Third annual Hip-Hop Symposium flows throughout campus

If there were any beats pulsing through campus this week, they were most likely due to Geneseo's third annual Hip-Hop Symposium. The symposium is dedicated to celebrating the hip-hop movement and opening conversations about its presence in the world and people's lives.

The event is brought to life by a small number of people, including adviser Fatima Rodriguez-Johnson, coordinator of multicultural programs and services, and senior Candace Hairston, who has overseen the symposium's production since its conception during her sophomore year.

"Fatima came to a couple of us students, asking if something like this would work," Hairston said.

After a rocky first year – attributed to poor advertising – involvement and interest in the symposium on the part of the student community has only increased.

This year's symposium covered an entire week. On Monday Feb. 13, the symposium featured a keynote speech from actor, musician and slam poet Saul Williams, who talked about the connection between hip-hop and poetry. On Wednesday Feb. 15, English professor Kristen Gentry spoke on Jay-Z's book Decoded. To close the week, Friday Feb. 17 will feature a performance by Professor X from Hot 97's Street Team.

"You never want it to be repetitive, so there's always the challenge of finding new speakers, new topics every year," Hairston said. "You always want to be relevant, which I think we've done a pretty good job of."

It becomes even more relevant in the wake of last week's spring concert release. The Activities Commission announced that it will welcome alternative hip-hop musician Kid Cudi to the Geneseo campus after going through scores of survey results.

"The fact that [Kid Cudi] was one of the most popular artists, and his name kept showing up time and time again in the surveys, it just goes to show – people just love hip-hop," Hairston said. "It's great – he's an alternative rapper, and he's relevant, but not extremely mainstream."

Clearly the Geneseo population is receptive to the sound of hip-hop. Why does it settle so comfortably on this campus and across the world?

"It's because it's not just music. It's not just rap," Hairston said. "It's fashion, it's beats, it's language, it's colors – it's an entire culture." In a culture, as opposed to a mere music scene, there is a higher chance of getting people involved because there's something for everyone.

"I think that in itself is so powerful, that a genre of music could affect people's lives in such a big way," Hairston continued. "That's why we do the symposium every year. We want people to talk about it, and we want to keep these conversations going."