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Too Legit To Quit

Cambridge University Hip Hop Society is spreading the love with good vibes – and great music.

  • Interview
    Lucy Jolin
  • Photography
    Adam Lawrence
- 2 minute read

Two years ago, the Hip Hop Society was an inactive Facebook page. Today it’s a staple of the University’s social scene, says president and third-year engineer Manraj Dhanda (Queens’). “When people say it’s been the best night they’ve had in their three years at Cambridge, it’s an amazing feeling!” he says.

In fact, according to Dhanda, the society’s success is built on the efforts of past president – “and Hip Hop Soc godmother” – Rabeka Zafar, now in her fourth year at Trinity. “Rabeka described the society as a social space for fans of hip hop, grime, R&B and related genres, and that is still true,” Dhanda says. Indeed, for those who want to get up in front of a crowd, the society holds exhibition nights, where anyone can perform whatever they like – which was how Dhanda got involved.

“Rabeka had seen the bars [rap lyrics] I posted on a competition on Facebook, so she messaged me asking if I’d like to perform,” he remembers. “When it was my turn to take the mic I was shaking a bit, but when I spat my first verse, it got such a good reception from the crowd that I grabbed the mic off the stand for the rest of my performance and had an absolute blast.

“The noise of the crowd and the joy on their faces when I looked up triggered such a euphoric feeling, I can still feel it now. Before that session had ended, I’d already decided I would run for president!”

Today, the society introduces newbies to the form and is a welcoming space for other genres and art forms, too. It puts on ‘Jazz x Hip Hop’ nights, encouraging people to rap, sing, dance, tell short stories or perform poetry with jazz band Syzygy. Radio is another way to reach members, with live links posted on the Facebook page for people to listen in and send messages or music requests.

And for the past two years, the Hip Hop Society have attended Formal Hall en masse. “This year,” says Dhanda, “about 50 of us went to Robinson, and had a great time over dinner and socialising in the bar afterwards.”

He says being involved in the society has been a hugely positive experience, both in terms of his own performance skills and working with others. And with more than 200 mailing list sign-ups at Freshers’ Fair this year, Dhanda’s hoping that the love will spread even further.

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