Will Sayer: Lead Youth Worker

Young people have been at the heart of this project but along the way they have worked REPPIN ENDZ ROMA SESSION I (7 of 12)alongside various members of staff who have supported the young people’s journey. Will was keen to do a project about hip hop history in Derby and had worked on the Reppin Endz 1 project. He wanted to engage young people with the roots of hip hop and was the main youth worker on the project…

It all started with an idea
So, why did I come up with the idea of putting together a project and documentary to engage young people in our city’s history regarding Hip Hop culture? Well, firstly, I believe the new generation have nowhere to find this knowledge, which has resulted in vital elements of Hip Hop culture diminishing with the older generation of artists.
Secondly, I believe, that if the new generation knew the roots from which they had sprouted, some of the self-destructive nature would stop and Hip Hop could once again be about peace, love and unity. So I put the blueprint on paper and took it to Culture Train. We put together a solid steering team and secured the funding.

Interviews with legends
Throughout this project the young people have been obtaining historical information from various different sources such as; the internet, history books, photographs and lyrics but most importantly and definitely the most insightful and interesting of the bunch were the face to face interviews with some of UK Hip hops biggest legends.

Who has been interviewed, and why it was important to include them.
If we’re talking about Derby’s HHH we had to start with Baby J. As Derby’s direct link to Wu-tang it was essential. However, keeping it UK, he also raised the fact that he produced the infamous “Council Estate of Mind” by the legendary Skinny man, so of course we had to meet him. The interview was extremely interesting and informative. We also spoke with Hip Hop DJ BFG and former club owner where Hip Hop jams used to go down. He had a lot of knowledge to drop. We spoke with many Graffiti artists including our own “Sire” as well as new school Rappers like Eyez and myself (JD) to give our views from another perspective. 

The young people have learned in depth the difference in style and evolution of Graffiti through the years of Hip Hop culture, from research on the internet, documentaries and interviews with Derby’s best old school Graffiti artists and have even taken part in practically demonstrating what they have learnt on canvas. They were taught by the best this City has to offer, Sire, the legend himself! They design timelines of the styles through the decades. They even designed their own graffiti “tag” and put them on to clothing.

We had some brilliant old photos, and books depicting the changes in style through the years and the young people loved it! It was great to see them involved in the culture and comment on the changes throughout the years.

The young people researched how rapping developed over the decades from the nursery rhyme styles rapped over breakbeats in the 70s and 80s to the more lyrically clever styles of the 90s and beyond. They focused on the key elements of rapping; Flow, delivery, content, multi-syllable rhyme schemes, metaphors and charisma. The young people took part in writing lyrics and rapping to a crowd of their peers. It was wonderful to watch. They interviewed new and older Emcees that told their stories and what they remember of the decades of evolution.

DJ’ing & Beat making
The young people took to the live demonstration of the changes in beat making and the skills of the old school DJs. They learnt of how in the 70s and 80s, most beats were created live by the DJ cutting the breaks of different tracks together and creating the get down parties. We then moved on to sampling and how producers would sample records in to MPC players and play original beats that way through hitting the pads. They learned about the influence of technology and how computers changed the game when they brought out software designed to make instrumentals from the comfort of their own homes. It was a crazy journey and I feel like they had come along for the ride. They really seemed to enjoy it.

The young people researched the changes in Hip Hop fashion over the decades on the internet and even had access to some old Hip Hop magazines, from which they cut out different styles and stuck them in a timeline creating a great piece of artwork. They even designed some of their own clothes and got inspiration from interviews with some older Derby Hip Hop heads. We expected the girls to enjoy this the most but the boys loved it just as much if not more, designing old style hip hop jewellery from foil and other materials. It was educating yet extremely fun at the same time.

Hip Hop breaks down barriers
Hip Hop started out in the park. In times of great depression, poverty and oppression, it was a way for Black and Latino Americans to spread unity and positivity throughout New York. Little did they know it would travel the globe and break down barriers of race and ethnicity throughout the world. Although it has gained somewhat of a bad reputation for vulgarity and sometimes violent lyrics, it has become the voice of the voiceless for so many people worldwide. This is why we enjoyed working with young people from the Roma community. Like minorities in the US, the Roma community have been historically outcast in society and can often feel as though they do not have a voice. This can result in some of these young people expressing themselves through Hip Hop culture.  The struggle is real for these young people. Roma can find themselves trapped in a life of poverty and self-destruction, due to society’s stereotyping of them and their cultural differences. Kicked out of school, struggling to gain employment. They cling on to hope and tell their story through Hip Hop music. These young people are so artistically talented, sometimes rapping in three different languages and telling a story through their own eyes. I feel blessed to have heard and witnessed what I did. This was a brilliant project…