Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Hip hop artists Rebel Diaz performed in Olde Club Friday night as a part of Latin Heritage Month. This Chicago-born trio rapped and occasionally sang about such topics as immigration reform, Puerto Rican independence, women’s rights, and, of course, revolution. They implored “people who look like [them] in higher education” to “not judge success by the system,” but instead to view “going back to the hood, raising the babies, teaching the shorties” as the higher path to follow.
Eva McKend ‘11 kicked off the night with three superbly delivered spoken-word pieces: “Independent: Keep It Moving,” about her experience attending a New York City private school; “Freedom is Long Gone,” about people’s false senses of freedom; and “Beautiful,” about societal perceptions of beauty. The writing was solid, very politicized but sounding utterly natural; because free verse doesn’t need to fit into a beat, as does traditional rap, it can ebb and flow, something McKend took full advantage of. The crowd, which mostly filled the venue, very much appreciated both her abilities and her message.
After Eva’s performance and a quick setup break, Rebel Diaz came onstage around 10:45. They played energetically, but it seemed like Rebel Diaz is one of those groups for who the message takes precedence over their music. Though there was nothing specifically “wrong” with their playing, I in general prefer the instrumental tracks to be live or, at most, from a live DJ — instead, Rebel Diaz’s came from iTunes on a laptop sitting on a back table. Their lyrics were socially conscious, but a little on the hard-to-hear side. One or two songs did stand out, though. I particularly liked one dark song, with a chorus that played on the similarity in sound between saying “I ain’t never been the shy type” and extolling “Chi-city.” There were also a few good lines about hypocrisy, my favorite being “What’s a liberal guy who supports women’s rights, goes home and watches porn all night.”
Lah Tere, the woman in the group, was usually confined to backing vocals — maybe a good thing in that she was the only singer and much better for that purpose than either of the men, but I liked her occasional rapped verses much more. All in all, about half of the lyrics were in Spanish, of which this reporter, who doesn’t speak the language in question at all, caught only the word libertad (used rather often).
All in all, they had their moments, but I didn’t really get into it. It seemed like maybe half of the crowd shared my sentiments, while the other half was mostly very much into the music, dancing, cheering, and singing along by the group’s request. In the words of Themselves, an underground rap group only slightly better-known than Rebel Diaz: “It’s not actually bad rap, I just don’t feel it.”