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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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	Brothers Spencer Wadsworth (left) and Sterling Wadsworth (right) perform together as the stage name “Almost Anonymous.”

The secret lives of AU hip-hop artists

ON STANDS NOW: AU's rising hip-hop talent reveals a growing, underground music scene.

Many students are unaware a hip-hop scene exists at AU.

“There definitely is one, but it’s just very much underground I think,” said Marlon Cirker, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Students continuously showcase their musical talents in open-mike nights and talent shows, but the University’s hip-hop scene is typically overlooked.

However, AU students are making waves in the underground world of hip-hop under a variety of stage names.

M. Craft
Cirker is one of several emerging artists in AU’s small hip-hop scene, performing under the stage name M. Craft.

“[Hip-hop] was what all the older kids were listening to, so I wanted to listen to it to be cool,” Cirker said. “But then I fell in love with it. I really got serious about it my freshman year of college.”

Cirker’s musical passion drove him to release his “View From a Rooftop” EP in 2012 and later a debut mixtape “extracurricular ACTivity” in July 2013.

“It’s basically documenting my life and my thought process over the last year,” Cirker said. “Being in school and having friends that are back home. It feels really good to receive some of the appreciation from people and the respect from people that I got from that mixtape.”

Wrong Islanders
School of Public Affairs freshman Ben Zehren began freestyling while attending Brooklyn’s Edward R. Murrow High School. During his time there, Zehren encountered fellow students and hip-hop artists Joey Bada$$, Capital STEEZ and other members of the Pro Era collective.

“I was just a freshman, they were all older than me,” Zehren said. “It was all kinda happening at a level above my head. Then I left Brooklyn and I opened XXL magazine one day [and] was like ‘these are the kids I went to school with.’”

Zehren incorporated his former classmates’ styles into his music when collaborating with a group of high school students called the Average Emcees. The group released two albums, “70 Degrees” in 2011 and “Affordable Flows and Delicious Deliveries” in 2012, before finally dissolving.

Zehren released another album “Hand Selected Botanicals” with DJ and producer David Earle in 2013 during his senior year.

“Everyone else kinda stopped for a little while except me and Dave,” Zehren said. “We recorded ‘Hand Selected’ for a year. That album dropped on the last day of high school.”

Zehren teamed up with Earle as well as other rappers, producers and instrumentalists in Northport, New York to form the group Wrong Islanders. Local radio station Hot 97 featured the group in its “Who’s Next” online spotlight.

“I got to hot97.com and it’s just ‘The Islanders’ on the front page. And I’m like, ‘Oh shit! That’s us!’” Zehren said.

Wrong Islanders released an EP titled “The Feels” this September and plans to release a full-length album this month.

Maurice Sips Hot Coffee
School of Communication seniors Devan Joseph (Mr. Dev), Jason Gaines (Mr. Jay), and Bowen Tibbetts (DJ Bowie T) started the hip-hop group Maurice Sips Hot Coffee while performing at open-mike events during their freshman year at AU.

A year later, they released the EP “Coffee is the New Crack” and the album “People With Faces” in 2012.

“We’re doing stuff that no one else in this area, in this genre, is doing,” Joseph said. “We take our visuals very seriously. We take our live performances very seriously. We’re all film majors, so we pay very close attention to visuals and how we portray ourselves.”

The group describes its music as “progressive rap” because their comedic songs are more nuanced than they seem.

“Typical rappers don’t rap about the things that we rap about,” Joseph said. “If you just listen to ‘$30 Tees,’ it’s just a song about $30 tees,” Joseph said. “But if you really read between the lines, it’s talking about the rapper stereotype of ‘I have a materialistic thing, so I’m better than you.”

However, the group has slowed down since Gaines left to study abroad in South Africa for the semester.

“We’re actually working on putting together a documentary for second semester when [Gaines] gets back,” Joseph said. “And probably, we’re thinking about putting out another album along with that, and definitely more performances. A big, big portion of what we do is performances.”

Almost Anonymous
Bronx native Spencer Wadsworth, a CAS sophomore, is an up-and-coming rapper with numerous stage names: Suspence, Mofro, Aloe Collins and many more. He and his brother, Sterling Wadsworth, make music as the duo Almost Anonymous and have performed as opening acts for Maybach Music Group and comedian Tracy Morgan.

The brothers released their self-titled debut album two months ago.

“We’ve been making music for a really long time,” Wadsworth said. “My brother’s been rapping for almost 10 years, I think. I’ve been rapping for six years, going on seven.”

Wadsworth is also an avid crate-digger, sharpening his beat-making skills by sampling a variety of genres. He cites producers J. Dilla and Damu the Fudgemunk as major influences.

“I’ve been making beats for three, four years now,” Wadsworth said. “When I look for a sample, I generally gravitate towards jazz, samba, funk, soul-type sounds.”

Wadsworth is considering producing for other rappers, but has decided to reserve certain tracks for Almost Anonymous.

“The beats are mainly for us, but there’s certain things going on right now that may involve me sending more beats to other people,” he said. “Now, do I send them the best stuff? Eh, probably not.”

While the AU hip-hop scene remains virtually unnoticed, Cirker said he believes the movement may rise as students continue to make names for themselves.

“I don’t wanna underestimate AU,” he said. “I think we can definitely have a thriving hip-hop community here if we put in some elbow grease.”

thescene@theeagleonline.com


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