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March 21, 2008

Freestyle Fry-day: quite a meal

by Johanna Gretschel, Online Managing Editor
A group of ten mobs the SAC stage, angling for a turn on the microphone. The cafeteria is about to burst with anticipation, the near-capacity crowd cheering and jeering as the next brave soul lets his rhymes fly. "Look at this fool, man, he thinks he's nice. He bought a fake ID so he could get lunch twice!" The crowd whoops in pleasure and the verdict is: officially fried.

Despite just being sautéed and served, junior Novian Haynes beams in delight - the first Freestyle Fry-day is underway on Friday, March 14. Haynes and the source of the lunch diss, senior Ben Simon, are co-presidents of the Hip-Hop Club, which sponsored the event. The club hosted a similar gathering in October, but that performance was a showcase of pre-written lyrics as opposed to the improvised rhymes heard at Freestyle Fry-Day.

Haynes and Simon's vision for the club includes ending the division between different social and racial groups at Blair. Simon also praises the art form's educational qualities. "Besides uniting people who wouldn't normally sit together," he says, "it places emphasis on intellect, quick wit and lyricism."

Haynes and Simon circle the SAC stage while spitting rhymes and looking for a challenger to start what the crowd wants – a rap battle. With no volunteers, anyone sitting close to the stage is seen as fair game. Simon motions to an onlooker decked out in black North Face, but the Blazer refuses to take the mic. Simon responds the only way he knows how – with a rhyme. "I kill MCs like it's my job, this man's dressed all in black – who are you about to rob?" One can almost hear the sizzle.

A challenger finally emerges in the form of pipsqueak freshman Gabe Pollak, who takes on the more experienced Haynes without hesitation. Rap battle lyrics tend to center on opponents' physical looks and attire and Haynes wastes no time calling out the mini-MC's apparent "malnourishment" and old shoes. Pollak bounces back quickly as he boasts "my shoes may be a little ratty but I am driving a Caddy," and easily wins the heart of crowd.

Pollak expresses some annoyance that his size was the main focus of his opponents' disses, but says he just needs to rethink his strategy. "Everyone kept saying the same jokes about me being short. It got a little old but that's what's going to set me apart," he says. "I guess I'll have to use it to my advantage."

A white freshman in the Communication Arts Program, Pollak is not the stereotypical freestyler. Students like him are the type of Blazers that Haynes and Simon hope to reach out to with Friday's performance. The co-presidents both talk about how hip-hop is a unifying device for the diverse Blair population. "Generally, since our school is so self-segregated," Simon says, "I think hip-hop is a good unifier that lets races all laugh at the same things."

Haynes agrees with Simon and also emphasizes Freestyle Fry-day's capability to boost school morale because of its accessibility. "The one thing that everyone at Blair does is eat lunch and so when you do something in front of them, they'll watch," Haynes says. "It's not like you have to come out to a sports game or something."

The pair reached their goal of uniting the student body with the show, at least according to Pollak's standards. "I think it gave everyone something to enjoy and a lot of different people [performed] too, so that was good," he says.

Haynes and Simon have plenty of experience communicating with the student body as they are both members of the SGA cabinet: Haynes is the Director of Race Relations and Simon is the Senator of Media Literacy. The pair has talked to their fellow SGA members about hosting weekly club performances during Friday lunches. If the proposition is approved by assistant principal James Short, they will likely host only one more performance because they will have to wait their turn behind other school clubs who have not yet performed. If the proposition is rejected, the co-presidents will likely organize another Hip-Hop Club show on their own.

A few technical problems may have plagued the first Freestyle Fry-day's sound quality, but the intentions and vision of the dynamic duo behind the event are pitch-perfect. Well, except for the occasional limp rhyme. "I've got you in hot water and now I'm gonna boil it – this guy's so dumb sometimes he won't flush the toilet," Haynes riffs to the groans of the crowd.

Burnt to a crisp.

The Hip-Hop Club meets most Tuesdays at 2:20 p.m. in room 253. Blazers interested in joining can contact Ben Simon at beenjammin_simon@yahoo.com.



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  • to a crisp on March 21, 2008 at 7:12 PM
    nice job. this sauteed and served the rest of the articles on silverchips
  • Rachel RAY (??J) on March 21, 2008 at 8:08 PM
    it was the most amaaaaaaaaazing article and quite tasty like cheese and crakers YUMMO,
    I find this writer very skilled and aware of her creative thoughts good quotes!!!
  • Novian Haynes on March 21, 2008 at 11:54 PM
    Wow, what a great article! So fresh indeed.
  • Jeannie Gretschel (View Email) on May 1, 2008 at 5:47 PM
    Hi,Jojo! Great article! I think it was funny and cool! E-mail me soon!
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