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September 30, 2010 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-09-30

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The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 3B

Rapping with
'U' student MCs
Students explore two facets of rap - improvisational
freestyling and composed rhymes.
They talk about process, product and flow.
By Jennifer Xu II Daily Arts writer

Ding is about more than just playing a few good songs in a row.

From Page 1B
A couple of bad gigs didn't stop
Wade from continuing to pursue
DJing as a career.
"Every DJ has had a bad gig," he
said. "Maybe people weren't show-
ing up, or you weren't feeling it that
night. You just take it in stride. You
have to accept those things are
going to happen. You just have to
let it ride. You just smile and just
keep pushing through."
While Wade kept busy in
Buchanan - a small town in
Michigan with just under 5,000
residents - playing house shows
in his friends' basements, it wasn't
until his move to Ann Arbor that
things really began to pick up.
"(It wasn't) until I moved to
Ann Arbor that I really got seri-
ous with the DJing. Then I started
doing mixed shows for WCBN," he
His set with WCBN helped open
the gates to many opportunities,
including getting the European
tour circuit. Wade waxed nostal-
gic on "the good old days" of Ann
Arbor, more than a decade prior to
its current scene.
"I haven't played in Ann Arbor
since the year 2000. It's been at
least 10 years. It's probably been
just as long since I've hung out in
Ann Arbor." he said.
"It was good back in the day
though. Everything was new back
then. All the big dogs were DJing
around in the city. I was just a
youngpup looking around with big

Not everyone has found the Ann
Arbor scene as accommodating as
Wade. While Wade considers the
city as a "breeding ground" for his
artistic growth, Billetdeaux finds
the city much less of a nurturing
Billetdeaux chose to keep him-
self under wraps for a few months
to practice privately in order to
hone his DJ techniques.
"There were probably three
or four months that I devoted to
practice. I didn't get gigs right
away," Billetdeaux said. "Me and
my friend Brandon DJ'd at Cantina
last summerffor two months. It was
OK. It was playing pop music for a
fratty college crowd. It was fun. I
got a lot of experience playing for
a crowd. It wasn't ultimately the
kind of music I wanted to play, but
Igot a lot out of it."
Billetdeaux's main concern is
with the city itself. In his view,
there simply aren't venues avail-
able for the type of music he wants
to play.
"I think the biggest setback has
been Ann Arbor. There's not real-
ly a crowd for the kind of music I
really play. Or if there is, I don't
really know where it is," he said.
The ideal kind of music Bil-
letdeaux wishes he could play?
"Experimental" would be one
word for it.
"Not the club bangers you'd hear
at Necto," he said. "I would really
love to create a scene in Ann Arbor
for the kind of music I really love
to play. Because right now it just
doesn't exist."
His musical preferences vary,

depending on his mood, but always
veer on the side of eccentric.
"I love all things house music.
My musical tastes shift really
frequently. One minute I might
really, be into dubstep; the next,
trippy-ass new school beats. Defi-
nitely more dance-focused, house-
focused," Billetdeaux said.
His preference for the eclectic
is apparent in the type of gigs he
signs up for.
"My first gig was at Sigma Phi. I'
was friends with a couple brothers
and they asked me ifI wanted to do
it. I put a bug in their ear and they
finally asked me. It was an '80s aer-
obics party two years ago," he said.
Billetdeaux's primary moti-
vation for DJing, like Wade and
Wells, is for people to enjoy the
"I mean honestly, most places
that I DJ don't have money to pay.
I didn't get into it to make money; I
did it to play music for people who
wanted to hear some cool stuff," he
said. "I think it's really fun to make
people dance. Give people a good
Wade feels the same way. The
crowd's energy and the music itself
is his favorite part about DJing.
"I really like to interact with
the crowd. I feed off of that, and
they feed off of that. It's like a
high without doing drugs to get
it," Wade said. "Music itself is just
something that I'm into, that I love.
And if I'm into something, I do my
homework on it. It's like an odys-
sey. You find one artist you like and
then you get turned onto a differ-
ent group. It's like branches on a
tree - it connects."

The next time you hear rap
booming from a house party or
a passing car, stop and check out
whose vocals are being blasted. It
could be a rich professional rap-
per bragging about his new ride,
but don't assume - it just might
be a University student. While no
club survives to support campus
rappers, a few young creatives
have made this form of rhythmic
vocalization their own, whether
through recordings or freestyle.
For Jonathan Hornstein, a
junior in the Ross School of Busi-
ness, rapping has become part of
his weekly routine.
"I definitely don't go around
to people saying, 'Hi, my name is
Jon. I'm a rapper,' but it's become
one of my most prominent hob-
bies," he said. "It's on my resume
- under my additional hobbies,
it says that I enjoy rapping. So I
would say that most people who
know me know that I like to rap."
Hornstein first got into rap on
a high school backpacking trip to
Scotland in his sophomore year.
"My counselor was really into
hip hop," he said. "So we'd be rid-
ing around in this van listening to
hip-hop music and I kind of fell in
love with it."
To date, Hornstein has written
and recorded nine songs together
with his DJ friend, bearing names
such as "Fly Me to the Moon"
(which samples the Sinatra song),
"The Song I Never Wrote You"
and "Confused."
"What happens first is that
we'll think of the concept - some
song that we'll sample with a cer-
tain beat," Hornstein said. "You'll
listen to the beat, play around
with the speed and you'll sort of
get in your mind this is how the
flow should be going. You develop
a sort of rhythm sense, then based
on that, you'll start writing the
rap to get that rhythm sense."
Hornstein keeps certain things
in his mind while writing and
recording the rap, such as rhythm,
breath control, enunciation and

"You need to make an impact
on the song because even though
these days a lot of what people pay
attention to is what's behind the
rap - the beat - you want to make
sure your rhythm and flow is add-
ing to the song," Hornstein said.
A common misconception
about rapping is that the words
have to precisely rhyme.
"Sometimes what's more
important is that the vowels have
the same sound. For instance,
break rhymes with 'steak.' But in a
rap song, you could rhyme 'break'
with 'crate.' The rhyming diction-
ary wouldn't pick that up, so you
really have to develop that kind of
innate sense," he said.
Although Hornstein does not
usually engage in freestyling -
the completely improvisational
act of rapping off the top of your
head - others, like LSA junior
Erik Torenberg, do.
Torenberg got into freestyl-
ing last winter after watching
the documentary "Freestyle: The
Art of Rhyme," which features
a wide array of popular rappers,
including Mos Def, Eminem
and Tupac. After showing it to a
group of his friends, among them
LSA senior Jeff Koelzer, they all
started freestyling whenever they
were together, whether they were
walking to classes or going to a
"A lot of the time it happens in
the kitchen of a house party wait-
ing in line for some jungle juice,"
Koelzer said. "And that's when
we'll break out. It's such a spec-
tacle when it happens."
"At a party there's these cycles
- and when there's downs, you
start something and mix it up,"
Torenberg added. "And now it's
kind of become our thing when
we're out, and we want to spice it
Traditionally called a cypher,
the group will go from one person
to another, rapping with nothing
but an amateur beatbox beat and
their own voices.
"A lot of it is just completely

losing yourself," Torenberg said.
"We include everyone, even peo-
ple who have never done it before.
You justsay exactly what's onyour
mind, and you don't stop - there's
no good or bad. It's all about fun.
And we all bounce off each other."
Beginner freestylers frequently
engage in the use of the pocket
rhymes - the term for a rhyme
that the rapper has done before
that is already in his head.
"You can do pocket rhymes if
you're stuck," Torenberg said. But
as the group gets better and bet-
ter, they try to minimize the prac-
"We just started, so we're just
trying to get words out. When you
get good is when you start telling
stories," he added.
Still, Torenberg and Koelzer
have fun rapping about whatever
is going on around them, from
John Locke and economics terms
to the party they're at.
"What I like about freestyle
is the literal transformation -
regurgitation - of exactly what's
on your mind. You literally can't
think of anything else besides the
rapping," Torenberg said.
"I'm not very good, but I get
amazed at myself at what comes
out," Koelzer added. "It's so
coherent - you're not consciously
aware of it, but it's the power of
your subconscious mind when
we're all together like that."
Torenberg admitted that it was
the act of freestyling that really
drew him into it, not necessarily
the product that came out.
"For me I love it because it's
such a different work than school.
If I have a headache from doing
too much work, whenyou rap, you
just completely lose it," he said.
"You just have no inhibitions and
then you just go. If it's not clari-
fying, it's very liberating. A com-
plete outlet."
While for Torenberg the rap
ends once the words come out,
Hornstein's rapping process is
more lengthy. After having to
See RAP, Page 4B

Sam Billetdeux has DJ'd parties at Sigma Phi and private homes.

Mass meeting TONIGHT, 7 p.m., 420 Maynard St.
E-mail join.arts upumich.edu for
information on applying.


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