It might not seem like University of Toronto students would need a club to appreciate hip hop: rap music is comfortably mainstream, in heavy rotation on the radio and selling out stadium concerts. The members of Hip Hop Headz, the U of T club devoted to all aspects of hip hop culture, beg to differ.
“In the mainstream media, you might hear about gangsta rap and a lot of materialist notions,” says Daniel Farb, president of Hip Hop Headz – or H3 as they’re often known – and who raps under the stage name MC FÜBB. “That’s fine, but we’re not advocating just that. We’re advocating the skills and talents involved, whether it’s breakdancing or rapping or DJing or graffiti or beatboxing.”
Farb, who will enter his fourth year in philosophy and psychology in September, says the hip hop scene in Toronto is diffuse and H3 exists to be a central gathering point for U of T students interested in the culture. The group hosts graffiti sessions where painters can show off their technique on boards (not walls, Farb is quick to point out), screens hip hop documentaries, arranges concert trips, occasionally hosts freestyle battles (where rappers compete in front of a crowd to make up the best rhymes on the spot) and has even run breakdancing workshops.
“Hip hop is about self-expression; it’s like any other art form,” says Farb. And while it’s been successfully commercialized around the world, he says most hip hop doesn’t look like what you see on MTV. “A lot of people don’t seem to get that. The majority of what goes on in hip hop is all underground.” Hip Hop Headz lost some momentum in 2008 with the graduation of its founding members, but Farb is actively recruiting student members and has an ambitious agenda for the coming year. Events, which are also open to alumni, will include a concert featuring popular local artists on the St. George campus and a collaboration with Organized Sound, a music group at U of T Scarborough. “That’s what it’s all about,” says Farb, “hip hop heads, getting together.”