‘I do It for the culture, but you can see I never do it for the culture vultures’: the USG Do It For The Culture event

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Do it for the Culture

Brianna Camp reporter

Despite the challenges of the past year and their continued presence, Undergraduate Student Government’s Director of Programming Jhariah Wadkins and his friends DJ Smillz and Ramone Hardy have put together an event worthy of celebrating.

Smillz is the recording engineer for the event but also works as a DJ independently. Hardy is the videographer and co-director of the event. Smillz said he’s hoping to pull the event together after “a lot of late nights.”

“Jhariah put a lot of trust in me to make me the videographer,” he said.

The group has been collaboratively planning the event since mid-December and is excited to see it finally coming together.

A month-long competition running from Feb. 1, 2021 to Feb. 26, 2021, Do It For The Culture is meant to be “a celebration of hip hop culture, which you know, it comes from Black culture, so for Black History Month, I figured this would be a nice event to do. I know everyone has their favorite rap song, everyone likes something with hip hop, so I figured why not do a competition?” Wadkins said. 

The breakdown of this month’s ongoing Do It For The Culture event is as follows: There were meant to be eight competitors (unfortunately now seven due to scheduling complications). Each of the competitors’ eligibility was determined based on a few criteria: they had to be undergraduate students, they had to attend Kent State University and they had to provide an audition video of their “hottest verse over an instrumental” to be judged accordingly by the group of event organizers. Those who made it into the top eight picks were the ones determined to have the best quality flows that would lead to a good performance.

Smillz said, “Everyone who is here today is here because they deserve to be here.” 

The competitors have pre-recorded two of three rounds, with the third and final round being recorded next Tuesday. Each artist will be rapping against each other on the same beat and to take some of the pressure off, they are allowed to pre-write their rhymes instead of freestyling. 

The rounds go through a bracket system starting with eight (now seven) artists, down to four, then two, and then the winner who will be decided through a voting system students will participate in. The information on the voting system is yet to be determined, but you can find information on this as well as the recorded competition videos to be posted weekly on the Undergraduate Student Government’s Instagram page

The voting system, which was suggested by artist Corleone, is meant to ensure a well-intentioned and fair competition stays that way, and to avoid the possibility of the event turning into a popularity contest. Wadkins says, though, that all of the artists already have somewhat of a following on Kent State’s campus, so the attention gained from this event can help with engagement and sharing it with more students despite the fully-virtual format. 

Wadkins, although he is directly involved in the organization of the event, is also a participating artist in the competition. He explains though how important it was to him to make sure his fellow organizers felt they could make an impartial decision when going over his submission video. To ensure a fair admissions process, Wadkins says he left his own house and sat in his car while the judges (Hardy and Smillz) deliberated over his placement in the competition. The judges said, “while the audio could have been better, it was great and he helped set the bar for what we were looking for.” 

The perks of participating in the competition lie in the prizes. The winner will receive $400 in Visa gift cards and a solidified spot in the upcoming student tiny desk event which could also benefit each artist’s reach on and off-campus even further. You can find each of the artists on their various Instagram accounts:

C-Spoke (@ayethatsc_)

Mac (@macman838tm_)

Antonia (@antoniaxrich)

Dana (@dana_beas)

Mystery (@614badboy)

Jhariah (@poeticlocs)

Corleone (@corleone4g)

Wadkins says that Do It For The Culture means participating in hip hop culture for yourself, but also to inspire others, to have some fun and to bring people together.

“Hip hop is very inclusive,” he said. “ I truly take pride in the production of this event because I feel like it highlights a huge part of [the] culture for many Black people.”

Brianna Camp covers diversity. Contact them at [email protected]