Freestyle rap show dishes out more than sick beats

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Author: Earl Park

A catchy loop echoes across the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) community center. Sudden breaks, additional tones and original mixes supplement the production as listeners begin to nod their heads to the beat. Audience members looked on in awe at DJs who have honed their craft – locally famous producers who are some of the best in the area.

Such is the scene at a recent Freestyle Friday, a monthly fundraising event hosted by Sessions L.A. – a music writing, recording, production and DJ-ing program for youth and young adults, located in Historic Filipinotown. Producers fill the community center on Freestyle Fridays with their beats, mixing and added live effects.

According to their website,Sessions L.A. aims to, “promote youth development, nurture critical thinking and foster community building through the process of creating music.”

In the beginning of March’s Freestyle Friday session, attendees were asked to contribute to the organization through a suggested donation of $5-$20, but no one was turned away due to a lack of funds.

Local producers Karman and Irren started the show with their respective productions and bided their time until the main event started. Their set consisted of hip-hop beats filled with traditional rap percussion patterns. Many crowd members began spitting rhymes among their friends as the show continued.

The highlight of the community fundraiser came in the form of Duke Westlake’s mixes as he demonstrated his mastery over beat-making and mixing. He transitioned from one beat to the next seamlessly, adding in effects, pauses and scratches with ease. His showcase elicited praise and applause from the audience; even tracks produced only an hour before the event had the crowd grooving.

Eventually, the mic became available to aspiring emcees to cypher (freestyle) over Westlake’s hip-hop beats. Attendees flowed over various beats, exhibiting their mastery of the English language. Wordsmiths were given the opportunity to work with the established Mid-City producers and many seemed to relish the chance.

After all the volunteers made their rounds, the host started up again with a freestyle of his own as the center erupted in a frenzy.

The night culminated in a vinyl sale. Customers were each charged one dollar for each record, with the option to donate more. All proceeds go towards Session L.A.’s efforts to provide classes to local youth.

The next Freestyle Friday in the month of April will be located at 3200 W. Temple St. Historic Filipino town, Los Angeles.

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