The 17th Trinity International Hip Hop Festival is celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip hop this year. Held on the Trinity College campus from March 30 to April 1, 2023, the festival will showcase talent from Hartford and around the world. All of the events are free and open to the public.
Student organizers in the Trinity chapter of the Temple of Hip Hop sought to encompass the diverse culture of hip hop through a variety of scheduled workshops, concerts, and the popular breakdance battle. Adyanna Odom ’23, an international studies major with a concentration in global studies and global Hip Hop studies and a community action minor, and Tanzanikia Taylor ’23, a sociology major, are the co-lead organizers for the festival.
According to Odom, the Temple of Hip Hop opened the submission process in the fall semester to choose the performers and artists in this year’s lineup with the support of the Hartford community. Odom said, “We have listening parties every year. Through that party, we present all the artists who have submitted their work and it’s open to the public. The Trinity community and the Hartford community both come out and talk about who they want to see and hear, and whose messages stuck with them.”
The headliners for this year’s festival are DJ Zinhle from South Africa and DJs Amira and Kayla from the United States. The Temple of Hip Hop is partnered with the J Dilla Foundation and sponsored by Red Bull Dance.
Odom and Taylor share their insights on being student leaders for the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival, and how their experiences in the hip hop community have been cultivated at Trinity:
How did you first get interested in hip hop?
Odom: I’m from Houston, Texas. My mom is a hip hop fan, so I grew up listening to DJ Screw, who’s a Houston legend, and Tupac, all on cassette. My mom was always keeping up with the latest hip hop songs, and she’s a major supporter of the arts. She’d made sure we were always in arts programs in school, so I grew up around hip hop.
Taylor: I lived hip hop. I was a House DJ, so I grew up listening to a lot of DJ Frankie Knuckles and DJ Honey Dijon—those are the two biggest influences for me. Back home in Chicago, we have a vast arts scene with a lot of hip hoppers. I always knew that hip hop brought community wherever it went.
What significance does the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival have for you?
Odom: I didn’t know global hip hop studies was an academic field of research that people write books and publish articles about. Hip hop is bigger than just rap music, and is also graffiti and breakdancing. The festival is what taught me these things and gave me this knowledge of the larger cultural and revolutionary movement that hip hop really is.
What are your favorite memories or performances you’ve seen at the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival?
Taylor: One of my favorite sections of the festival is actually the Youth 4 Change Showcase. There are really talented kids in Hartford, and every year they come back with the healthy chip on their shoulder to prove that they deserve to be here just as much as everybody else in any other section in this festival.
Odom: It’s given me a unique appreciation for the process. I don’t think people understand that the students that work on the festival birth their ideas from scratch. There’s no blueprint. I love the process of seeing people grow into their ideas and bring them to life. That is so rewarding to me, knowing that I was a resource and able to help someone bring something to fruition.
What events or performances are you most excited about this year?
Odom: This year, our breakdance battle is sponsored by Red Bull Dance, and that’s what I’m most excited to see. In the past years, we’ve been doing what we can to throw it together, and with this new sponsorship, they’re just bringing more quality equipment for the dancers to use. Having this new and better-quality system is just going to create crazy breakdance battles this year.
Taylor: Even though I’m a DJ and love music and sound, my favorite part of the festival to see live is breakdancing. A lot of people don’t know that breakdancing is a great way to resolve conflict. Instead of fighting, you dance. I think that’s one of the healthiest forms of conflict resolution that I personally love to see, and it’s cool to see people do things that you know you couldn’t do yourself. I can’t spin on my head for five seconds straight, but they can. I also really love graffiti, too—the way in which graffiti rebels against beautification.
How did you choose who to invite as this year’s headliners?
Odom: Since it is the 50th anniversary of hip hop this year, we wanted to take the crowd back to where hip hop all began, which is not with a rapper because traditionally we’ve had rappers headline, but a DJ. It started with DJ Kool Herc mixing together drum breaks and disco records, so we wanted to bring that same spirit of hip hop back. Even within that, we wanted to represent where hip hop was, where it began, and where it is going. The co-headliners are DJs Amira and Kayla, who are world-renowned DJs and twin teenage girls who are going to take us through the 50 years of hip hop. They are so talented and know the traditional techniques of DJing, which is mixing actual vinyl records together. We went with DJ Zinhle because she is actually an Afro House DJ and the number-one female DJ in Africa. Even though she’s doing Afro House, that is the future of DJing and hip hop with further collaborations and innovation.
What makes this Trinity International Hip Hop Festival stand out from previous years?
Taylor: I’m really excited that we have an inclusive lineup this year because in the past, it was mostly men. To have a lineup where we have women and women-centered folks on the stage is something so powerful not only for the Hartford community, but for hip hop.
How does your involvement with the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival connect to your academic and career goals at Trinity and beyond?
Taylor: You don’t have to have your life together to start living life. It’s something that artists in the festival have shown me, that the life of an artist is a grind. You’re struggling day in and day out trying to make ends meet, put your art out there, and get people to respect your art. Even though it’s a daily struggle, they still find a way to smile and live life. That’s the biggest impact that the festival has had on me academically and career-wise.
Odom: The festival has completely changed my life’s trajectory. I used to think I wanted to be a politician or lawyer because that’s all that seemed available and attainable to me and respected in my family. Those are career paths that I see other people like me having, but being in the festival made me realize where my passion really lies. It’s with building community, helping people, and helping artists specifically gain visibility and resources they deserve. Whether it be through my thesis being on breakdancing and highlighting women and queer people’s voices in the breakdance scene, or the jobs I’m looking at for post-grad, which is among that same category of community-oriented jobs about artists and how to advocate for them. I’ve gotten to meet real artists’ managers, and I learned that this is something that you can really do and a career path you can follow.
Why do you think the Temple of Hip Hop and Trinity International Hip Hop Festival are important to the Trinity and Hartford communities?
Taylor: From our foundation as the Temple of Hip Hop, we’ve always considered ourselves that bridge between Hartford and the Trinity community, but specifically, we are here for Hartford. We’ve always wanted them to feel comfortable being in Trinity spaces. The festival is one way to show residents that they can come to Trinity and feel welcomed. We’ve had over 400 artists from all over the world from every continent except Antarctica. It’s always been important to us to showcase that aspect of hip hop that isn’t just domestic or U.S.-centered, but it’s global.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
THURSDAY, MARCH 30:
12:15-1:30 p.m.—KEYNOTE LECTURE
Keynote and opening lecture by Imani Kai Johnson, speaking about her new book, Dark Matter in Breaking Cyphers, in the Rittenberg Lounge
FRIDAY, MARCH 31:
11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.—GRAFFITI
All-day graffiti contest; the best three pieces take home a prize
12:15-1:15 p.m.—PRODUCTION WORKSHOP
J Dilla Foundation will be hosting a production workshop in Austin Arts Room 104; open to all
4:00-8:00 p.m.—DANCE WORKSHOP
Red Bull Dance will be hosting auditions and workshop in the Washington Room
8:00 p.m.—BREAKDANCE BATTLE
Watch the 3v3 Breaking and 4v4 Allstyles preliminary battles in the Washington Room
SATURDAY, APRIL 1:
11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.—GRAFFITI
All-day voting on IG for the best three pieces
12:15-1:15 p.m.—PRODUCER PANEL
J Dilla Foundation will be hosting a production panel in the McCook Auditorium
1:30-3:00 p.m.—YOUTH 4 CHANGE SHOWCASE
Come to the Gates Quad to celebrate the hip hop talent of Hartford youth
3:30-5:00 p.m.—PRODUCER SHOWCASE
Join the J Dilla Foundation to hear some of their beats and showcase your own in Room 102 of the Austin Arts Center
5:00-6:30 p.m.—FAVORITES SHOWCASE
Come to the annual Favorites Showcase and perform for a chance to be on the main concert stage next year
8:00-10:00 p.m.—BATTLE FINALS
See the creme of the crop battle it out for a grand prize in the Washington Room
11:00 p.m.-2:00 a.m.—MAIN CONCERT NIGHT
Come together for a classic hip hop party featuring a lineup of rappers and DJs in the Washington Room