Floor thumpers: hip-hop beats in Douglass gym

Thursday, February 9, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:45 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

What’s going down?

Tonight is the night to shine for freestylers and hip-hop lyricists, when Douglass High School opens its gymnasium doors to the funky public.

Tell me more:

Back in the day, the early ’80s, the school celebrated Black History Month with a night of soulful jazz, sponsored by Columbia’s Parks and Recreation department. But times have changed, and so have the tastes of the young. The event was transformed from a jazz fest to a night of hip-hop and freestyling.

Free what?

Freestyling. It’s when deep bass and drum beats take over the airwaves and a rhyming genius breaks lyrics on the mic. Think Eminem in “8 Mile.”

I see...

The difference here, of course, is that no one is trying to bring anyone down.

Should I look out for anyone?

The lyrical styles of Marcus Jordan from Boone County are not to be missed. Jordan started freestyling at the tender age of seven, made a name for himself on the streets of Columbia at 10 and has some phat beats under his belt.

“I read the dictionary to improve my vocabulary,” Jordan said. “I say what comes to mind.”

The man isn’t even breaking a sweat about tonight. He said the only practice he needs is to read more and to listen to all genres of music to broaden his word flow.

“The music is produced to educate people about the rapper’s lifestyle,” Jordan said.

Where does hip-hop feature in all of this?

Consider the term interchangeable with rap music; the two are similar, though with slight nuances. The genre originated in the ’70s from a mish-mash of different musical styles, includingjazz, funk and soul. Heavily influenced by West African traditions, in which traveling musicians known as Griots are said to have told stories through a combination of poetry and music, the old Griot musical style spread to the United States with the African slave trade.

It all hit off big time when a group called the Last Poets started experimenting with the beats and lyrics of music played at neighborhood block parties in ’70s New York City. Local DJs, especially DJ Kool Herc, noticed that people were responding to the heavy drum beats in the music and started to mix various drum lines to keep the audience dancing.

Hip-hop has emerged as its own cultural movement, symbolizing the hardships of urban life and sometimes even as a form of political soap-boxing, in which artists turn lyrics into social commentary.

Let’s roll with it

See, now you’re getting into this. Freestyle night is a family-friendly event that is open to the public and part of Black History Month celebrations. Be at Douglass High School when the beats start at 7 p.m. tonight.

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