Hip-Hop Collective BBU Makes Politics Peppy

Julia Hubay, Staff Writer

Although BBU arrived hours behind schedule, the group jumped right into action Tuesday night at the ’Sco, quickly setting up and energizing the crowd for a high–energy show. The performers maintained a frenetic pace throughout the entire show, rapping and dancing at break-neck speeds.

BBU, the name for the hip-hop collective specializing in juke (house music from Chicago), stands alternatively for Bin Laden Blowin’ Up and Black, Brown and Ugly, indicating the political activism present in its lyrics and mission at large. The “BBU crew” is composed of DJ Esquire and three MCs — Epic, Illekt and Jasson Perez — all of whom were charismatic and good-humoured, laughing at each other and joking with the audience between songs. The MCs bounced around the stage, clearly having a blast performing their peppy songs.

Thanks to apathy or timidity, the audience at the ’Sco can be hesitant to participate in call-and-response exchanges with performers (or even to dance with much enthusiasm). But from the start of BBU’s set, the few dozen fans scattered through the ’Sco willingly responded to the question “BB who?” with a resounding “What it do!” and polite head nodding quickly turned into uninhibited, joyful dancing.

Although the music was fun and danceable, the tone of the show was also quite heavy, addressing political and social issues both through lyrics and quips between songs. In a particularly poignant moment, the performers and the audience raised peace signs in the air in memory of Trayvon Martin.

BBU’s songs addressed issues of racism, sexism, economic disparity and the marginalization of many minority groups across all social spheres. Although some of the lyrics could be interpreted as offensive, their tactic seems to be hyperbolizing issues in order to expose their hypocrisy, strangeness and irrationality. Their method also calls attention to social problems that are typically overlooked and dismissed as insignificant, effectively restoring the import and meaning of these issues.

But the music’s weighty message didn’t bring down the mood of the concert: People danced freely, surrendering themselves fully to the music. Audience members hopped around, shook their hips and waved their arms in the air. Though the ’Sco was far from packed, the empty spaces were filled by the jubilant movement and energy of the crowd.

The lyrics’ wittiness also added to the fun atmosphere. Sometimes, the MCs would spit lyrics individually with great intensity and emotion. More often, however, they rapped in unison, their distinct voices melding into a unified voice of young Americans seeking to effect social change in a world perceived as unfair and dissatisfying. Their set was punctuated with pop-culture references and statements about America’s current political climate: One minute they were rapping to a “Barbie Girl” beat and the next they were referring to the prolific “BASEDGOD” Lil’ B. The juxtaposition of incongruous cultural phenomena and unexpected comparisons added to the feeling of absurdity fostered by the magnified focus on social issues, parodying various aspects of U.S. culture.

After a while, the beats all started to sound the same, and the songs felt a bit repetitive. BBU is certainly skilled at creating danceable, exciting songs, but it lacks range. Hopefully it will expand its artistic repertoire and avoid stagnating in a specific niche. BBU certainly has an important message to convey: moving forward as a culture is reliant on our constant re-evaluation and challenging of social problems. And, despite the limited scope of its repertoire, it has developed a good strategy for delivering this message — making it digestible and funny rather than antagonistic and aggressive.

About an hour after BBU began to rile up the crowd, the audience members were happily tired from moving and shaking on the dance floor, but they also seemed ready to take the lessons of BBU and apply them to more serious aspects of life. BBU’s music and lyrics were uplifting without being sugar-coated, affirming our power to effect change without making serious issues seem too large to overcome.