Drop it like its (hip hop)

Story Highlights

  • Local rapper Paul Carmazzi opens up about his passion
  • Andre Nickatina to come to SLO Brew March 13th
  • Ethnic Studies: Hip-Hop, Poetics & Politics offered at Cal Poly

Featured Rap Artist: Paul Carmazzi 

“I really like to center around groovy funky beats, uplifting and motivating beats, and the occasional hardcore beat when I feel like wrecking havoc.”

Paul Carmazzi, Cal Poly agribusiness senior, is making his debut as a rapper on March 7th in Phillips Hall at a class event. Carmazzi has been rapping for two years, after simply picking it up as a hobby due to his love for writing.

“I have always been into poetry and many other forms of literature, so when I started listening to hip hop, it was only natural that I started singing along and saying to myself, ‘I can do this for fun’ and that’s all the validation I needed,” Carmazzi said.

Though Carmazzi has not recorded any of the music he produces, and has never done an official performance, he is looking forward to the upcoming opportunity. He ultimately hopes that in the future he will be able to gain enough experience to truly perfect his work.

“I’m a little nervous to be honest but mostly excited,” Carmazzi said. “I really just wish I had more experience with a mic to know how my beat-boxing will sound and how to articulate into it.”

According to Carmazzi, his friends were the key inspiration that lead to his love of hip-hop. Nowadays, he spends his time writing lyrics, which take him any time between a few hours and a few days.

“I just started rhyming and writing for the fun of it, but the initial motivation factor were my friends,” Carmazzi said. “They brought me into the world of hip hop and I just fell in love with the beats, word play, story telling, messages, etc.”

In Carmazzi’s writing process, a lot of thought goes into what he wants to communicate through his music. The time he spends working on lyrics is when he is most relaxed and truly enjoying himself.

“There are so many elements that go into the creation of a song,” Carmazzi said. “What’s my message? Does that word fit here? Can I squeeze in more syllables in this bar? It’s fun to break your work down and see how it can get better.”

Carmazzi writes with passion, leaving him emotional lyrics that send a strong message. His work truly fits under the realm of hip-hop, reflecting personal experiences through powerful phrases.

“My inspiration to write is mostly emotion driven. Whatever I am feeling the moment my pen touches the paper is how my work will be shaped,” Carmazzi said. “It also depends on what beat I choose but that comes from emotion too.”

Hip Hop Studies

Not only does the SLO hip-hop scene exist among friend groups, but in the Cal Poly realm of education as well. Carmazzi is one of many students enrolled in Ethnic Studies course Hip Hop, Poetics, and Politics.

This class give a unique opportunity for students to learn about the history of hip-hop. For the final exam of the class all students are required to attend a “Hip-Hop Symposium,” where several students, including Carmazzi, will be performing.

This event is taking place this upcoming Thursday, and along with an opportunity for student rappers to perform, the class will get to see the hip-hop styling of rapper “Tall Paul” who is flying in from Minnesota.

Jenell Navarro, professor of the hip-hop studies class, feels passionate about teaching material that she has always been familiar with.

“I grew up in the hip-hop generation and hip-hop was always something I loved. I saw both Black and Native artists producing hip-hop and it was always something that stayed with me,” Navarro said. “I conducted my dissertation research about Indigenous revolutionary hip-hop across the Americas and that greatly deepened my knowledge about hip-hop and led to my teaching of Hip-Hop Studies.”

Navarro is taking time after class to discuss last minute details of the symposium to students. After spending the class period letting students rehearse their songs, she feels that they are ready and hopes the event will be a successful one.

Navarro feels that her version of an interactive final is just as effective as a regular test. This being the first symposium she has put on, she is excited for all of the talent she has seen in years past to finally be recognized on stage.

“While a written exam has a purpose, so does an event like this one,” Navarro said. “Namely, we are bringing what we’ve studied all quarter long to our campus community and sharing our gained knowledge with them to highlight the significant historical, social, and political contributions that hip-hop has to offer.”

Though Hip-Hop, Poetics, & Politics is the only class at Cal Poly offered on hip-hop studies, Navarro sees a lot of interest from students, claiming there is always a very long wait-list for the class. She encourages students to show interest, even if they do not have any background in the field.

After taking the class, she hopes that students can get a feel of all components of hip-hop, including both the history and the act of singing and dancing.

“It’s my hope that students start to embody hip-hop culture as a form of ‘learn by doing,'” Navarro said. “Even for those students who do not necessarily rap or break dance, it is crucial to participate in the showcasing of these forms in order to really understand them.”

Navarro hopes that the symposium will be influential to both the performers and the audience. Ultimately, she hopes that people can enjoy themselves while fully getting a grasp of the what the class has to offer.

“I hope the students leave with an embedded understanding of hip-hop culture and hip-hop studies, that is necessarily both theoretical and performed,” Navarro said. “I hope the audience has a small window into some of the content of our class and also leaves with a greater appreciation of hip-hop culture, and I hope everyone has a little bit of fun!”

Upcoming Hip-Hop Events

Andre Nickatina

The most popular upcoming hip-hop event in SLO will feature both Andre Nickatina and Fan Biz. This esteemed event will take place on March 13 at 8:00 at SLO Brew, leaving local fans very excited.

Nickatina is a well known rapper originally from the bay area. In the past few years he has released popular albums including “Cocaine Inc,” “Khan! The Me Generation,” and last years album named “Andre Nickatina.”

(Courtesy of Nicki Brower) Nickatina’s most recent album of 2013 debuted at #46 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart as well as #12 on the Heatseekers Albums chart. This has been his most successful album thus far.

Freshman communication studies major Caitlin Roshani is one of the many fans that can’t wait for the upcoming concert.

“I’ve been an Andre Nickatina fan since 6th grade when a friend’s older sibling introduced me to him,” Roshani said. “I’ve known every word to ‘Conversation with a Devil’ since I was 11. I’ve never seen him in concert so I’m very excited to see him in a couple weeks.”

Roshani has only been to one concert at SLO Brew, but loved the venue and can’t wait to see Nickatina perform there. Originally from LA, she has always been an avid concert goer, especially when it comes to hip-hop events.

“I love rap and hip-hop and Andre Nickatina makes music that you can bump your head to…the lyrics aren’t necessarily relatable but everyone needs some hood rap that just makes you feel tough,” Roshani joked.

Computer Science junior Nicki Brower is also looking forward to attending the concert, claiming she has been a Nickatina fan since her sophomore year of high school.

“I heard the lyrics ‘my name is Nicki but you can call me Dre’ and just thought ‘wow okay this dude has a song with my name in it, he must be worth checking out,” Brower said.

Brower appreciates Nickatina’s music for its up-beat feel and due to the fact that he differentiates himself from other hip-hop artists. Usually an avid EDM fan, Brower makes an exception for Nickatina when it comes to this genre of music.

“My favorite part about his music is that each song is extremely unique. You can tell that he loves to create different songs that have a catchy beat no one has really heard before,” Brower said. “Plus his music varies from the pumped-up-party feel to the sit-back-and-chill feel so if I’m feeling rap music one day, I have a range of songs to choose from that can match whatever mood I’m in.”

Brower, like Roshani, has an appreciation for SLO Brew and having the opportunity to attend these events even though she is under 21.

“It’s almost as if I can get a little glimpse into the bar scene even though I’m really just there for a concert,” Brower said.

Other upcoming hip-hop events:

       Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

       What: Hip-hop group performing from 1992-present

       Where/when: March 7th, SLO Brew


       What: Music festival featuring various artists, including some hip-hop.

       Where/when: April 11-13 and April 18-20 in Indio, CA

       Paid Dues

       What: Popular annual hip-hop festival held in California

       Where/when: To be announced

       Rock the Bells  

       What: Annual hip-hop festival originating in Southern California

       Where/when: To be announced

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