RSO of the Week: UC Hip-Hop Congress

University alumnus Edward Moses remembers the exact day he fell in love with hip-hop.

“On my 15th birthday, my cousin gave me a mixtape by Rawkus Records called Soundbombing II,” Moses said. “I listened to it so many times that I literally wore the tape out … It was hip-hop like I had never heard it before.”

Moses had been familiar with mainstream artists, but this underground release had a huge affect on him. Soon after, he poured through mixtape after mixtape dissecting the beats and styles of the music.

A year later, he began writing his own rhymes, learning the mechanics of breakdancing and participating in high school battles.

With this hunger for all things hip-hop, it was no surprise that Moses went on to join and head the Urbana-Champaign Hip-Hop Congress, a University RSO that seeks to showcase and raise awareness about hip-hop culture.

UC Hip-Hop began in 2001 when students from the Illini Breakdancing Club, Culture Club and the Organization for the Advancement of Hip-Hop Culture joined to form one group.

With a diverse group of members ranging from b-boys to MCs and DJs to graphic designers, the organization gained notoriety in the community with the production of lectures, concerts, battles and mixtapes.

“Between 2003 to 2007, to some extent, we became the authority of people to go to if you wanted to throw a house party in Champaign,” Moses said. “If you wanted a DJ or you wanted to throw a party, then you talked to UC Hip-Hop.”

During these “golden years,” the organization hosted weekly “Chill in the Grill” open mic nights at the Canopy Club as well as a radio show on Illini Media’s WPGU.

Perhaps its most influential contribution, however, is the IL Breaks breakdancing competition. What started in 2003 as a gathering of several hundred people in the Courtyard Café now includes dancers from across the country and attracts nearly a thousand people each year.

Throughout the last several semesters, UC Hip-Hop has undergone a number of changes. Many of the group’s b-boys broke away in 2007 to form Floor Lovers Illinois, a popular RSO that focuses on the breakdancing aspect of hip-hop culture.

A lag period plagued by decreasing membership and campus events soon followed. Shaun Peace, UC Hip-Hop vice president and senior in LAS, attributes this to a lack of strong leadership and interest from students.

“I think there is a space for underground hip-hop in this community, but it’s hard to get people interested in music they aren’t used to,” Peace said.

Under the leadership of Carlos Hernandez, a junior in Media, members are pushing to gain the momentum from previous years.

Hernandez said he strives to make UC Hip-Hop more present on campus. This initiative includes workshops, performances and mixtapes showcasing the group’s artists.

On Nov. 11, the organization will host a rap battle at Cowboy Monkey featuring a number of group members and local talent.

Hernandez also wants to support other hip-hop related events in the area. Members recently attended an Art Theatre showing of “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,” a documentary about the influential hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest.

While he admits event planning can be long and frustrating, he believes the key to success is the passion that members bring as well as their desire to make the organization a “cornerstone” for the Champaign-Urbana community.

“Hip-hop should not be a means to an end,” Hernandez said. “It should be something you live. I think hip-hop has the potential to change a person’s life in a positive way; it certainly changed mine. I don’t know what kind of person I would be without this group.”