOUR SETTING FOR HIM BY RESPONDING THESE TYPES OF POSTS. IM 26 WITH 10 YEARS INCARCERATED. I GREW UP IN THAT GANG LIFE. AM I THE ONLY ONE TO APPRECIATE WHAT THEY GOT GOING? IF I COULD REWIND TIME AND DO IT ALL OVER I WOULD BE RIGHT THERE WITH THEM SINGIN THESE SESAME STREET RYMES.

  • Gabriella Campozano on 02.26.2013 at 8:43 am

    I enjoy the beats! Keep up the great work!

  • Tess McNamara on 03.11.2013 at 2:57 am

    I just had the time to finally read this, but these guys are some of the most genuine and positive people I have ever encountered. Glad to call you friends of mine and couldn’t be more proud! :)

    • JOSEPH SINGLETON on 03.17.2014 at 3:40 am

      GREAT CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM

  • jesus christ on 09.06.2013 at 1:01 pm

    man i’ll catch yall on tha streets ill beat yall at a rap battle lil kim is better than yall as a mater a fact ya’ll make nicki minaj sound better

  • JOSEPH SINGLETON on 03.17.2014 at 3:35 am

    A SHOUT OUT TO THIS CREW. don’t LISTEN TO NOBODY THAT TALKS CRAP LIKE HALF THESE GUYS. ONE OF THEM SAYS THEY CAN BEAT YOU IN A RAP BATTLE, N THEY CANT EVEN POST THERE REAL NAME?!!! THATS TO SHOW YOU GOT MORE GUTS THAN WANNABE JESUS CHRIST WHO PROBBLY STILL LIVES WIT HIS MOM AND POSTED THAT COMMENT ON HIS MOMS COMPUTER. BUT IF YOU GUYS ARE INTERESTED I WOULD BE PRETTY HONERED IF I COULD SIT IN WIT YALL, TEACH EACH OTHER A LITTLE SOMETHING. I THINK WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM EACH OTHER. CAN I KICK IT? LOL. -JOE SINGLETON AKA CHAOS.

  • Sin on 08.21.2014 at 1:44 pm

    I am an older cat and I’ve been HIP HOP since 1982, and what I see these young cats doing, reminds me of my era. I was never one to battle, but I really liked to free-style. Hip Hop is more than just music; it is an American culture that has ingrained in diverse ethic groups from New York to Qatar. Unfortunately, like the poster Joseph Singleton, I just finished nine years of incarceration–and it was at MCI Norfolk where I found BUs Prison Education Program–so I want the members know that I appreciate what their doing. ONE

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