Pushing for youth

OPIRG’s second annual Push It Hip Hop Festival plans events aimed at all-ages

MCMan Chyna will perform in Push It’s new event, Bottoms Up: Queer and Feminist Hip Hop Night.
MCMan Chyna will perform in Push It’s new event, Bottoms Up: Queer and Feminist Hip Hop Night.

The second annual OPIRG Push It Hip Hop Festival is hoping to reach out to youth in Kingston.

One of the event organizers, Kevin Chen, said the group has contacted different high schools to let them know about getting involved in the event.

“It’s all about youth empowerment and getting them more involved in creativity,” Chen, ArtSci ’13, said. Chen added that the festival is trying to be as accommodating to the greater Kingston community as possible.

“We’re trying to hold our events at public schools and places that people can easily come to,” he said.

The festival is being held over the next two weekends, with an all-ages concert on March 9.

The festival will be comprised of four workshops and four night events.

“I have been working on arranging the different workshops — there’s a DJ workshop, a graffiti workshop, a breakdance workshop and an MCing workshop,” he said.

Chen started hip-hop dancing as a member of the KinetiQ dance crew at Queen’s.

“I’ve been part of the crew since first year,” he said. “We have around 15 performance members.”

At tonight’s opening event, the KinetiQ dance crew will run a dance battle between their members.

“The plan is to have a one-on-one tournament. Whoever loses gets knocked out and whoever wins advances to the final that will be crowd judged,” he said.

Chen said he decided to get involved in organizing the festival because he wanted to show people how cool hip hop is.

“I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to learn about hip hop and spread it,” he said.

Students voted to cancel OPIRG’s $3 student fee in last month’s AMS referendum, but Chen said the vote hasn’t affected the festival’s funding.

“We have an arts grant from the Kingston Arts Council and that’s the main portion of our budget.”

The hip hop festival costs $25 to attend.

“It’s a not-for-profit event. People pay entry just to cover the fees for the artist, but we’re not going to be making money off of this event,” Chen said.

For Chen, being part of the hip-hop dancing community has allowed him to create a support group.

“I consider anyone in the crew a good friend of mine,” he said. “We all hang out with each other and we’re all really supportive of each other.”

MC Man Chyna, one of the performers at the festival, said he wanted to get involved this year after attending last year’s festival.

“Last year I got to see Narcicyst for the first time. He’s a Montreal MC,” he said.

MC Man Chyna is a burlesque performer who decided to start rapping this year.

“I used to be part of an all-male burlesque troupe in Toronto,” he said.

The artist said the festival’s line up covers all the areas of hip hop.

“There are graffiti workshops and BBoy workshops, so it’s pretty cool that they’re honouring the basic old school elements of hip hop,” he said.

Something new to the festival this year is an event specifically for queer people called Bottoms Up: Queer and Feminist Hip Hop Night, which runs tomorrow.

“Who’s on the line up is the Lost Bois, Abstract Random, DJ Sigourney [Beaver] and myself and we are all explicitly queer or trans-identified,” he said.

He added that this event is an opportunity to show a different side to hip hop music.

“It’s not like mainstream super misogynistic masculine dude hip-hop,” he said.

MC Man Chyna writes all his own raps.

“They’re mostly about sex and fast food,” he said, adding that he chose to be part of the festival because of its nature and size.

“I just sort of get the sense that it’s really grassroots and community-oriented and do-it-yourself-spirited.”

The Push It Hip Hop Festival is trying to make people see all the different sides to hip hop, he said.

“We’re trying to go against that violent mainstream stuff that’s popular,” he said. “It seems like the festival is trying to emphasize more interesting and diverse aspects of hip hop culture.”

Push It begins tonight and tomorrow and will also host events on March 9 and 10. See hip-hop.opirgkingston.org for detailed schedules.

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