Students braved the frigid weather Friday night, March 10, to come together for art, music and community at Chum’s for “We the Art. We the Vibez.” The event highlighted musicians and visual artists from the Brandeis community and beyond—inviting two rappers from the greater Boston area to perform alongside Brandeis students.
The doors opened at 8:30 p.m., welcoming in a healthy crowd of friends and fans, Brandeis students and others, who lit up the room with excitement. Lively chatter, dancing, laughing, hugs and smiles saturated the atmosphere of the venue, creating a warm, welcoming space for performers to feel comfortable in.
Works of art created by Brandeis students were exhibited around the space of the coffeehouse for attendees to enjoy before the musical performances began. Stacy Finley ’16 displayed a vibrant, massive and impressive painting that was placed on the performance stage. The work depicted two figures posed heroically in front of a backdrop of boldly colored bars, created with a similar sensibility as street art. Justus Davis ’19 also contributed works of drawing and collage to be put out on display which were admired on the south wall of the coffeehouse.
By the time emcee Makalani Mack ’17 took to the stage to introduce the first performer, Chum’s was overflowing with the camaraderie of its occupants, all anticipating the performances of their peers and valued guests. To inaugurate the evening, Maegann Stafford ’19, who goes by the stage name Marz, gathered her smooth, soothing vocals to sing a cover of “Royals” by Lorde, which the audience could not help but sing along to. Then, she truly entered her element with a song she had written, “Queendom,” which electrified the crowd. Someone called out from the crowd comparing Marz to the singer-songwriter SZA, a resemblance that was truly accurate for the velvety voice emanating from her serene, collected stage presence.
I feel pretty comfortable saying that the next performer was the highlight of the evening. King J (Jordan Carter), a classically trained percussionist-turned-rapper from Boston University, took to the stage to display his wealth of talent and radiant personality. From the minute he unleashed his first lyrics into the microphone, the crowd went wild and did not cease until the last words were uttered. Alongside him was DJ WhySham (Shamara Rhodes), who had been playing a well-received selection of music even before the first performers were invited on stage.
King J is a name familiar to the Brandeis community, since he was the opening act for the Student Events-sponsored fall concert featuring AlunaGeorge in September of last semester. But even if the name wasn’t familiar to some attendees’ ears, it soon would be. King J’s presence as a performer inspired admiration, laughter and happiness—he really did light up the room from his brilliantly crafted lyrics to his beaming smile. The crowd favorites were his classic “Robert Downey,” and a newer track, “Kitty Kat Freestyle,” paying homage to Beyoncé by sampling the beat from a song off her sophomore album.
Celo (Marcelo Brociner ’18) was another familiar name across campus, an individual any Brandeis student has probably seen once or twice jamming along to the music pulsing through his headphones. If not, maybe you have seen his new music video for his song, “Upwrite,” featuring pianist-singer Michael Harlow ’19.
To sum up Celo’s performance in one word: intense. Intensity was in his eyes, his words, the sweat that he had worked up from performing in such an engaged way with his audience, who seemed to love every minute of it and knew the lyrics like true fans. In one instance, Celo pulled out his phone to use as a prop while he performed and let it fall to the ground and remain there for the rest of his set. Celo cultivated a pulsating, powerful energy in the crowd while he passionately threw himself into his performance.
The high-intensity performance of Celo was hard to follow up, but Peter James stepped up to the task. A local rapper, James, or “PJ” as he was referred to, was met with a swelling of enthusiasm that held steady throughout his performance. The first song he rapped was performed with a fiery presence, enlivening the audience once again after such a lively night. However, PJ showed some variety in his raps by following up with a softer, more romantic rap. It rounded off the night of excitement nicely without losing any of the energy that audience members still retained.