A Fool for Hip Hop

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Westside native Michael Davis is organizing a public event called ‘Fool’s for Hip-Hop Fest’ to celebrate the positive impact the genre has made in music, art and dancing. It will take place on April 1 at the Vanderelli Room and will feature attractions such as freestyle cyphers, beatboxers, break-dancers and live art demonstrations.

Throughout his life, Michael Davis has found comfort and inspiration in hip-hop.

His interest in the genre was sparked as a pre-teen when he was introduced to now iconic artists from the 1990’s.

“I would listen to them rap about their struggles and would feel a little less alone in the world,” he explained.

And as he grew, so did his passion.

During his teenage years, he would travel with his friends to the Ohio State University campus where they would go to different venues to check out up-and coming artists. They even tried their hand at house rap battles.

“I wasn’t very good at first,” he said with a laugh.

But as he kept at it, he became more confident in his burgeoning skills as a lyricist. He even picked up the nickname ‘Obeast’ for his loud and aggressive style.

Upon graduating from West High School in 2005, Davis decided it was time to leave the scene.

“I figured I really wasn’t going to go anywhere (with his music) so I decided it was time to be an adult who didn’t have time to play anymore,” he said.

Still, he couldn’t resist going out to different venues to discover new artists from time to time.

Eventually, Davis found himself going to Rehab Tavern most Wednesday nights for The Break, a designated night of freestyle cyphers, beatboxers and other hip-hop inspired mediums.
Davis credits The Break for keeping him afloat during tough times.

“I was laid-off, had a hard time finding employment, and was just feeling really low.”

During one of those low days, Davis said he just got onstage and unleashed his frustrations to an encouraging and appreciative crowd.

“It was the best feeling in the world,” he said.

It was also a turning point.

Shortly thereafter, he quit smoking and drinking and started helping friends Josh Miller and Eric Rollin organize live acts for The Break.

It didn’t provide him with a lot of financial help, Davis admitted, but it gave him a purpose.

“Watching all of these people get up on stage, give it their all and get energy from the crowd is a beautiful thing to see,” he said.

Still, Davis felt he had more to do.

One day at Rehab Tavern, Davis was introduced to A.J. Vanderelli, an artist and the curator/owner of The Vanderelli Room.

She invited him to come see her gallery and when he did he said he was hit with a wave of inspiration.

“I got the idea of putting together a live music, art and dancing event that focuses on the positive side of hip-hop,” he said.

He says he often hears negative stereotypes about hip-hop artists and those who enjoy listening to the genre and wanted to upend that kind of thinking.

“Hip-hop has changed my life and inspired me to do so many things,” he said. “I know it’s done the same for many others.”

That belief, he said, is what prompted him to see if Vanderelli would be interested in teaming up to create the ‘Fool’s for Hip-Hop Fest’ to celebrate all things hip-hop, art and dance.

To his surprise and excitement, she said she was interested and would even allow the festivities to take place in her art gallery.

In January, Davis hunkered down and started planning and inviting musical acts, dancers, and artists to come to the event. So far, 16 musical artists have committed to the event. Now, Davis said, all he needs is the public to turn out.

“I think it will be a really fun event,” he said. “Even if you’re not a fan of hip-hop I think there will be some element featured that will strike your interest.”

The ‘Fool’s for Hip-Hop Fest’ will take place from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. on April 1 at the Vanderelli Room, located at 218 McDowell Street, Columbus, OH 43215. It will cost $5 (paid at the door) to attend.

In addition to freestyle cyphers, beatboxers and break-dancers, there will also other live performers and indoor and outdoor attractions. There will also be food and beverages for purchase.

For more information, go to the Events Section on The Vanderelli Room website – www.thevanderelliroom.com – which will link you to the ‘Fool’s for Hip-Hop Fest’ Facebook page.

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