Student Musician Spotlight: Bodega Beats Rapper Jahi


This week, Blog is spotlighting five Brown and RISD student musicians, all of whom will be performing this Saturday night at the Bodega Beats live session at The Spot Undeground. Every day, we’ll publishing an interview, one musician talking to another. Yesterday, the event’s two DJs, Michael Moyal (aka Mulga) and Raye Sosseh (aka Chartreux) interviewed each other.

Today, Blog brings you an interview with rapper Jahi Abdur-Razzaq (Brown ’17). Jahi is interviewed by Dolapo Akinkugbe (Brown ’16), aka DAP The Contract. They discuss everything from the concept of “home,” to the best Nas album, to “S&M” by Rihanna. Definitley keep reading if you’re looking for some good rap recommendations. You can check out Jahi’s work on Soundcloud.

Tomorrow, DAP will be interviewed by rapper Sebastían ( )tero.


“Tell Your Friends” by the Weeknd starts to play.

Dolapo: The first question I have for you is: what is your primary purpose for making music? What do you want to do with your music?

Is it for fun? Is it therapy for you? Is it therapy for other people?

Jahi: It’s therapy for me, but by accident almost. I was just obsessed with the idea of making music, it was something that I thought was so cool and that I had to participate in.

So I was like, yo — let me participate in it. When I started, I didn’t even put a lot of what was in me into the songs — which is what I wanted to say. So, I changed what I wanted to say into just saying everything that’s in my head. Telling my story: how I be feelin’. Even if it’s not my story — how I’m feeling through somebody else’s story.

D: I feel like a lot of artists start off just joining in because it’s cool, and then they realize how helpful it is for them, and that breeds more passion for it. Then you really start to get shit off your chest — and that makes it, I think, for everyone. So, this latest project you’ve put out, what’s it called again?

J: Home for the Summer.

D: What was that inspired by? What did you get off your chest in the making of that project?

J: What sparked it was just the idea of being between home and college. I was like, yo, like this is actually something that’s crazy, this phenomenon.

D: It really is. We really don’t talk about it enough. They’re really polarized lifestyles.

J: Yeah! The real thing is like, there’s vacation, right? And anybody can have vacation. It doesn’t have to be college. People have vacations. So, the whole thing is about stress. It’s about being as stressed as I am here — it’s nuts.

But from the beginning it’s stress and trying to figure out how to work with that stress, and then trying to get rid of it. Once you try to get rid of something like that with the wrong things, it kinda just messes it up for you. All that happened to me, and I was just like, “Screw it!”

D: Yeah. Going home for the summer for people is a very — especially, I come from Nigeria, so going home for winter, for me, for Christmas, is a culture shift like crazy. What’s home like for you? You’re from Brooklyn, right? Where in particular in Brooklyn?

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Students who do cool things: Olivia Pecini RISD ’16 and Maddie Dennis RISD ’17, co-founders of Muse’s Milk

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Meet Olivia Pecini RISD ’16 and Maddie Dennis RISD ’17, co-founders of Muse’s Milk, a website that highlights “women working in various creative fields—to share their origin stories, promote their work, and offer readers advice from the women making the art world spin.” The talented RISD Animation-majors themselves have interviewed a range of professional women from production designers and art directors to writers and fashion photographers. I sat down, BlogDH-interviewer-to-Muse’s-Milk-interviewers (sooo meta), to learn more about the development and growth of the site. Check out the interview below if only to be reminded that our neighbors down the Hill are pretty f*cking cool.

BlogDH: In your own words, what is Muse’s Milk and how did the idea develop?

Olivia: It started back in January when Maddie and I realized that a lot of people at RISD don’t really have female artists as inspiration. Even we realized that in naming our favorite artists, most of them weren’t women.

Maddie: We’re both animation majors and the field is very male-dominated. Essentially, we wanted the site to be a place to celebrate women working in creative fields, whether it’s visual arts or music. It was an opportunity to poke around for interesting women in fields we want to be in.

BlogDH: Is there a story behind the name?

Olivia: Essentially we had no idea what to call it and we were coming up with names for a month, and constant streams of lousy titles. So then I asked my friend who’s an art history major for literally any reference that might be fitting. It was true desperation. She sent me a list, and there was this one that was really bizarre— “the muse’s milk.” Supposedly the breast milk of a muse will give you endless creativity.

Maddie: As soon as you told me about it you said, “this is pretty weird, but what do you think?” And I was like “oh yeah.” (laughs). I think we wanted something that made people question, and having a name like that will at least make people look at our site a little longer. We kind of went from there. It’s not a dramatic story, it just happened!

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An interview with Startup@Brown lead organizer Valentin Perez ’18


Even in an era of startup culture, where buzz terms like “disruptive innovation” and “knowledge economy” dominate headlines, College Hill stands out for its potential for digital creativity and innovation. The presence of both Brown and RISD on this elevated land has given rise to events like Hack@Brown and a Better World by Design, programs dedicated to the marriage of tech and aesthetics. And yet, for all these opportunities, there remains a notable lack of events focused solely on the startups themselves–with all the creative, financial, and corporate challenges that actually “starting up” a startup entails.

Filling this niche was the idea behind Startup@Brown, a self-described “weekend-long conference from Sept. 26–27 at Brown University that brings together innovative startups and talented students.” Blog sat down with Startup@Brown’s lead organizer Valentin Perez ’18, a sophomore dual-concentrating in CS and Applied Math. Originally involved with both the Brown Entrepreneurship Program and Hack@Brown, Valentin talked to us about some of his influences, the goals of the conference, and what attendees can expect from the first ever Startup@Brown.

What led to your decision to revive Startup@Brown?

I was looking through a Google Drive with photos from Hack@Brown and happened to see a logo for Startup@Brown, so I asked what it was. I’m really into startups. The original creators–Mackenzie Clark and Molly Long–had the idea together, but it had never fully happened because they didn’t have the time to follow through with the event. For me, when I saw it, I asked and they explained what happened and I told them that I had actually been thinking of doing something like this, partly because of my involvement with the Brown Entrepreneurship Program. I was thinking it could be a collaboration between the Brown Entrepreneurship Program and Hack@Brown. Then Atty and Sharon (Atty Reddy ’17 and Sharon Lo ’16, co-directors of Hack@Brown) put us in contact with the CS department in May and that’s when we started talking about what the event could end up being. Jeff Huang, a professor in the CS department, and Ugur Cetintemel, the department chair, were all excited about it, and said that we could take the lead of organizing it as students and that they would sponsor the event. They helped us a lot with contacts and people in the tech world. It was also super useful to have Lauren Clarke, who is the manager of the Industrial Partners program, helping us. After that I just started cold-calling startups. It was a pretty cool experience because some didn’t reply and some replied right away. Sometimes the CEO would even respond.

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Students Who Do Cool Things: Yelitsa Jean-Charles and the Healthy Roots Team

Did you ever visit a toy store as a kid, and notice that none of the dolls looked like you? If you’re a person of color in the United States, the answer is most likely a resounding yes. We care a lot about social change on College Hill, but it takes a special vision to change the market from the manufacturing side. That is exactly what Yelitsa Jean-Charles (RISD Illustrating ’16) is doing with her Healthy Roots Kickstarter.

From her own lived experience, Yelitsa knew just how much damage could be done to a young girl’s self esteem by society’s imposing beauty standards. Light skin, long blonde hair, blue eyes – the list goes on. In her own words, “Healthy Roots teaches girls of color self-love through education, diversity, and positive representation.” Right now, there are four girls: Marinda, who is Afro-Brazilian and loves soccer, Zoe, an African American with a zeal for learning and debate, Gaiana, who is Haitian and has a passion for music, and Dara, a Nigerian with a knack for coding websites. Together, they represent different corners of the African Diaspora, as well as a full-bodied image of ‘girliness’ that is so much more than fashion and appearance.

In differentiating her venture from anything else out there, Yelitsa told the Daily Dot:

“Black dolls already exist, but many of them only scratch the surface level of representation. You have to do more than paint a doll brown. We recognize that we need to have diversity and education in order to deconstruct colorism and racism. We do that by creating multiple dolls and storybooks that teach girls about themselves in a way that they can identify with.”


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Students Who Do Cool Things: Nate Parrott ‘17.5, creator of Ratty App

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Everyone’s been there: you’re painfully, paralyzingly hung over, and you NEED to get to the Ratty for some TLC/CT Crunch. Your laptop is an insurmountable 6 feet way on your desk, but you simply must know what’s at the Ratty. It’s a very specific, yet, for many Brown students, shockingly common crisis.

Enter the Ratty App, the creation of Nate Parrott ‘17.5. Now, iPhone users (sorry, Android et al. owners) can check what’s cooking at the school’s biggest dining hall on a very aesthetically pleasing interface. In addition, you can add the menu to your phone’s Notification Center to check whether or not they’re serving grilled cheese (Ed. – probably.) with a simple downward swipe of a finger.

Even the most hung over Brunonian can figure that one out. That is, unless your phone is dead, in which case God help you and your poor soul.

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Elizabeth McAvoy, the face of Alex Katz’s High Line billboard

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Katherine and Elizabeth


If you’ve strolled along the High Line in the past six months, and managed to look up between sips of Blue Bottle Coffee and captioning the perfect #highline ‘gram, you’ve probably seen Alex Katz’s public art commission on the side of the TF Cornerstone building in NYC’s Meatpacking District. Katz’s installation of Katherine and Elizabeth (2012) is part of a long-term public art collaboration between the High Line and the Whitney Museum that introduces new art to the space every eight to twelve months. Thus, it is no coincidence that Katz’s work is installed directly across from the Whitney Museum’s new home, set to open on May 1. Katz’s works were first displayed at the the Whitney in 1974 and the museum hosted the artist’s first major retrospective in 1986. While the Katz installation serves to link the current Upper East Side space with the museum’s new digs, the public art collaboration project between the High Line and the Whitney is about more than just bridging uptown and downtown. The Whitney director Adam Weinberg said that the installation is part of “‘reconnecting with the neighbourhood where we had a deep historical connection,” noting that the Whitney’s brand new Renzo Piano building is just blocks from the museum’s original home on West 8th Street in Greenwich Village. Katz’s history with the Whitney as well as his previous involvement in public art projects, such as the 2005 installation of the Give Me Tomorrow billboard above the ever-popular B Bar and Grill and the 2010 New York City Taxi Project, made him a natural choice for the collaboration’s first installation. But how did Katz’s work featuring RISD’s own Elizabeth McEvoy make the cut? The curators chose Katz’s 2012 painting, Katherine and Elizabeth, given that it would read well from a long distance. But if you haven’t had the chance to check out the scaled-up 17-by-29 foot digital print of Elizabethyou might have the opportunity to run into the real-life version on College Hill. Well actually, Elizabeth McAvoy is currently studying abroad in Italy, but keep an eye out for her next Fall. In the meantime, check out my interview with Katz’s RISD-raised muse after the jump!

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BlogDH: How long have you been a subject of Alex Katz?

E: I started sitting for him in 2010, so I guess five years now.

BlogDH: What it’s like to sit for and be Katz’s subject?

E: His studio is beautiful. He has a summer home in Maine, which is where I’m from, so the painting sessions take place in his studio on a small lake. While he paints I have to sit very still for a couple of hours. So, for entertainment, he tells me various stories from his life as an artist, people he’s met, and just general thoughts on pop culture. He’s hilarious.

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