So You Think You Can Rap? These Students Did, and They Won Scholarships

Students who participated in a rap competition won up to $1,000 in scholarships.

Devin Oommen, Staff Writer

As discussions of free speech dominate popular culture, College of DuPage students were provided an opportunity to express themselves freely through hip-hop performances with a $1,000 scholarship prize on the line for the top performer.

During the week of April 19, the college hosted a Hip-Hop Summit. The summit featured four events with the second event allowing students to participate in a hip-hop competition on April 20. David Swope, manager of the Center for Student Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) said the competition aligned with the objectives of DEI to engage students and allow expression of their voice.

Students attend the Hip-Hop Summit’s rap competition (Provided by Alter Ego Productions)

“That’s what hip hop has. It has the culture of expression of a voice that was not allowed in other platforms,” said Swope. “It allows students or people to be able to say this is where we are, this is how we feel. These are our thoughts, and we’re going to put it out there in the form where you can get it and understand it.”

The competition offered prizes to the top 3 performers in the form of $1,000, $500 and $250 scholarship awards.

Swope said some students who attended the event were encouraged to perform after seeing their peer’s performances. According to Swope, his department’s objective is to engage more students in campus activities with a focus on inclusion, and seeing students who did not attend with the intention of performing choosing to become more involved aligns with that objective.

“It builds a certain degree of confidence and identity awareness,” said Swope. “‘Who am I?’ and ‘How do I share that?’”

First place winner Abdul Khan said rapping has been a hobby of his for at least two years, but this was his first time performing. Khan, who goes by the stage name Ph4nt0m_616, said the message he wanted to convey included the impacts of society on individuals and struggles with internal and external expectations of identity.

“Be a person that’s diverse, that’s not limited to only one thing,” said Khan. “That person can be many things. You can’t judge a person just by how that person looks or his job title.”

Khan said he hopes to earn an associate’s degree at COD and study molecular and cellular neuroscience and eventually become a neurosurgeon.

DJ Vestus at the rap competition. (Provided by Alter Ego Productions)

Second place winner, Ayrton Seri, also said it was his first time performing.

“I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. It feels good having done that. It was nerve-wracking at first,” said Seri.

Seri is an architecture student who raps, sings and makes beats in his free time. Seri’s stage name is 3abundio. He rapped about the pandemic, and how it felt for him to recall the lockdown.

Swope said the first rap competition was hosted in 2019, but the plans to continue hosting the event annually were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. He encouraged students interested in these events to be attentive to emails they get in their student accounts. Swope hopes to continue the competition and the Hip-Hop Summit annually.

The Hip-Hop Summit events were hosted in collaboration with Counseling, Advising and Transfer Services, Student Life, Student Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Alter Ego Productions, and the Black Student Alliance.