Spectators of Hip-Hop Society’s second annual dance battle gathered around in a circle, clapped their hands, and fed into the energy of the two dancers competing in the middle. The crowd anxiously waited as senior and President of the Hip-Hop Society, Elmer Martinez, counted down from three to announce the winner.
Emerson dancers and community members gathered in the Cabaret on Saturday, March 23 to share their dance skills at the Hip-Hop Society and Asian Students for Intercultural Awareness event, Rebirth Vol. II. The event marked the second annual open-style dance battle more commonly known as a “jam.”
Participants had the chance to win $2,000 worth of cash prizes. $1,000 for being the Cypher Lord, a person who dug deep and grew during the event, and $1,000 for winning all rounds of the battle brackets.
Martinez said he believes that this event created a space that welcomed everyone, no matter their level of involvement within the Boston hip-hop community.
“[This event] is a space that is useful to a unique community like ours, or like any college campus where it’s a crossroad of cultures and people, and what is hip-hop if not a crossroad?” Martinez said.
Rachael Peterson, a Boston-based dancer, returned to Emerson this year after enjoying the comfortable atmosphere that Rebirth Vol. I provided her the year earlier.
“I’m looking forward to the cypher space that I’ve experienced here and in the Boston community, it’s very welcoming and open,” Peterson said. “It’s a very safe space to express yourself through movement and try new things to different rhythms, as well as meet new people.”
Canadian dancer Sekou Sonko-Boisclair, who performs under the name Mr. Kou, won the Cypher Lord title and claimed a $1,000 cash prize after winning five rounds of two-minute Cypher Lord battles.
“I feel humbled,” Sonko-Boisclair said. “This event brings in community from the outside which creates communication and the communication makes a bigger scene. The people that I have met today may come to Montreal one day and we can grow the community.”
Other than the dance battle aspect of the event, Rebirth Vol. II explores other elements of hip-hop culture, such as emceeing. Junior Owen Elphick and senior Julio Villegas emceed the event—they beatboxed, freestyled, and played tracks from the Hip-Hop Society’s album, Chapter 1: Enter The Society.
“Emceeing is giving word to the energy that is in the room,” Elphick said. “It’s speaking and finding exciting and intricate rhymed ways to say things. And doing it in a musical way, giving voice to something.”
Villegas sees Rebirth Vol. II as a capstone event that birthed a new version of the Hip-Hop Society.
“The Hip-Hop Society is an organization that existed before this current version of it, however, the original heads of its founding members left it to dwindle,” Villegas said. “This event is important in the chronology of the Hip-Hop Society because this event signals the transition of the old Hip-Hop Society and its rebirth, hence the name.”
Three renowned dancers and artists, including veteran urban dance specialist Stiggity Stackz, award-winning dancer Snoopy, and hip-hop dancer Hibbz Funk, judged the event.
Alex Ambila, known by stage name Beaast Mode, won the Battle Brackets event. Ambila dances in the Cambridge area and took home $1,000 in cash after beating his opponent, a dancer named Africano, in five dance battles.
“The atmosphere is really cool, it feels like a movie when we’re here,” Ambila said “I spend hours drilling, taking notes, rewatching videos that I take of myself to kind of develop my own style and training with friends and people who are serious about getting better. This is hip-hop. This is one of the more rawer forms of hip-hop, it is super important to preserve this.”
4/1/19: A previous version of this article disclosed where the prize money came from and incorrectly stated Flo as a judge. Per request of organizers, the details of funds have been removed. Hibbz Funk replaced Flo as a judge for the competition. The article has been changed to reflect that.