On Irving Jean-Baptiste’s first day at Temple, he saw a group of rappers freestyling at the Bell Tower.
The transfer student from La Salle University had been rapping and making hip-hop music since he was 9-years-old, so he approached the group.
“I just hopped in the cypher,” Jean-Baptiste said.
From that day on, Jean-Baptiste had friends to make music with at Temple. He met and is still friends with The Hungry Ghosts, the group who started Freestyle Fridays—a weekly gathering of students who make hip-hop and rap music—and they encouraged him to rap nearly every day.
“Freestyle Friday is the only time you can show off your freestyles in this area,” said Bobby Clancy, a senior media studies and production major who performs under the name Task the Samsara.
For rappers looking to take their music to the live stage, performances at Temple can be the first step toward gigs throughout Philadelphia.
Clancy’s first shows as Task the Samsara were at his own home, when he was still establishing himself as an artist. By using his house for shows, Clancy was building his own exposure, and giving his hip-hop friends a space to play—something previously missing.
These shows opened the door at other venues for Clancy, who has now performed and booked shows at The Fire on Leithgow Street near Girard Avenue.
Alex Rose, who performs as Baby Face Jones, has a similar story—he’s become more serious about his music since arriving at Temple because of Freestyle Fridays and the fellow rappers he’s met on campus.
Rose’s house, The Petting Zoo, also puts on hip-hop shows, including one on Sept. 12 featuring himself, Marcus & Rome, Cool Hand Duke and Clancy as Task the Samsara.
Jean-Baptiste, who also performs with a full band called PHLGood, has performed at Free Food Fun Fridays and venues like Underground Arts, The Fire, 3rd and Girard and The Legendary Dobbs.
Temple is still a special place for Jean-Baptiste, due to the energy of the crowd when he performs here.
“So much energy,” he said. “They’re in your face, they can see you, they can feel you.”
Jack Rome, a Drexel student, has performed at house shows and Temple Music and Arts Group events as part of the duo Marcus & Rome. Performing at Temple has influenced both Rome’s live music and recordings.
“I want my music to connect with people in their headphones and on stage,” Rome said. “Connecting with people at live shows is so important, and playing shows at places like Temple has helped me to realize that more.”
For Clancy, the hip-hop scene at Temple is “not ideal” just yet.
“But it’s definitely slowly growing,” Clancy said, “and there’s way more people that are excited about the rappers now.”
Vince Bellino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video shot by Justin Harrison, edited by Harrison Brink.