Winners Announced in Berklee and Essence's First-Ever Hip-Hop Songwriting Contest
Teens Represent a New Generation in Hip-Hop
May 3, 2006
Berklee College of Music and Essence magazine today announced the five winners from the pair's joint hip-hop songwriting contest:
Grand prize winners
Da' Rayia Wilson, 17, Claymont, DE; "What You Gon Do?"
Jacob "Icee Jake" Bragg, 16, Columbus, OH; "Make Your Move"
2nd place winner Nyles "Lil Witness" Houston, 15, Brockton, MA; "Represent"
Jamaar Jackson, 16, Montgomery, AL; "Think About It"
Victor Presson, 16, Derwood, MD; "Fairy Tale"
"Essence's Take Back the Music committee has been proud to be able to partner with Berklee for this contest," said Angela Burt-Murray, editor-in-chief of Essence. "We hope that with aspiring artists such as these, we will begin to see a new trend in hip-hop."
The winners were chosen from more than 100 submissions by songwriters between the ages of 15 – 18. The contest was developed as an extension of Essence's Take Back the Music Campaign, which promotes balance in mainstream hip-hop's messages. Berklee College became involved to offer the winning songwriters educational opportunities that could help them take their talent to the next level.
The two Grand Prize winners will receive full scholarships, including tuition and room and board, to the 2006 Berklee Five-Week Summer Performance Program at Berklee's Boston campus. The Second Place winner will receive a tuition-only scholarship to the summer program. The two Runners-Up will each receive one course at www.berkleemusic.com, Berklee's online extension school.
"It was so encouraging to hear that these kids seemed to have a firm grasp on what the music truly represents," said Anjulie "Starz" Gonzalez, a Berklee Songwriting major and one of the final judges. "Their lyrics were uplifting and inspiring. These kids quite possibly represent the next generation of hip-hop artists and may be the indication that rap music is moving in a different direction than what we've become accustomed to hearing."
The initial crop of submissions by songwriters from all over the U.S. became 10 finalists after Berklee and Essence representatives held in-house listening sessions in Boston and New York. A final panel of seven hip-hop celebrity judges and Berklee music scholars - including: MC Lyte; ?uestlove; DJ Jazzy Joyce; Berklee Professor Pat Pattison, who teaches lyric writing; Berklee Assistant Professor Michael Hamilton, who teaches hip-hop writing and production; Brian "Raydar" Ellis, 2005 Berklee graduate and Brick Records artist; and Gonzalez. Judging was based on clever, innovative lyrics, as well as melody and composition.
: Brooklyn's finest since her debut, Lyte as a Rock, in 1988. Lyte's fierce lyrical flow paved the way for many women in hip-hop to enter into the male-dominated industry.
: Drumming onstage since the age of 7, the Philly native cofounded the hip-hop band The Roots. He has also collaborated with the music elite—Jay-Z, D'Angelo and Erykah Badu, to name a few.
DJ Jazzy Joyce
: With just two turntables and a microphone, this deejay has been mixing hot tracks since her early days in the boogie-down Bronx.
Berklee Professor Pat Pattison: Professor of General Education, lyric and poetry; teaches lyric writing.
Berklee Assistant Professor Michael Hamilton: Assistant Professor, contemporary writing and production; teaches hip-hop writing and production.
Brian "Raydar" Ellis: 2005 Berklee graduate and Brick Records artist.
Anjulie "Starz" Gonzalez: Berklee Songwriting major