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Columbia hosts Chicago Hip-Hop conference, inspiring young artists

Hip-hop artists from all around Chicago gathered on Columbia’s campus to celebrate the last day of Chicago Hip-Hop History Month.

At the 1104 S. Wabash building, chairs formed a circle for every artist to sit as they passed around a wooden object, referred to by many as a “talking stick,” as they took turns speaking. A stage with a DJ booth was set up behind the circle, ready to play after the discussion was over.

The discussion forum was the first event in a day filled with music and the history of hip-hop, ending with live performances and DJ sets at the Conaway Center.

Amina Norman-Hawkins, an adjunct professor who teaches “Hip-Hop: A Sonic History” and “African American Music Survey,” was present at the discussion forum and is one of the organizers of the conference.

“Columbia College has played a very important role in just cultivating spaces for hip-hop since the early 80s,” she said.

The conference marks the 20th anniversary of Chicago Hip-Hop Heritage Month, which Norman-Hawkins helped get recognized by City Council back in 2003.

The discussion forum had artists old and new, talking about the importance of the music and a “torch passing,” as Norman-Hawkins called it, to the next generation.

“It was intended to be an inter-generational conversation between the old heads and the young artists,” Norman-Hawkins said. “We talked about the history of Chicago Hip-Hop, the importance of hip-hop culture and community, and I think we did a lot of bridge-building.”

Panelists included in the forum were Cashus D, ANGI3, I’Ja Marie, and Inari; moderating the discussion was Bro Enoch Muhammed and Leone Capone.

Younger artists at Columbia were also a part of the forum, spreading ideas and challenging others.

One student artist, Jabari Ware, is a senior music business major and feels having the Chicago Hip-Hop Conference is important to the culture.

“To have people care about hip-hop, or just to change the perspectives on how people view this art form, is a hard thing,” he said. “This conference is important because it brings out those conversations, it takes down those barriers if people are willing to listen.”

Part of the day’s events also took place at the 623 S. Wabash building, where the Columbia Hip-Hop Club took over The Haus with student cyphers, performances and DJs.

Junior marketing major I’ja Wright curated the “In the Haus” event and believes that hip-hop is not just a genre, but a lifestyle. “Hip-hop is a way of life, how you carry yourself, how you walk into a room, and how you even communicate with others,” she said. “It’s a language.”

The day ended with a big performance including student artists like Jabari Zakee and C.J. Young. It also showcased local artists Reverb, Andreaus Haley, ANGI3 and Urbanized Music. Behind the production were DJs SPI, Jeff Da Illest, and KRLSI.

Norman-Hawkins gave advice to young hip-hop artists that are coming up in Chicago.

“Know your history, know Chicago hip-hop history, and be authentic to your story and your message,” she said. “Hip-hop is all about the community, community building, and community outreach — so keeping that in mind I think is important.”

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About the Contributors
Connor Dore
Connor Dore, Former Reporter
cdore@columbiachronicle.com   Connor Dore is a senior journalism major, concentrating in broadcast journalism. Dore primarily reports on Columbia's School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but has also written about the college's financial deficit, Chicago protests and course changes. He joined the Chronicle in May 2023.   Hometown: Hickory Hills, Illinois
Kaelah Serrano
Kaelah Serrano, Photojournalist
kserrano@columbiachronicle.com   Kaelah Serrano is a junior photojournalism major. She has covered music festivals, campus art exhibitions and metro parades and protests. Serrano joined the Chronicle in January 2023.   Hometown: Chicago, Illinois