Project Redemption looks to offer an evolved hip-hop outlet.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
If you didn’t hear about the Project Redemption Hip-Hop tournament that went down Aug. 2, you weren’t alone. Neither did the Marina Police Department.
It was originally slated to take place at the Filipino-American Community Club, but when Marina authorities found out about it they pulled the plug due to lack of permits– the morning of. The Project Redemption crew– Christian Sanchez, EJ Navarro, Allen Ganaden, Richard Remedio, Kolabo Entertainment, Sqratchaholix, Team Anthrax– didn’t skip a beat. That same day they secured Sand City’s Fit-Athletics Gym and put on the event, which consisted of b-boy (breakdancer) and MC (rapper) tournaments called “battles,” and live performances.
The relocated event again attracted the attention of the police. This time was different, says Navarro: “They were cool. They were all for it. They just wanted to make sure the kids were out by 10pm because of curfew.”
Maybe the law was on their side because the event was all-ages, alcohol- and drug-free, spirituality-friendly, with an anti-violence sentiment that was hard-earned.
“Last year we threw a going-away party for [friend and music collaborator] Moses, who was going to Bethany College,” Navarro says. Some people they didn’t know crashed the Salinas house party, a fight broke out, and the crashers left. But they came back.
“They shot up the place. A couple guys got shot– they’re still alive. That night there was, like, four other shootings.”
Navarro blames himself for that mentality because, says the 25-year-old DJ, when he was younger he dropped out of high school, spun street-oriented “hyphy” rap music on FM 97.9 En Fuego, and got arrested for selling marijuana. Since his return to the church in 2005, and maybe due to maturity, he’s flipped that script.
He lists his current musical influences as Talib Kweli, Common, Mos Def, Little Brother– a palette of intelligent, dynamic hip-hop artists who, says Navarro, “speak about real life, politics, truth.”
“It’s not ‘Superman Dat Ho,’ from Souljah Boy,” he says. “The industry has watered hip-hop down. That’s not what hip-hop was about. It was about expressing yourself through art.”
To that end, this Saturday’s Project Redemption Round 2 will employ the four original elements of hip-hop: DJing, breakdancing, MCing and graffiti. With cash and prizes at stake, b-boys and b-girls will battle it out with tricky, athletic breakdance moves, while MCs compete lyric-to-lyric (cussing will disqualify contenders; real MCs can be more creative, Navarro contends). The competitions will take place in a boxing ring and while judges will rate the breakers, the crowd will crown the fiercest MC.
Live performers will include the politically minded Seaside/San Jose collective 40831, Christian-oriented rappers The God Squad, and Keno from The Other Side, who may be the secret weapon in the lineup– his skills are reminiscent of a raw Kanye West. On the graffiti front, Exclusive Ink of Salinas will throw up spray paint art on canvas.
Between competitions, Seaside’s DJ Neato, aka Philip Calimlim of the Sqratchaholix, says he will be spinning “underground hip-hop– like the real hip-hop– breakbeats, ’80s music, James Brown, Zion/I from Oakland, Living Legends from L.A., Beat Junkies.”
“There are lots of shows like this,” he continues, “in L.A. and the Bay. But in the Central Coast, we’re the ones holding it down.”
“We want to give young people something to do,” adds Navarro, sounding wiser than his age, “in a great atmosphere, with positivity and art.”
PROJECT REDEMPTION ROUND 2 goes down 5pm Saturday, Oct. 11, at Fit-Athletics Gym, 880 Tioga Ave., Sand City. $5. www.Myspace.com/redemption831 or email@example.com.