Fresh Connect Volume II Celebrates First Year of Columbia's Hip-Hop Minor

Gifted Keys performed at “The Fresh Connect Volume II” on November 29. Photo: Savanna ProchaskaGifted Keys performed at “The Fresh Connect Volume II” on November 29. Photo: Savanna Prochaska
Immersive dance, music, and art networking event included performances by artists Gifted Keys and TStar.

Nearly 200 students, community members, hip-hop practitioners, and artists celebrated the first year since Columbia launched a Hip-Hop Studies minor, at “The Fresh Connect Volume II” event held November 29 at the Conaway Center. The event was created, produced, and executed by Event Management Practicum students in the Business and Entrepreneurship Department.

Kelsa Robinson, Dance assistant professor and one of several faculty members who helped develop the minor, highlighted the college’s efforts to create greater awareness of hip-hop culture and to give students opportunities to collaborate with established hip-hop artists in Chicago.

Music Business student Liam McDonald (aka OPLIAM), who helped to coordinate the event, is a First Nations hip-hop artist from the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve near Montreal. Through hip-hop and reggae, McDonald shares his family’s struggle to retain their culture and rights in a dominating society, and his plea to protect the environment. He is scheduled to perform at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington D.C., on January 18.

“The Fresh Connect event was a creative collaboration of art, music, and dance,” said McDonald. “Students and community members were moving together in one beautiful, unified experience.”

Vocalist Gifted Keys gave a “powerful conclusion to an energetic night,” added McDonald.

TStar, a first year student and up-and-coming hip-hop artist, performed while her father, music producer “L” Williams ’07, accompanied her as DJ.

Launched in September 2017, Columbia’s Hip-Hop Studies minor is one of the only programs in the nation to focus on the practice-based and interdisciplinary nature of hip-hop culture. It combines courses in music, dance, business, art, radio, and cultural studies where students learn MCing, Breaking, DJing, Graffiti, and the art of performing.

At the first Fresh Connect event in 2017, Columbia faculty, students, and members of Chicago’s hip-hop community were asked “How Would You Define Chicago Hip-Hop?”

How Would You Define Chicago Hip-Hop? from Columbia College Chicago on Vimeo.