Growing up in Los Angeles, Gabriel Rivas listened to hip-hop and rap every chance he got.
In the car, he listened to 93.5 KDAY, a classic hip-hop station, and when he got his own computer, he listened to artists like Jay Z, Nas, Biggie, Tupac, Ghostface Killah and the Wu-Tang Clan.
He dove deep into their discographies and studied how the genre has evolved over the years, moving from Jay Z and Nas to artists like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Kanye West.
But after starting school at Gonzaga University, Rivas, now a junior majoring in political science, quickly realized hip-hop and rap music wasn’t as prevalent on campus or in Spokane as it was in his hometown.
Rivas isn’t entirely sure why hip-hop and rap aren’t more popular at Gonzaga or in Spokane, but he reasons it might be because it’s not being promoted enough.
It wasn’t completely absent, of course. He caught shows by rappers like Mac Miller, Tory Lanez and Danny Brown and hip-hop group Flatbush Zombies, but Rivas wanted more.
After attending a club fair freshman year and seeing there was no hip-hop or rap club on campus, Rivas and friend and fellow GU student Evan Watson began working on creating a club of their own.
They filled out a club application and found a faculty adviser, Dr. Lisa Silvestri, associate professor in the communication studies department.
This year marks the first full year of the GU Hip-Hop and Rap Club, which seeks to promote discussion about the genres.
“We felt like, just from being in class at Gonzaga, kids have a certain view of hip-hop and rap that it’s all negative or objectifying women and the stereotypes that it’s about sex, drugs, murder, partying, all of that stuff,” Rivas, the club’s vice president, said. “While that might be represented in certain artists, it’s not represented as a whole, because you can cherry pick any genre really, but there’s more meaning and impact that hip-hop has had than most people would realize…
“In reality hip-hop, more than other genres, can talk about social issues and dilemmas that other genres never talk about and most of the time, the rapper themselves have experienced it or have had family that have experienced it. They bring problems that people don’t want to talk about and sometimes they can incite change.”
Before club meetings, which are held every Thursday at 6 p.m. in College Hall 245, club officers will send out a list of five albums that are either connected by theme or that the officers feel are required listening.
The 30 or so club members will listen to the album with the most votes, and at the next meeting, there will be an analysis presentation about the album followed by group discussion.
This year, the club has analyzed Nas’ debut album “Illmatic” and OutKast’s “Stankonia.”
Club meetings are also used to showcase talented GU students.
At past meetings, members who produce gave a beat-making demonstration, and another member walked the club through his thought process when writing lyrics.
Rivas said the club is also interested in highlighting hip-hop culture.
“One of the first meetings we did where it originated from, what are the essential elements because people might listen to it now but they don’t know how it actually started and the whole movement behind that,” he said.
Rivas noted that everything from fashion to slang has been influenced by hip-hop culture.
Outside of meetings, the Hip-Hop and Rap Club is hoping to make its presence known via on-campus events.
Early in the school year, Rivas reached out to the managers of Seattle artists he knew were getting more and more popular but felt students might not know like Travis Thompson, Dave B and Brothers from Another
“Our whole thing is promoting new artists as well,” Rivas said. “Since they’re local and they’re on the verge of blowing up, I thought it’d be a good fit.”
After Thompson, who released a mixtape called “Ambaum” last year and was featured on Macklemore’s latest album “GEMINI,” signed on to perform, Rivas approached the school to propose hosting a concert on campus.
The event coordinator’s only concern was about security, but after Rivas assured them the show wouldn’t be too rowdy, the school was on board with the Hip-Hop and Rap Club hosting Fall Fest featuring Thompson on Friday in Cataldo Hall.
After Fall Fest, Rivas hopes more people become aware of the club and its mission to rid the genres of their negative connotations and bring more hip-hop and rap to Gonzaga and Spokane.
Rivas hopes to host events like movie nights and more concerts, both with regional and student performers, helping to slowly by surely grow the hip-hop scene in Spokane.
“If people within the community are making music, that’s even better to try and showcase them to show that this kind of thing does happen at this school or is possible for kids our age,” he said.
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