Arts and Entertainment

Hip hop surge inspires new bands

By Madeline Frieze
Published: May 2010

“Hip hop¦. Or is it “hip-hop¦. Or maybe “hiphop? Either way, hip-hop is a cultural phenomenon developed in the early 70′s by a generation of African Americans living in the Bronx. From a background of poverty, they created a beautiful, prideful expression of music, art, and dance.

Since its humble beginnings, hip-hop has inspired people from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds across the world.
Hip-hop creates a unique lifestyle with its own language, style of dress, music, and mindset, all continuously evolving.

In Newton, at both South and North, hip-hop has become one of the most popular styles of music. It is what you hear blasting out of open car windows, or through the headphones of an anxious athlete getting pumped for a big game or meet.

In fact, hip-hop is so inspiring that students have begun to make their own music, expressing their own ideas and voicing their own opinions via beats.

Bohan Leng, also known as Phinale, a senior at North, came to Boston from China in 2003 when he was 11 years old. Surprisingly, he never truly liked music until he started rapping in 2005, after seeing the movie 8 Mile.

It is the music he identifies with: “It just stuck with me and it’s just been like the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Leng said.

Leng’s biggest influence “was, is, and always will be Eminem, because he tells a story within his songs, just as Phinale strives to do. His other influences include Tupac and Kanye West. On his iPod, however, Leng has more of other genres of music, including tracks by Jason Mraz and The Script. “Whatever is good influences me nowadays, Leng said.

Seniors Nick Sobel and Ben Weissman, members of the group Eight Inch Friends, held a mutual curiosity about creating hip-hop and wanted to test it out.

“Basically, it started with me and Nick last year’€he loved to sing, and I loved to rap, so we put the two together, Weissman said.

This year, however, it has grown to become a “supergroup, featuring many other members, such as South junior Ashan Singh, seniors Matt Breuer and Josh Richards, and Rivers School seniors Alex Adach and Ross Hoyt.

The main inspiration for their group was the great success of the well-known band, <3Jazzfox, as well as music by Eminem and Drake. Songs created by Eight Inch Friends are not usually performed live, unless squeezed into a Pajammin’ set; they release their songs on Facebook, distributing them whenever they finish an album.

Other South seniors Brandon Fuller-Porter and Sam Pirrello created a band called BFPSP (the initials of the two members) in the fall of 2008 because of a shared passion for the arts.

“Sam and I have always been ones to speak our mind, and this gave us a creative channel to do so, Fuller-Porter said.

He claims that their music taste has always been very different, but as a group they “drew from the styles of hip-hop and rap, experimental beats, classic rock, heavy metal, jazz, live instrumentation, electronic, and basically anything that was made with the music in mind.

They listen mostly to the experimental beats coming from music by the Flying Lotus and Shlohmo.

As far as performances go, they have done shows ranging from basements around Boston to the well-known Harper’s Ferry in Allston, their larger shows reaching attendance numbers in the hundreds.

“Everyone should approach hip-hop with an open mind and realize the difference between music for entertainment’s sake and music for music’s sake, Fuller-Porter said.

North junior Devon Mychal is a student also involved with creating his own rap and hip-hop music. He started producing his own beats using a program called Logic Pro Studio, a professional version of GarageBand, and rapped over them.

“I taught myself how to record and mix so I could show people my stuff, and that’s where I’m at right now’€just trying to improve, Mychal said.

Hip-hop has become a bridge between different cultures. Especially in Newton, a community with two high schools, it is a way for the students from both South and North to come together with a common interest.

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