Students stop, drop, and freestyle at the new rappers' society | Madeline Fry
Stu­dents stop, drop, and freestyle at the new rappers’ society | Madeline Fry

“How dare you give me a mul­ti­syl­labic word? Can’t you see I’m a scholar but not a nerd?”

When senior English major Keyona Shabazz asked for topics as she freestyled in front of her peers, one student called out sug­ges­tions from fish to armadillos to that mul­ti­syl­labic jug­gernaut: “Con­sti­tution.”

Last night, stu­dents gathered in the Formal Lounge for an evening of poetry, but not the Gerard Manley Hopkins kind. This was rhythmic poetry — also known as rap.

More than 20 stu­dents attended the first meeting of a new campus club, the Intra­mural Rappers’ Society.

Shabazz, who orga­nized the event, said it was meant to provide a platform for stu­dents to express them­selves in an unfa­miliar medium.

“The goal is to introduce the body of Hillsdale College, both pro­fessors and stu­dents, to the art form of freestyling,” Shabazz said on a Facebook page for the event.

After Shabazz freestyled, junior Joe Pap­palardo recited what he called a “middle class rap”: “They ask what we slacking for / we’re middle class so actual … ”

Then Asso­ciate Dean of Men Jeffery “Chief” Rogers spit a rhyme.

“I don’t need a mic,” he boomed when Shabazz offered him a micro­phone.

Rogers said he wanted to par­tic­ipate in the event because he loves col­lab­o­rating with stu­dents.

“Hillsdale has always been a place where we learn about one another in com­munity,” he said. “This event pro­vides an oppor­tunity for all of us to learn from one another. Rapping is a cool medium that can really get the message across.”

At the end, six stu­dents vol­un­teered to freestyle. Most were nervous and few stayed for long, but some had come pre­pared.

Sophomore Jemima Gapuz recited a rap she wrote two years ago. She said as an aspiring writer, she was excited for the event.

“This is perfect, because this is where all the bars will be spit, this is where all the fire will be spit, and it’s going to be awesome,” she said.

Shabazz said she got the idea for the event a couple of weeks ago as she and Rogers were chatting over breakfast after sharing about a slam poem she per­formed at Poetry Out Loud on campus in April.

“We were talking about that, and then I don’t know if Chief said to freestyle, or if I said that I could go right now — truth­fully, it could have gone either way, I don’t remember — but I do remember that I did drop a verse at breakfast,” Shabazz said. “And it was a good verse. I was proud of myself; it was a solid verse. And he just said it’d be cool to have an event where pro­fessors and stu­dents could do that. And it was like a lightbulb went off in my head — but also the bass dropped.”

Shabazz, who occa­sionally freestyles at parties on campus, credits her upbringing in urban Texas with her appre­ci­ation for rap. She said the Intra­mural Rapping Society will start meeting every two weeks beginning the second week in October.

Above all, Shabazz said she hopes to bring people together to appre­ciate one of her favorite art forms.

“Rap has been so divisive among racial lines,” Shabazz said. “I’m a black girl asking white people to rap. But that’s okay! I want you to do it. I want you to indulge in this culture, to begin to under­stand a little bit more of it, you know? ‘Cause it really is for everybody, because it’s music.”