Classics from the golden era of 90s hip hop blast as the facilitators set up for the weekly Hip Hop Youth Drop-In at the Roundhouse. At the entrance, dozens of donated ham and cheese sandwiches in saran wrap are stacked beside the Hip Hop Declaration of Peace and a sign-up sheet. Vancouver Hip Hop Artist and Facilitator Gurl Two Three welcomes me in the room as she sets up a table with sheets of newsprint, bags of markers, and binders of lettering instructions. In the corner, Kia Kadiri sets up the sound system while the middle floor is clear, awaiting the arrival of the attendees.
All four elements of the hip hop culture are covered in this drop-in program: MC, graffiti (or aerosol art), b-boying, and turntablism.
Inspired by the Universal Zulu Nation, an international hip hop awareness group, youth pursue their interests in the culture under the guidance of active hip hop artists. The facilitators have a diverse range of backgrounds and all have different skill sets to offer, but they share the same generosity that makes this program so inspiring. Opportunities for mentorship are also available to regular attendees that show talent and determination.
There is a real community being built in the room.
Gurl Two Three says that they don’t allow competition and ego to become a factor at the drop-in. I notice that as some dancers start practicing their moves, others watch in a cypher—a circular dance space— awaiting their turn and supporting each other by observing. When asked why youth are so drawn towards hip hop, Kia Kadiri offers that the four elements of hip hop culture are each an influential art form that shows youth ways to express themselves. “They are taught that the arts aren’t important but it’s actually the opposite. Hip Hop has a history that is a lot more than what you see on TV,” she adds. When I ask Nikki, a regular attendee, what element of hip hop interests her most, she says, “Aerosol Art, but I like this set-up because you can dabble in different aspects. The program is a lot about teaching younger generations about the history, the roots.”
While there is still a stigma in the public sphere, Hip Hop is a powerful medium for youth and this venue encourages positive outcomes.
Gurl Two Three claims “these programs are designed to create choice and develop decision making.” She goes on to explain that while there are illegal ways to do graffiti, there are also ways to avoid this issue. “You could get permission,” Nikki offers. Gurl Two Three interjects and suggests different materials or mediums—on canvas, graphic or clothing design—but what she is really offering the youth is a chance to think of possibilities.
Whether it’s the guy trying out new moves on the dance floor, or the girl practicing her artistic skills at lettering, I see the youth are taking this to heart.
See more photos from the Hip Hop Drop-In on the Roundhouse Flickr Stream!
The Hip Hop Youth Drop-In is a free program that runs every Wednesday (Fall to end of Spring) at 6:30 pm at the Roundhouse.
If you would like to get involved in the creation of a Universal Zulu Nation Vancouver Chapter, Streetrich Vancity will be hosting a free orientation meeting at the Roundhouse, on Saturday June 14th, 2:30 to 5:30pm.
By Lindsay Glauser Kwan, Roundhouse Blog Team. Lindsay is a creative writer and blogger specializing in arts, culture, fashion and lifestyle. She has written for Vancouver Is Awesome, emerge, The Liar, The Blind Hem, and various blogs. A graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU and a member of Pandora’s Collective, she features regularly at local events.