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Special Dogs bring intellectualism to freestyle hip-hop

Special Dogs bring intellectualism to freestyle hip-hop

By Jane Merker

Every Wednesday, Evan More 15, Dylan Jones-Tuba 15, Noah Morayniss 15 and Lucas Pastorfield-Li 15 gather in Hanna Residence Hall to continue what theyve each been doing since middle school: creating freestyle raps and electronic beats. They call themselves Special Dogs.

Weve always been goofing around and making songs together, Jones-Tuba said. We got into freestyling. We wanted to start a club where we could all freestyle together and teach other people how. More added, Our intention was to find anyone in the Kenyon community that was down to rap, and down with hip-hop, DJing, … anything that had to do with hip-hop.

The group includes the main four members and a couple of DJs. All of them sample and make their own beats.

More, Jones-Tuba and Morayniss all took computer music classes in middle school in their hometown of Los Angeles, Calif., producing local hits like Never Made Love to an Asian Woman, We Aint No Posers and Jones-Tubas Dentist Rap. Their influences ranged from the recommendations of friends and the friends themselves to professionals like The Roots, Mos Def, Ludacris and Nas.

I started rapping around sophomore year, and around junior year we started our own freestyle club at our high school, Pastorfield-Li said. The only rule was if you wanted to stick around, you had to spin at least one verse. Even if it was terrible.

Pastorfield-Li explained his Special Dogs philosophy. I think theres two sides to hip-hop theyre polar opposites, because the things they search for are completely opposite ones the intellectual pursuit; its a dialogue, much like jazz, its an improvisational discussion through music, its an art, its a culture, he said. But the other one, its more like an industry, a money-maker. And thats why the discussion is money, drugs or power half the time. Its confusing because theyre two very different worlds but both are called hip-hop.

At Kenyon, the group formed after More and Pastorfield-Li had an astronomy class together. More beatboxed one day on a whim and Pastorfield-Li started putting rhymes to it. More, Morayniss, Jones-Tuba and Pastorfield-Li later gathered on the Hanna steps and Jones-Tuba proposed that they start a band.

Last year, the Special Dogs started scheduling practices in the Black Box Theater. They applied for themed housing and are now an officially recognized student organization. The group still meets weekly, assigns homework and meets outside of scheduled meetings to discuss their latest lyrics, beats and rhymes. We try, as often as possible, to have new material for each meeting, and we share our newest material. Or we have friends from out of town sending us instrumental tracks and well share those, you know, or well come up with theme ideas for a song. We have a lot of emails being sent back and forth, a lot of spontaneity, More said.

The group has had three concerts so far this year, two at the Village Inn and one at Ganter-Price Hall. The group admits to having never played a show off-campus but the members said they would like to play more Village Inn shows, where the turnout is generally good and they have direct interaction with their fans.

Although the members of Special Dogs have fun by themselves, they often want to legitimize themselves as a club. Pastorfield-Li said, When we started freestyle club, it took a while to be anything more than what it was, which was not that great, but after one year, two years … there were some people who started to legitimately get a lot better, and the question now is where do we go now? Are we trying to centralize ourselves as a group, or have it as a group that will last beyond Kenyon?

We know that its going to be a slow road, but I definitely see us getting there, More said. When you tell people that we have this rap group, they think its cool, but they arent keen on joining. Once they see us being active, for instance at our live shows, random people will just approach us afterwards and be like, Yo, whens the next Spec Dogs? So its getting somewhere, we just need to do a better job of getting people to join.

When first asked about the effect that Kenyon and the surrounding area had on their music, the group laughed and commented that there really isnt much of a hip-hop scene in the area, which is why they all thought it was so necessary to start the club.

Each member agreed that their classes have had an effect on their lyrics. More said, Theres always random times in class where sometimes someone will say a great sentence, and three words will stick out. Just three words, you know? And Ill know that those three words or that sentence is going into my next rhyme. Pastorfield-Li said, Its like, oh, game theory, Ill use that in my next rhyme. As soon as you learn it, you feel excited to voice those things that youve learned.

The Special Dogs emphasized that they are an open group. They would like more members, even people who have never rapped before. Any aspect of hip-hop culture, including art and grafitti, is welcome. Tuba said, Were here to rap and have fun, but were also here to teach.

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