Michael Bonanni, Senior Staff Writer
On the day before OH-Fest, there was a bold new show in the quad that may have caught the attention of anyone walking through campus. A hip-hop show billed as Spring Beats, attempted to warm people up for OH-Fest, but had its fair share of triumphs and trials. An even more interesting fact is that it was completely student run on behalf of the concert production class with some help from On Mark and the Music Industry Club. MIC helped to pay for Bronx rapper Breeze Embalm to be in the show and was one of the only listed acts that was not an Oneonta student.
The audience was treated to the lyrics of Joey Keys first, who warmed up with various other rappers, such as Virtue. Keys gave a strong opening and had another artist on stage at all times. All were fellow rappers from Long Island, referred to as “hype men.” The beats were great, holding attention to the lyrics that were surprisingly thoughtful. It was all about pride in the work put in and the skills the rappers showed off in front of the Fine Arts building.
Matty Coonz, recognized for both his rapping and poetry slam skills, also offered some of his thoughts after a nice transition from Keys’ set. He had been up on stage for almost his whole set and even threw in some thought-provoking lines of his own, like “Joey, I hate rap. Play that beat back,” which set a theme of the show. This theme was the struggle of critiquing and hopefully changing the state of their beloved art form; the problem being how it is gravitating to be more about bragging about possessions and the fame or using gimmicks instead of talent.
Next, Embalm brought some fun to the show with his charisma and overall positive attitude. An unfortunate pattern of mess ups littered the show, however the rapper’s talents also shined in these moments as they struggled to free style to the end. Keys continued to contribute to the show with a variety of beats he produced for almost every rapper at the show. One of stand-out songs was Embalm’s “Weed Head” song about a friend addicted to marijuana that was meant to be fun and yet at times the lyrics were a bit scary involving the life of this person. The other standout was a pretty good rap using a looped sample of the Audioslave song “Save Yourself.”
At this point there was a ten-minute intermission, which was a good chance for artists to talk to people about their CD’s and music. Don Marko brought his own more laid back style, favoring more chilled beats. After a couple of songs, an older woman had complained to the show operators that Marko’s song had offended her, which made for an interesting situation where Marko stood by his work and ability to swear on a college campus to express himself. His songs were mostly about enjoying life and going after dreams. The set ended on a relaxing song called “Late Tonight,” which he had proudly produced himself.
JBX marked the climax of the show with what he called “folk-hop,” which was not very evident in the music except for maybe in the writing. Every song had some sort of message to it, and one message was simply, “smile more” while another was to “do you,” meaning to do what makes you happy. There were some bumping beats throughout the set, as well as a few hiccups that he recovered from. The free styling really played out well for JBX and came back with grace. The last song, “Last Love,” he says was inspired by Marvin Gaye. JBX even sang near the end, which was a big deal as it was the first time he claims to have sung in public.
A-Game was the last up and too many people began leaving. Nonetheless he did a great job, which is to be expected from the opener for Mac Miller at last year’s OH-Fest. For a couple of songs, he made the lyrics more intimate by ditching his music for an accapella reading that was reminiscent of his slam poetry, much like Coonz. His biggest song was called “My Mary Jenny,” which had a great hook and beat that resembled what you would hear on the radio today.
The Spring Beats show had an issue with drawing a crowd and some of the artists had to restart a song here or there, but it was definitely a positive experience. It was an enjoyable free showcase of Oneonta’s hip-hop talent that should have drawn a bigger crowd. This was a nice effort from this group in the concert production class and highlighted the ability of Oneonta students to pull off something cool and different for the music fans of the school.