Mix rap, funk and street sounds and throw in bits of previously-recorded music and you’ve got hip hop, which originated in the late 1970s in the South Bronx area of New York City.
Beyond that, the popular music and dance genre can also be a different way of encouraging people to achieve their goals, to be the best they can possibly be.
Now, that’s one way of saying it. Roxi Victorian states it a little differently.
“Hip hop inspired me to be my coolest self,” she said. “It gives me a sense of freedom in my imagination.”
Victorian hopes to share this inspiration with those attending the Baton Rouge Hops Festival and Celebration of All Things Hip Hop.
It’s called the Baton Rouge Hops Festival for short, and Victorian is its coordinator. She’s also a dancer, actress, writer and performing arts educator who earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts in theater and dance from Howard University.
“This is a first for Baton Rouge,” she said. “We’re really excited about the performance and educational opportunities that we have to offer.”
The festival will open Friday, Aug. 12, and run through Sunday, Aug. 14, in the Manship Theatre’s Hartley-Vey Studio Theatre and Hartley-Vey Workshop in the Shaw Center for the Arts. There also will be performances in the Manship Theatre, as well as in the Shaw Center’s plaza and Third Street pavilion.
Victorian is right. The festival will offer a variety of educational and performance opportunities.
“I moved to Baton Rouge about one year ago with my husband,” Victorian said. “I had been facilitating and coordinating a hip hop festival in Washington, D.C. I’m a dancer, and as an artist and educator, I wanted to help legitimize hip hop as an art form.”
Festival highlights will include a touring urban art exhibition titled Art, Beats and Lyrics; a hip hop fashion show; two full-length performances blending poetry, dance, visual arts and live music; a community artists showcase, celebrating dancers and performing artists in the Baton Rouge area; and a break dance battle.
Also scheduled are education workshops, live visual art presentations, African and hip hop dance master classes, a workshop on hip hop theater and special hip hop guests from throughout the country.
“The project was created to engage the public on multiple levels,” Victorian said. “The program’s goals include: bridging the gap between underserved urban populations and middle class groups in Baton Rouge, allowing for reciprocal cultural exchange while creating incentives for residents in the Baton Rouge area to visit downtown.”
The festival will inform people about the history and cultural nuance behind contemporary hip hop, while encouraging participants to create something new.
Or, in other words, “encouraging them to be their coolest selves.”
And one of those ways will be through hip hop theater.
“Hip hop theater is a relatively new genre,” Victorian said. “It presents the hip hop culture in a production, all to tell a story.”
Hip hop theater combines hip hop dance, dialog and urban music to tell contemporary stories told in hip hop vocabulary. These productions appear in a wide range of platforms, from single performances to week-long festivals to traveling repertory companies.
Hip hop theater will come together in Baton Rouge through this festival.
“Hip hop began as a youth movement in the Bronx in New York City as an outlet for young people to examine themselves,” Victorian said. “It forced children to be extremely creative and put emphasis on the individual. It transcends race and cultural divide.”
So, to further share this creativity, the Baton Rouge Hops Festival is hosting workshops for East Baton Rouge Parish educators and will provide models outlining ways to incorporate hip hop into their classroom curricula.
“This is really exciting for us,” Victorian said. “We’ve had good response from teachers.”
The list of special guests for the festival will include Word Becomes Flesh of Oakland, Calif.; and Paige in Full of Washington, D.C. Local hip hop artists will include Lah Live!, Dee 1, Marcel P. Black, Donney Rose, Luke St. John, Dr. Rani Whitfield as “The Hip-Hop Doc” and Phil Mic.
The festival will begin with an opening night reception with entertainment by Kool DJ Supa Mike of Baton Rouge’s 94.1 radio station.
“I am thrilled to have the support of the Manship Theatre at the Shaw Center,” Victorian said. “I am excited about providing community artists and the hip hop community a festival in celebration of their many unique talents. In addition, as an educator, I delight in sharing the wonders of using hip hop as a vehicle to promote literacy and higher educational ideals among youth and in urban communities. We are pleased to have such positive reception and widespread support.”
In the end, everyone will walk away inspired to be the coolest they can possibly be.
Friday, Aug. 12
6 p.m.: opening night reception, Jones Walker Foyer.
Saturday, Aug. 13
10-11 a.m.: Hip Hop Master Class for Beginners - all ages, Hartley-Vey Workshop.
11 a.m.-noon: Workshop I, panel, What is Hip Hop Theatre?, Hartley-Vey Studio Theatre.
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: African Dance Class, all ages and abilities, Hartley-Vey Workshop.
12:15-1:15 p.m.: Poetry/Slam Workshop, panel, Hartley-Vey Studio Theatre.
1:15-2:15 p.m.: Rap Clap Write That, Hartley-Vey Studio Theatre.
2:15-3:15 p.m.: Hip Hop Body Rock master class, Hartley-Vey Workshop.
2:15-3:15 p.m.: Don’t Sweat The Technique - Hip Hop and the Classroom, panel, Hartley-Vey Studio Theatre.
3:30-4:30 p.m.: Electric Boogaloo intermediate/advanced dance class, all ages.
Sunday, Aug. 14
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Workshop II, What is Hip Hop Theatre?, Hartley-Vey Studio Theatre.
12:15-1:15 p.m.: Poetry/Slam Workshop: Theatre and Healing, panel, Hartley-Vey Studio Theatre.
7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday: Paige in Full, performances by Paige Hernandez, Hartley-Vey Studio Theatre.
7 p.m. Friday-Sunday: Word Become Flesh, Manship Theatre.
11 a.m. Friday-Sunday: “Style War!” graffiti battle, plaza, Shaw Center for the Arts.
2 p.m. Saturday: Kicks and Slicks: Hip Hop Fashion Show, Third Street Pavilion at the Shaw Center for the Arts.
Saturday-Sunday: “Wax Poetics” DJ battle, plaza at the Shaw Center for the Arts.
Saturday-Sunday: Break Dance Battle, plaza at the Shaw Center for the Arts.
3 p.m. Sunday: Community Artists Showcase, Manship Theatre.
*All outdoor performances are free.