MOCA Co-President Xabian Alarcon ’25 Reflects on Hip Hop History Discussion

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Cornelia Ehlebracht ’25

News Editor

The Men of Color Alliance (MOCA) Co-President Xabian Alarcon ’25 collaborated with Our Piece of the Pie (OPP), a youth service corps that serves young people ages 14-24 in Greater Hartford and Eastern CT, to have a Prote.C.T. Our Heritage Discussion on Hip Hop History and Culture. Alarcon sat down for an in- person interview with the Tripod to comment on the event, hip hop and MOCA. Alarcon is a junior from Brooklyn, New York. A key factor in Alarcon’s decision to attend Trinity was its closeness to home: “I take the same train I’ve been taking since high school, the Mero North straight to Grand Central station… I can go home whenever I want to,” he said. As a first-year, he was invited to join MOCA by alumni Deion Kelly ‘23. Alarcon started as a first- year representative, moved on to social media chair and then treasurer. He was elected Co-President along with Xavier Mercado ’24 in Fall 2023. As an organization MOCA seeks to “create a space where men of color can be themselves and have a support structure,” Alarcon explains, because, “It can definitely get overwhelming sometimes, you’ll sit in a class and you’re the only one in that class.

As shown through Alarcon’s experience, affinity groups like MOCA help students of color on campus find a place of encouragement. Alarcon remarks, “It’s not experiences that you will only have on a college campus.” Through working with the Boys and Girls clubs and events such as the Leadership Summit, MOCA also helps teach young people life skills, such as elevator pitches and mental health support to navigate these challenges. Ultimately Alarcon describes MOCA’s main goal as being to teach “What it is to be a man of color and how to support other men of color as well as people of color.” MOCA is known for their color as well as people of color.” MOCA is known for their Annual Talent Show and had their 18th Annual show open to both the Hartford community and Trinity community on Oct. 12, 2023 to provide students with an outlet to express themselves.

MOCA has continued the theme of supporting the arts with the Prote.C.T. Our Heritage Discussion, because as Alarcon observed, “Schools all over the country are not focusing on arts, they’re gutting arts programs, they’re gutting music programs.” Through his major in American Studies, Alarcon has been able study hip hop from an academic perspective. “Looking at hip hop, R&B, classical, gospel and opera music from an academic perspective was something that I hadn’t done before,” Alarcon said. “The Black consciousness that you study in American Studies is so vast and deep you can go any direction that you want.” He hopes that as a result of his discussion, young people will not only learn the history of hip hop, but also “that [they] can do it too.” Alarcon remarks that when he was in middle school, “when me and my friends heard Migos beats, we would do stuff like that.” Hip hop has always been a part of his life, describing how “my dad and my mom grew up in New York in the late 70s… they were there while hip hop was being incepted.” Alarcon’s father “still has his massive CD books filled with CDs he’s collected over the years.” Alarcon found it particularly meaningful to hold this discussion, because “it was really special to make this presentation, to sit down and work through it.”

Aug. 11, 2023 marked the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, when DJ Kool Herc “played the break beats — the funkiest snippets of songs — in a continuous loop on two turntables, so the music, and therefore the dancing, never stopped,” while the “MC” now known as rappers, rhymed rhythmically over top, reported by the Washington Post in an August article. In his presentation Alarcon tracked the evolution of hip hop from its beginning to its popularity today, highlighting the four pillars of hip hop culture, the “DJ,” the “MC,” the “B-Boy” and the artist/graffiti. Hip hop, a once persecuted sub-culture, has grown to receive international acclaim and imitation, as artists like Jay Z, Kanye West, Drake and Nicki Minaj consistently top charts. Alarcon said, “hip hop is not just a genre of music, it’s a culture,” including music, art styles and fashions that still has influence to this day. In recent news, ahead of Super Bowl LVIII, Kristin Juszczyk, wife of 49ers player Kyle Juszczyk signed a deal with the NFL to use their logos on the football jersey-like puffer jackets she designs after A-list celebrities were seen in her creations. Alarcon comments, “styles like these have been around since Black women did them in the 1990s.” Artists like Lil Kim and Missy Elliot also personally customized sports jerseys to fit their style. Alarcon further highlighted that while these fashion trends have become popular and widely adopted, there may be a lack of understanding or acknowledgment about where the styles emerged. He notes, “A lot of kids on campus wear styles… that originally came from people of color, came from hip hop.

Surrounding sampling, another important aspect of hip hop and the process of incorporating a portion of audio from another source into the production of a new song, Alarcon observed “a lot of kids hear remixes, they hear sampling, they hear covers and they don’t know who made these things.” Black artists often have their music covered or sampled by popular artists without broad recognition themselves. Recently Luke Combs’ cover of Tracy Chapman’s 1988 classic “Fast Car” hit No. 1 in Billboard Country charts, reported Billboard in July 2023, prompting Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs to perform the song together at the 2024 Grammy’s. Alarcon concludes, “Hip hop is really important, speaking with the kids is really important and speaking to the campus is really important,…recognizing what [hip hop] means to us.”

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