BECA student weaves education, hip hop
December 6, 2007 9:39 AM
Mandeep Sethi stood in a circle of about 10 students in Malcolm X Plaza on a recent Friday evening . The sun was setting. One student cupped his hands to his mouth and blew a beat. Eighteen-year-old Sethi started to rhyme.
“Check-a, check-a one two, I come through the night straight damagin’ your crew,” Sethi said, letting the words roll off the top of his mind. “If you really want to get it, I can give you what you’re missin’, verbal gimmicks, now listen.”
He hit a word just right with the rhythm and the others gave a slow, “Ahhhhhh” of approval. Then as quickly as it started his freestyle was over and the next guy started to flow.
A broadcasting and electronic communication arts major, Sethi uses hip-hop not only to express himself, but also to raise money for charity and to educate and entertain elementary school children during after-school programs.
SF State professor Felix Kury asked students in his Latino Health Care Perspectives class this semester to fundraise for Clinica Martin Barò, which he created with the help of SF State and UC San Francisco students. Sethi is in the class. So, to fulfill the assignment, he organized an event called Hip-Hop in the Plaza, also in Malcolm X plaza, which happened Nov. 28.
“I could help with their events or I could create my own,” Sethi said. “So I said, ‘fuck it,’ and [fundraising for the clinic] is a dope-ass cause and hip-hop is good for that.”
By selling pizza at Hip-Hop in the Plaza, Sethi raised nearly $150 for the clinic.
In his spare time Sethi works for Definitive Education, an after-school program that educates children in music, physical fitness, language and art through different aspects of hip-hop. Sethi teaches writing, poetic language and reading skills through the art of emceeing.
“We have call and response activities we’ll do,” said Sethi. “The girls and even the dudes are always writing lyrics there, and they’re like six through eight [years old].”
Sethi said he is constantly developing his own emcee abilities.
“I think his lyrical stylings are more akin to spoken word put over a beat,” said Bob Sas, a graduate teaching assistant, who first met Sethi in an oceanography lab last lab. “He focuses more on what he says with his lyrics than weaving his words into the music.”
Sethi has performed at such venues as the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Poleng Lounge in San Francisco. He’s involved with several different bands and crews. Souled Out Underground, a San Francisco-based label, lists him as one of their artists. He has also performed as a lyricist for Black Mahal, a band self-described as a Punjabi hip-hop, jazz, funk experience.
Most of Sethi’s songs, several of which can be heard on MySpace, revolve around topics such as culture, politics, prejudice and personal philosophy.
“He speaks about issues, not like these fake Emcees who are talking about nothin’,” said Cobe Obeah, a 20-year-old accounting major, who has rapped with Sethi a few times. He first met Sethi when he asked to perform at Obeah’s SF State hip hop performance a year and a half ago.
“He gets straight to the point,” Obeah said. “If he wants something, he’s going to get it.”
In Sethi’s song, “Place Where I Live,” he talks about wearing a turban in the United States after the 9/11 tragedy. Sethi comes from a Los Angeles family that practices Sikhism.
“I just talk about things I see on a daily basis and a lot of the things I’m learning about the world is funneled through my rhymes,” said Sethi. “I think music is a reflection of the time and the place of where I am and what I’ve seen.”
In Sethi’s Sunset District room, comic figurines of Batman, Oscar from Sesame Street and others line the window sill and other surfaces. On his desk are speakers, a mixer, a laptop and in the closet a Rode MT1A microphone waits to record. All this is his arsenal for producing his album titled, “When Comic Books Meet Hip Hop,” which doesn’t have a release date yet.
Sethi eased into the closet, tapped the space bar on the laptop and shut the mirrored door. The cursor in the audio recording program started to move.
“Get out of my face professor,” he said. “Don’t stress me. I got enough finals to do, can’t you see. I need to MC to get it out my system, this is what I’m missin’ so I catch the rhythm.”
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