One of my favorite things about hip-hop from the ’90s is the seemingly genuine camaraderie that seeped throughout the genre during the decade. I was a little kid watching these music videos thinking, “I can’t wait to have a crew that’s as cool as these dudes are with each other.”
I’ve got that crew now, even though I’m away at school and all that. But it shows that the concept of camaraderie doesn’t only exist in hip-hop.
Leaders of the New School, led by Busta Rhymes, released a hip-hop song in the ’90s called “Sobb Story,” where they talk about their hardships and everyday experiences to connect with their audience. They succeed.
The beat resonates with me, the melancholy melody pulls at my heartstrings and the drum kicks make me bob my head. It’s bittersweet. In my opinion, Busta makes the song fun by telling his story about not having a whip (hip-hop lingo for a car) and walking places. Then he finally gets a whip and starts pulling ladies and he sort of ends his verse on a “Hey, I came up, but I ain’t gonna forget how y’all treated me when I ain’t have s***.”
There are plenty of hip-hop groups that have had that genuine dynamic. A Tribe Called Quest had it. Wu-Tang Clan had it. The Pharcyde had it. And it exists within hip-hop groups today (Odd Future’s energy is reminiscent of it). It just seems less prevalent than it used to be.
When a group of people come together to create something meaningful, it feels good. Underground hip-hop collective PayUp Game, a southwest Florida group, produces music that runs in a similar vein.
On a song titled “The Cypher” by André, he and group members Bang Boogie and Mouf recreated the feeling of high school freestyle ciphers, where the school’s dopest rappers got together and spit (rapped) for the gathered crowd in order to boost their recognition.
I asked members of the group about what it was like to be a part of a diverse collective.
“Even though I do value being a solo artist, being part of a collective is a very gratifying experience,” said André of PayUp Game. “Creativity is always better when you can bounce your idea to someone you trust. It could be as simple as just getting a verse from someone with a different perspective on the topic at hand. What you’re doing is teaching yourself how to consider someone else’s ideas and value someone else’s form of creativity. My team has helped me reinvent my song structures and overall ways of approaching music. I don’t necessarily know if I would have been able to do that with no one else involved in my music.”
“Having four different people in PayUp is such a mash-up of style and character,” said Mouf. “Group dynamics has and always will be very important part of hip-hop. Some artists have too much pride so they often don’t value someone else’s perspective. What made ‘The Cypher’ such a pleasure in making is the chemistry that comes from the mutual respect I have for PayUp as a whole.“
Bang Boogie, the group’s most recent addition, said, “I think one of the dopest parts about being a part of a collective is you all share that common goal. We all represent the same thing but we’re also individuals with our own voices and points of view. You can find similarities in us, which keeps us connected, and you can find our differences, which allows us to stand on our own two feet. We are our own movement, support system and most important, we are family. That’s how we operate.”
Even in our respective majors here at SCAD, the feedback in critiques and workshops can often reveal to us something in our own art that we hadn’t noticed, which can create the opportunity for our art to expand beyond the bounds of our own imaginations and tap into a universal truth. In an odd way, the essence of camaraderie is found even within groups of people who hardly know one another, but are working to achieve a similar goal. It’s certainly something to think about with summer quarter quickly approaching and fall only months away.
Go out, create and share. You never know who could become a part of your life’s collective.Contact Adeshola Adigun.