Hip-Hop Congress, which prides itself on bringing hip-hop culture to a wider audience at UC Irvine, did exactly that on the night of Wednesday, Nov. 16. A mass of people of all age groups, ethnicities and backgrounds crowded into the foyer of the Bren Events Center for The Invasion of Hip-Hop VII, a free, quarterly event which normally showcases various hip-hop performers.
In addition to the performances this quarter, Hip-Hop Congress invited numerous local artists, many of whom were UCI students, to display their artwork. A lot of the artwork dealt with subjects associated with hip-hop culture, such as graffiti and urban landscape, with some political undertones.
Jeremy Ferebee, a fourth-year English major, was the artist chair of the event and was responsible for contacting all of the artists featured.
‘I think inherently art and hip-hop are politically based, but I don’t think our club is necessarily putting ourselves out as Democratic or anything like that,’ Ferebee said. ‘It’s mainly about preserving the art and culture and presenting it so people on campus and the community can appreciate it since it’s probably not accessible to them normally.’
When asked what he looked for when deciding what artists to contact for the event, Ferebee said that he values ‘Honesty, integrity and being true to themselves. [I look for] honest expression presented well.’
Although hip-hop culture has seen a surge of popularity in everything from movies to radio to music television, particularly in recent years, Ferebee explained that the media has been using hip-hop as a commercial entity.
‘The mainstream is just taking note and realizing that people are into [hip-hop], so they’re using that as a vehicle to sell. This isn’t that [commercial] aspect. This is more of the cultural side. It’s true to the art of it,’ Ferebee said.
Some popular pieces included the those of Jared Zagha and Tony Benuelos, who are both fourth-years and studio art majors, and third-year and women’s studies major Crystal Hwang’s stencil pieces, which featured an image of Bush saying, ‘Stop me before I kill again.’
Third-year Jamie Bodie’s photography also attracted attention, as did some pieces of artwork by third-year studio art major Peter Park.
‘I get my inspiration from everything,’ Park said. ‘Everything I look at is beautiful to me. Even if it’s grotesque or ugly, I try to squeeze some sort of beauty out of it.’
One of Park’s pieces was a mannequin, which had been taped together in different areas.
‘With my mannequin, I destroyed it, then put it back together to construct the image of a woman in society,’ Park said. ‘I wanted to show the pain of women involving rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment. I felt that I was the destroyer, but at the same time I was the creator, recreating a stereotype.’
Also at the Invasion were plenty of companies promoting their clothing lines. Jeffrey Tang, a third-year international studies major, was at the event selling his T-shirts, but, as he explained later, not necessarily for a profit. He said that it started in high school with a few other people investing, but they eventually dropped out of the picture.
‘They invested initially, and we sold all of the shirts and made a lot of money. But I never keep [the money], I just keep putting it back in,’ Tang said. ‘I don’t profit from it. The batches just get bigger, and I can do more colors because I have more money now. I can just keep building.’
When asked why he continues to make shirts, Tang replied, ‘So my friends can wear free shirts, and I can wear free shirts. I guess I also like to spread my creativity like wildfire. This is only the beginning.’
In addition to the art exhibit and clothing lines, the event featured a live DJ, plenty of breakdancers and hip-hop performers Pack FM, Trek Life, One Be Lo and the Cunninglynguists.
By 8 p.m., the venue was packed with students and people from the community to watch the performers.
A fourth-year psychology major, T. Anh Nguyen-Tu, UCI Hip-Hop Congress’s chapter head, explained that hip-hop music is not necessarily how popular culture presents it.
‘Our culture isn’t anything bad. We’re not about smoking weed and drinking and all that. We just want to play some music for a night and get everyone together,’ Nguyen-Tu said. ‘[This event] is a really great way for conscious individuals to get together. It’s something you can do peacefully without getting in trouble.’
On Wednesday night, Hip-Hop Congress helped UCI experience a taste of hip-hop culture in its less-commercialized and more artistic form. Spreading this perspective of the genre is one of the top priorities of the Hip Hop Congress.
‘In hip-hop, any form of expression is accepted,’ Park explained. ‘Whether you do this or that, someone is going to look at your work and appreciate it. There are so many forms of expression within this culture that everyone wants to participate in it.’
For more information about the club, Hip-Hop Congress meets every Wednesday from 6 to 7 p.m. in Crystal Cove Auditorium. You can also e-mail them at Hiphopcongress.uci@gmail.com.