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Dropping the beat to drop cancer

As part of Belmont’s Up ‘Til Dawn child cancer awareness week, the Beaman Tuesday night felt less like a student center and more like a scene reminiscent of “8 Mile.”

But instead of losing themselves in the music, students were selfless as they rapped to end childhood cancer during the “Rap it Up: Rapping Up the Battle with Childhood Cancer” event.

The event, which served the dual purpose of promoting both Up ‘Til Dawn and Belmont’s hip-hop community, also helped raise funds for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. It was equal parts hip-hop showcase and freestyle rap cypher.

The event also represented a collaboration between the Up ‘Til Dawn executive board and Cool Outrageous Lovers of Uniquely Raw Style, more commonly known as C.O.L.O.U.R.S., a hip-hop creative collective started last semester by co-presidents Mike Silvers and Mimi Ijir.

“It’s all about the children, and philanthropy’s a big thing,” said Silvers. “It seemed like a perfect fit, to marry creative passion and creating change.”

The group’s involvement with Up ‘Til Dawn can be traced back to the event’s very first beats.

“Our first meeting ever we had, we sat around in a circle with a whiteboard, and I said, ‘Throw out crazy, random ideas that people would feel encouraged to come to on Belmont’s campus,’” said senior Maddy Grossl, executive director of Up ‘Til Dawn.

Grossl said someone suggested a rap battle and then Elyse Croce, who is in charge of marketing for Up ‘Til Dawn, brought the two together and the idea to life.

“Elyse Croce approached me and Mimi and said, ‘We’d love to do a collaboration with C.O.L.O.U.R.S.,’” said Silvers.

Silvers said the event initially was going to be solely a rap battle, but, in the interest of creating a more positive image, it ultimately transformed into a concert/cypher hybrid.

Five Belmont hip-hop artists opted to perform two or three original songs each, competing for the chance to be the master of ceremonies at the main Up ‘Til Dawn event scheduled for Jan. 30.

While Rap it Up itself was free to attend, audience members were encouraged to donate in a somewhat unique way.

Students could choose which rapper they wanted to support by donating money and filling up that artist’s respective bucket. Whichever performer had the most money in his or her bucket by the end of the night was the winner.

“I thought that was a unique idea, because that’s how we chose the winner, by crowd applause,” she said. “But essentially, instead of crowd applause, it’s how much money they put in there. They had the choice to donate because they wanted someone to win.”

All in all, an audience of about 60 people donated $640, and Cameron Bryant–stage name C^M–was the crowd favorite. As a result, Bryant will be the master of ceremonies at Up ‘Til Dawn.

The $640 raised Tuesday night brings the Belmont Up ‘Til Dawn total to $23,000, approaching the group’s final goal of $30,000, Grossl said.

“I definitely think it ended up being a success,” she said. “And I think it is something we could do every year and pair up with C.O.L.O.U.R.S., and I’d love to get more representation from them, because they were so great to work with.”

In the end, an event centered around collaboration and dual goals ended up achieving both purposes: raising money for St. Jude and promoting a strong hip-hop scene on Belmont’s campus.

Or, as Silvers put it: “Creating a positive outlook for hip-hop through helping a good cause,” he said. “Every dollar makes change.”

More information about Up ‘Til Dawn can be found here.

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