By Joe Passero
Seven students battled in a war of words in front of a crowd that jammed out to some of the most unique performances of the year at Rider. The second annual Rider Rhymes was held on Feb.12 in the Cavalla room.
The talents varied from first-time performers to the defending champion, Mawusimensah “Money Makin’ Moose” Mears, a senior business administration major.
The show was broken up into three segments. First were performances constructed completely by each competitor, featuring a number of custom beats. In round two, contestants were provided with a common beat which they had to improvise with. For round three, each contestant selected popular rap songs’ beats at random to rap over.
Jaden “Flexx” Ewan, a sophomore radio, TV and film major and one of the show’s contestants, explained how he prepared for each round.
“I usually prepare for the first round by just [practicing] my song and trying to maintain energy for the performance. The second and third round, I prepare in the same way by writing off the dome to random beats I find; it helps with my flow and versatility,” Flexx said.
The event was created by Brandon Harris, a senior criminal justice major, and organized with Nick Barbati, Rider’s director of campus life.
“I created the event with the idea to give talented rappers a spotlight on campus,” Harris said. “We had R Factor for singers, but nothing for rappers until Rider Rhymes.”
The origins of this event can also be traced back to a show Rider used to host that saw a wealth of rap talent.
“This is something we’ve only been toying with for the last couple of years,” Barbati said. “We used to have an event here called ‘Rider’s Got Talent,’ but the last time we did it, it was jam-packed with student rappers, and we realized we really didn’t have much of an outlet for them. It didn’t feel like a natural fit to put rappers against singers, because they’re different talents, different skills, different types of performances, so the audience seemed there to create an entire show around student rappers that really had an appreciation for hip-hop music.”
Harris and Barbati worked on the second annual Rider Rhymes since the first show ended, but a snow storm endangered the show’s original start time at 10 p.m. After Rider announced the cancellation of all classes after 4:30 p.m. that day, the showtime was moved to 8 p.m. to accommodate the predicted conditions.
“It’s funny how you work all year to make sure that this program you really love happens effortlessly, and then there’s snow, and it throws off everything,” Barbati said.
Looking back on the way it happened, the snow turned out to be beneficial for the event.
“Snow actually helped the show,” Harris said. “Since classes were cancelled, we decided to move up the show two hours instead of waiting around. We had a huge turnout.”
Flexx felt the snow was beneficial to the show’s contestants as well.
“I actually had a night class that night, so the class cancellation was so much relief to me; I would’ve had no time to prepare and I would’ve missed soundcheck. I didn’t know until about 6 p.m. that everything had been moved up on the schedule,” Flexx said.
For aspiring rappers, Flexx said, “Don’t try to be like the rappers now, or even back in the day, find your sound and keep working on it. The more support true artists have for each other, the faster we can make changes and gain influence.”
In the end, circumstances played out to the likings of everyone, and a huge crowd gathered to listen to some of Rider’s elite developing talents. Cymere Lasean, a sophomore musical theater major, was voted the winner of the show for not only his impressive custom track, but also for his explosive freestyles during rounds two and three.
“It was a very humbling experience winning the competition because I put in a lot of work,” Lasean said. “I appreciate everyone who voted for me and I am forever grateful to be able to share my gift with the students here at Rider.”
Published in the 2/20/19 edition.