On Monday, May 16, Jermaine Wells discussed the history of hip-hop and played songs with his band, The Ill Funk Ensemble.
Wells is originally from the Bronx and is the front man of Ill Funk. In addition to singing and rapping, Wells is schooled in music, acting, writing and production. He has also worked as a DJ and MC. He has made appearances on MTV, the Apollo Showtime, print ads, feature films and TV commercials.
Ill Funk was founded in 2005 in Albany, New York. Wells sings and raps alongside BJ FitzGerald on the guitar, Justin Metz on the bass and Dennis Brooks on the drums. The band describes itself as a mash-up of hip-hop, neo-soul, R&B and rock.
Currently, the band is making a name for themselves in the independent music scene, performing at more than 100 shows per year all over the Northeast.
Emerson Auditorium was crowded with students awaiting Wells’ talk. He opened up his “The Hip-Hop Lifestyle and it’s Global Takeover” presentation by performing Ill Funk’s original song “Summertime” from their first album.
After the song, Wells started his presentation on hip-hop’s role not only as an art form, but also as a lifestyle and a culture. “Hip-hop’s role is not just music,” he stated. He then gave a brief overview of what hip-hop is.
Wells also noted that not many people know that rap is actually an acronym for “rhythm and poetry” and that there are four main elements of hip-hop. These elements are defined as: b-boying, MCing, graffiti and knowledge and culture.
Wells then detailed the contributions notable artists have had on the hip-hop industry. He credited DJ Kool Herc with originating hip-hop music in 1972. DJ Kool Herc is originally from Jamaica but began his music career in the Bronx.
The aspiring rapper was at a back-to-school party one night and decided that he wanted to try something new with his music. Instead of playing whole records, he played the instrumental parts and mixed them together, creating the beginning of hip-hop music.
Next, Wells talked about the first hip-hop record label, Def Jam Recordings. Def Jam was founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons in a dorm room at NYU. Since then, it has grown to be the most successful hip-hop label, representing artists such as Jay Z, Rihanna and Kanye West.
Other notable artists that Wells credited as contributors to the hip-hop music world were Will Smith, the comedic rapper, Eminem, “the real deal white rapper” and LMFAO, promoters of real dance hip-hop music. Wells also noted that the Beastie Boys were the first group of Caucasian rappers. Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine were among some of the first hip-hop rock groups.
Wells then mentioned the Jabbawockeez as “some Asians who have taken over hip-hop dance” and Prince, a “great producer and songwriter.”A fascinating part of Wells’ presentation was when he stated, “when you listen to hip-hop you see the drums are heavy, the bass is heavy– that’s a link from Africa.”
Ill Funk also performed covers of many crowd-pleasers. These included: “Getting’ Jiggy Wit It” by Will Smith, “Big Poppa” by Biggie Smalls and “California Love” by 2Pac.
The most interesting part of the presentation was toward the end, when Wells stated that Iggy Azalea, a female Australian rapper signed by T.I., “raps like a black southern woman.”
During the question and answer session, someone inquired if it was appropriate to compare Azalea to a southern black woman. In response, Wells asked the audience if it was appropriate for Eminem to rap about drugs or domestic abuse. Wells argued that it is appropriate, ending his presentation with declaring, “hip-hop is an expression that is unforgiving.”