By Tristin Marshall
After a three year hiatus, the Hip Hop Congress is coming back in full force. The organization is geared towards lovers of all things hip hop, including those without and musical or artistic talent. With a variety of aspects such as breakdancing and DJing, Hip Hop Congress can help to blossom anyone from mediocre to extraordinary. The organizations president, Wil Meister gave The Spread the inside scoop on the revamped goals and accomplishments for this school year.
The Spread: What is the Hip Hop Congress and how did it start?
Wil Meister: The Hip Hop Congress started in California. They actually started as two different organizations: one in Northern California, the other in South California. Then, they found each other and fused together. There are currently 70 congresses across the United States. Here at the U of I, we don’t really work to often with the mother organization; ultimately, we operate independently. The congress in California isn’t a college organization but a lot of the current ones are college groups. The whole idea of culture and trying to find where you fit in — so it’s a perfect fit for a college campus, especially with the pushing of diversity and people becoming more accepting of hip hop culture. It started here in 2001 fused with the break dance club. Since then, we’ve had Floor Lovers Illinois, and Urbana Poppin’ Champaign also works with us, too. Several different U of I alums have come out of the organization, and they are still a hip hop presence in Chicago. DJ Vader is an alum who spins in Chicago all the time.
TS: What are some important aspects of the Hip Hop Congress?
WM: UC Hip Hop (Congress) represents the four pillars of hip hop: graffiti, DJing, MCing, and breakdancing. We try to promote all four in any way that we can. We’re essentially a culture RSO, so the most important aspects of us is broadening people’s knowledge of that culture. The hip hop culture is often times misunderstood. They don’t really understand what goes into it and how much of an art form it really is. Our general goal is to create conversation about the hip hop culture and about the different pieces of it and make sure people understand it. If they want to pursue any of them, they are able to try it to see if it is something they like.
TS: Have you received a positive response from the students about your organization?
WM: We had a very positive response for a very long time. The Hip Hop Congress was a very large presence here on campus. For the past three years, it has died down. But as the president I am trying to bring it back and lay the ground work for the younger students before I leave.
TS: Aside from actively gathering campus students, will your organization branch out to the C-U community?
WM: Yes. The whole point of this organizations is to raise awareness of the hip hop culture and that is not limited in any way to the campus. In fact, most of the events that we do aren’t even campus related. There’s a huge hip hop scene in downtown Champaign, and we’re a big part of that. The DJs have a hip hop night every Sunday at Cowboy (Monkey) where they spin, and people get up and rap on the mic, which is really cool. Those DJs really help us out a lot; they spin for us on Quad Day. We know a lot of DJs and hip hop artists in the community, and we try to have as many shows as we can. As far as campus, we’re sadly limited, so what we’re trying to do now is engage the artists more so than the actual community. The campus is harder for us to reach; the community is very open, and there are plenty of hip hop artists in town and from all over. There’s a special hip hop show almost every two weeks that is booked at Cowboy or even High Dive. I would also like to reinstate DJing workshops at the local high schools, but we have to find more DJs to join the club.
TS: As head of your chapter, what do you hope to see your organization accomplish this year?
WM: Growth is the bottom line. We just restarted the organization, so our big focus is growing. I want to have a membership with diverse enough skills so that we can make things happen, so when I leave in December, it can function without me.
TS: On your Facebook bio, I read that you have an annual hip hop week. Can you tell us what that is?
WM: We have hip hop appreciation week in April, which is an on campus event. We screen a documentary and have general learning sessions. We usually have at least one hip hop show, and we do a showcase at the Union where anyone can MC, and we’ll have someone spin classic hip hop beats so we can have an open Cypher. This year we’re looking into showing a documentary about the hip hop movement in China. It is usually on the week of ILL Breaks with their breakdancing competition, so we make that part of it. We release a mixtape as well in the spring. Usually, we also do a local show as well. We also have done something with WORD, the spoken word organization on campus so we’re going to try to work with them again and Urbana Poppin’ Champaign.
Updated: Meister originally said that hip hop week isn’t an actual thing. However, he meant that “there are no concrete set dates” for this event yet.
TS: Can you tell the readers about any upcoming events?
WM: We’re sponsoring a pretty big hip hop show at Canopy Club with rap artist Mickey Factz, who used to rap with Lupe Fiasco. His song “Paradise” has over two million views on YouTube. We like to be a part of one big show each semester by sponsoring it and trying to promote it. We try to attach ourselves to any artist that we feel are quality. This will be sometime in November. We do listening parties, too, for any new albums that drop. We’ll all hang out at someone’s house and listen to them together. Most recently we listened to Pusha T’s new album. We just hung out and enjoyed the music.
TS: What would you say to students that are looking to join the Hip Hop Congress?
WM: If you love hip hop, that’s exactly what we do. It’s a support network. You find the people that you fit in with and that like the same things that listen to a lot of hip hop and want to try to rap, or who like making beats, or who DJ a little bit but don’t feel confident enough to do it in public. If you want to try any of these, or you would love to support, we are the place to go.
If you are interested in the Hip Hop Congress, “like” the organization’s Facebook page at facebook.com/UCHHCongress to find out more information about upcoming meetings.