On Thursday evening (Mar. 22), students at Columbia University held a two-act indie showcase that was an ode to “bring hip-hop back to its roots”
as much as it was a celebration of what it means to be a grown-ass kid. The Columbia Spring Jam, headlining Phony Ppl and rapper D-Why, hoped to restore a fading facet of hip hop—or, rather, music culture that these young organizers and musicians believed has been lost over the years: that youthful, rawful, honest fun.
In a sea of hip and hued apparel, Phony Ppl, a nine-member band of teenagers from Brooklyn, first took the stage. “It’s hard to fit these guys in a genre,” host of the event Melvin Freeman said in introducing the act, but once the Phonies began their set, it suddenly didn’t matter. A refined fusion of hip hop and jazz with traces of pop and funk led the student crowd to respond—whether dancing to upbeat tracks, smiling to the soulful ballads or going in on an ironic Waka Flocka tribute.
Despite having opened for distinguished headliners like Theophilus London, rising acts like Phony Ppl and D-Why continue to find it important to play smaller venues, especially with a drawing of younger folks. “These are the people who purchase our music, who come to our shows for us. They are us,” explains vocalist Dyme-A-Duzin.
In an unpretentious way to cap off the night, west coast rapper D-Why invited everyone in the audience onto the stage. As the DJ spun the hip hop Top 40s we all hate to love, college students, members of Phony Ppl, and D-Why joined in together to send off the evening, remembering and acknowledging that a good show is as much about the performers as it is about the audience.
The show, initially organized by the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and Bricks Entertainment to raise money for an annual NSBE annual conference, ultimately garnered something much more: A completely student-run show for students by students proves there does not need to be a commercial draw to afford concert-goers with that carefree, organic experience. --Tanya Chen