On the last Thursday of every month, The Rotunda ‑ a part of the University of Pennsylvania’s Facilities and Real Estate Services ‑ marks a time for true hip-hop enthusiasts to bring their best b-boy/b-girl, pop-locking, emcee, DJing and graffiti writing skills to one room. This event is known as The Gathering. The main room of The Rotunda (also known as the back space) was filled July 28 with performances by locals DJ Foxx Boogie, DJ Ill-literate and Emcee Jawn Zap 7 as b-boys/b-girls battled on the dance floor.
“At the gathering, you find hip-hop in its purist form,” I-BE4 EVR, host and organizer of the event since 2002 said. I-BE, as patrons know him, stressed that The Gathering plays music from local emcees and DJs as well as music that you might hear on the radio. However, this venue is known for playing pure hip-hop ‑ that is, hip-hop which is untouched by commercialism. They play a mix of classic and modern underground hip-hop that is expressive and organic to pure hip-hop culture.
The atmosphere was welcoming when I walked in, but for a first-timer, I was almost overwhelmed by the scene. I nestled my way into the audience, gathered at the crowded dance floor’s rim. Audience members who were b-boys and b-girls waiting for the right moment to jump in surrounded me. There were a few DJs onstage and b-boys/b-girls sitting around the edge watching and cheering for dancers on the floor. It didn’t take me long to see that The Gathering has a relaxed and fun atmosphere full of patrons who rarely miss a month.
Jawn Zap 7 performed as the featured emcee for the night. DJ Ill-literate and DJ Foxx Boogie spun before and after the feature performance with hosts AIQUE (pronounced IQ) and FAME at the mic in between acts. During all performances, b-boys like Pete Nasty would free style on the dance floor. “It’s somewhere to practice,” Pete said about The Gathering. “It’s a place where all the hip-hop elements come together.”
There were plenty of head spins, hand glides, backspins, pops and hops to amaze. B-boys took turns jumping onto the dance floor, but occasionally two jumped in at once.“I don’t usually battle,” Mike, a b-boy, said after a battle with b-boy Medal. But, after Mike conceded once to a b-boy who jumped in simultaneously, he decided to hold his ground when he and Medal bumped heads. We had an instant competition. For a few seconds, both Mike and Medal shuffled, but Mike soon took over the floor. After Mike threw in some moves, Medal made his return with a retort of polished break dancing moves from seven years of practice at The Gathering.
“This is the only place where you have all four elements doing their own thing together in one place,” Medal said of why he returns to The Gathering every Thursday for seven years.Tray-digga, a graffiti writer, has been voluntarily working for The Gathering for two years.“The Gathering means everything to me because I’m an emcee. I do graffiti. I used to dance. This is what my head [would] be like if I could fit it in a place,” Tray-digga said.“It’s where we hip-hop without egos,” I-BE4 EVR said about The Gathering. On my first Thursday there, I saw people who just wanted to have a good time and share their skills with other hip-hop enthusiasts. It truly lives up to its name.