Penn Hip-Hop Initiative 'spits' on Locust

The new music appreciation club was introduced this semester

· December 2, 2012, 5:44 pm

Nick_Moncy | DP

From left to right, College junior Jonathan Iwry, Engineering freshman Akshay Chandrasekher, and College sophomore Alexander Rafi, were among a group of students who freestyle rapped on Locust last Friday to a cheering crowd.


On a cold Friday morning, six male students stood in a circle on Locust Walk.

It was a gathering like any other, until beats began playing from one student’s silver laptop. The circle was then transformed into a “spit” circle, where the six students freestyle rapped about everything from school and music to sex and drugs.

These students are part of the Penn Hip-Hop Initiative, Penn’s newest music appreciation club. Introduced this semester, PHHI holds Freestyle Fridays, such as the one the six students participated in, on Locust Walk. Any student passing by can join in and “spit,” a slang term that means to freestyle rap.

“We want to promote appreciation and awareness for hip-hop here at Penn,” College junior and founder of the club Jonathan Iwry said. “But we also want to encourage new talent.”

Despite being new to campus, the club is quickly gaining traction. Around 100 students showed up for the club’s first general body meeting, according to Iwry, and around 200 are on the club’s listserv. As of now, the club’s only regular event is Freestyle Fridays, but Iwry hopes to begin collaborating with other clubs on campus, including the Excelano Project.

“Hip-hop has a very interesting role for fostering an appreciation of words,” Iwry said. “It’s powerful … especially here at Penn.”

As the rappers continued, more and more students gathered around and cheered them on. Some rhymes were provocative, while others were simply funny.

“I go harder than a Viagra overdose,” Engineering freshman Akshay Chandrasekhar rapped. “I rhyme like a lyrical Albert Einstein.”

Iwry, who has been rapping for 11 years, said he was surprised to find there was no hip-hop music club upon coming to Penn. He bounced the idea of a hip-hop appreciation club off a few of his friends and said the response he got was positive.

College freshman andPHHI member Kyle Kisicki stopped by the circle on Friday to listen to the students rap. Kisicki thinks the strength of the group lies in the variety of the people it attracts, including a security guard who joined the circle and a postal office worker who stopped by to listen.

“It has a cool vibe,” Kisicki said. “It draws people in.”

Wharton sophomore Ben Slome also stopped by the circle to listen to students rap. It was the first time Slome had encountered the group, but he said he liked what he saw.

“This is really what makes Penn­­­, Penn,” Slome said. “This group is incredibly diverse, and they are brought together by music.”

College freshman andPHHI member Kyle Kisicki stopped by the circle on Friday to listen to the students rap. Kisicki thinks the strength of the group lies in the variety of the people it attracts, including a security guard who joined the circle and a postal office worker who stopped by to listen.

“It has a cool vibe,” Kisicki said. “It draws people in.”

Wharton sophomore Ben Sloane also stopped by the circle to listen to students rap. It was the first time Sloane had encountered the group, but he said he liked what he saw.

“This is really what makes Penn­­­, Penn,” Sloane said. “This group is incredibly diverse, and they are brought together by music.”

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