May 25, 2004

Not a Common sight
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

This year's surprise end of year concert was a surprise for even the students in the Undergraduate Goverment who organized the event. While rumors spread around campus about who the secret performer would be (Spin Doctors? Maroon 5? Blues Traveler?), the real headlining act, Talib Kweli, canceled three days before the concert.

Liz Fulton, co-director of Community Events, scrambled to find a new performer at the last minute and miraculously managed to bring Chicago rapper Common to help Boston College students celebrate the last day of classes.

Throughout the afternoon giddy BC students enjoyed the carnival atmosphere in the Mod parking lot, where there was no shortage of free burgers, hot dogs, and fried dough. With classes finally over, students played on an inflatable obstacle course, escaped from the spring heat in the dunk tank, and took advantage of the caricaturist.

In the early afternoon, Kotter performed on the side stage while students enjoyed the festivities and beautiful spring weather. There was supposed to be a number of bands that were all going to perform, but like Talib Kweli, they all canceled at the last minute, leaving only Kotter to rock the stage until it was time for Common to perform.

During our interview, Common said he was excited to perform at BC. "Normally when I perform, everyone in the crowd knows me and all the words to my songs. They've been fans for like 10 years, so all I have to do is show up and everyone goes crazy."

"But somewhere like here, most people probably don't even know who I am, so that just means I have to give an even better show and earn myself new fans," he continued.

Common's performance was energetic and entertaining, filled with a variety of new songs from his latest, Electric Circus, and his upcoming album Be, along with old-school classics from Resurrection and Like Water for Chocolate. The crowd was most excited when the opening chords from "The Light" began, screaming and singing along with the chorus. Common's affable stage presence and good humor was the perfect match for the great weather and collective good mood of the students done with classes.

The DJ gave an impressive exhibition in turntablism, scratching up a storm as Common showed off his b-boy skills by break dancing across the stage. In contrast to most rappers today, Common has always worked to keep all aspects of hip-hop alive instead of focusing exclusively on the emcee.

Common then asked for a volunteer from the crowd to come up on stage and freestyle with him. Plenty of aspiring rappers raised their hands for the chance to rhyme with Common, but only one, Kahleil Blair, BC '04, aka Maverik, got to come up to exchange verses with him onstage.

Common opened with an amazing freestlye that must have been hard for Blair to follow, proving once again why even Jay-Z admits, "Truthfully/ I wanna rhyme like Common Sense."

But even Common, along with everyone in the crowd, was impressed by Blair's impromptu performance. Maybe if the headlining act cancels at the last second again next year, then BC could get Blair to perform instead.

Unfortunately, the entire performance lasted only an hour and Common quickly left after the show, leaving everyone wanting a little bit more. BC students took advantage of the great weather and lingered in the Mod parking lot, enjoying the moment of fun before studying for finals began.

Dwyer to release post-grad hip-hop album
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Beggars can't be choosers, which is why most young artists are forced to accept the undesirable terms and conditions of a music contract with a major label when offered the chance.

Sean Dwyer, on the other hand, demanded more than any record company would offer: "I want complete creative freedom and I want to own all of my own music."

In an industry where Michael Jackson, and not Paul McCartney, owns the rights to the Beatles' entire catalog, Dwyer quickly realized that he was going to have to record, release, and distribute the album himself in order to avoid sacrificing his artistic rights.

Trying to do all of this while still fulfilling his school responsibilities as a full-time student at Boston College Lynch School of Education proved nearly an impossible task and, as a result, his album remains unfinished as of gradation.

"I really wanted to have it all done by graduation so my friends could hear it, but trying to do it all by myself while I was still in school was just too much," he said.

Sadly, this means that only a handful of people have heard even the unmastered demo copy of his solo debut, tentatively titled Broken Spoke. The hip-hop album boasts production from Alec Tervenski, BC '04, who is known as Adept and also produced beats for fellow Boston College emcee Noah Dixon, BC '06. Noah's full length debut album will be released in September.

As a senior, Dwyer won't be back at college in September, so this summer he plans on finishing the album and finally releasing it. Most of the album is already complete and was recorded in BC's recording studio in Campion.

Dwyer said, "I had all of my classes in Campion and never even looked in that room. I certainly didn't expect there to be a recording studio behind those doors."

Dwyer's rhymes are careful poetic constructs delivered with a self-assured confidence that avoids the typical rapper's arrogance. Unlike many rappers, Dwyer's lyrical content doesn't hide behind the beat. Even if you took the beat away from his verses, they easily become poetry that can stand on their own merit.

As a result, you are just as likely to see Dwyer reading his work at an open-mic poetry show as you would be to see him freestyling at an emcee battle.

Or you might even see him without his rhymes all together, singing and playing acoustic guitar at a local bar with alum Ryan Read, BC '02. Before playing music together, they played football at BC before Read graduated and Dwyer quit the team.

During his junior year, Dwyer went abroad to Florence, Italy. He said, "In Italy, I was really removed from hip-hop culture, so I really focused on my writing and guitar playing. When I came back I was excited to get back into rapping again, because it definitely made me a better writer and better musician in general."

It was also in Italy where Dwyer first started playing music professionally: "I had been doing the open-mic thing for years, but in Italy I had a job playing guitar in local club. The idea that someone would pay me to do what I love, to play music, was crazy to me."

When Dwyer returned to BC, he began playing again with Read, performing at O'Briens, Becket's, and other bars around Boston. Dwyer also has an acoustic guitar album recorded with Read and there are plans for another in the making.

Now that he will be graduating, Dwyer says he can finally focus on his music. "Even though looking back on it, I know I had lots of time and I probably could have done it, trying to do all the business parts of it while still getting homework done and trying to write new music was just too much," he said. "Hopefully this summer everything will be done."

Careful with his words and yet strong in his delivery, Dwyer has a lot to offer as an emcee, but what distinguishes him from the rest are his impressive musical skills and ability to write a cohesive narrative. Especially today, hip-hop needs more musicians and poets like Dwyer.