Next Level: Barbados

In August 2022, seven Hip Hop artists traveled to Barbados as part of the Next Level program. Aysha Upchurch (Dance), UnLearn the World (MC), Purple Haze (MC), GYREFUNK (Beatmaker), eCussionist (DJ), and J Muzacz (Aerosol Art) joined site manager Queen Herawin to perform for audiences and collaborate with local artists to promote cross-cultural creative exchange and conflict transformation.

The two-week Next Level Barbados Academy was held in partnership with the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) at their facilities. On conflict transformation day, artist educators and program participants brought their personal experiences and situations as it related to real life circumstances and supportive ways to potentially approach these realities in relation to Hip Hop disciplines. This allowed the group to build a forum in which they could share their own frustrations and situations to find a productive way to navigate challenges.

During entrepreneurship day, Team Barbados was joined by Dr. Erica Smith, CEO of COSCAP Barbados. Dr. Smith facilitated a powerful presentation and discussion in relation to artist rights and legalities surrounding contracts. Following her presentation, the artists discussed topics such as fine art/public art, branding, merchandising, consulting, press, online presence, goal setting, accountability, recording, and composition.

Based on a photograph captured from videographer Aja Buchanan, an idea was sparked in relation to documenting some footage in a barbershop while on the island. The idea was to illustrate not only the cypher, but also the significance of the barbershop and how it serves as a place to commune, connect, conduct business, and share in culture and tradition. The experience created a space for an intense, yet transparent and genuine discussion as everyone present explored topics connected to Hip-Hop, discussing opinions, similarities, differences, roots, traditions, origins, etc.

The jam session was a powerful collaborative cultural event between program participants and the Next Level Team. Student collaborators stayed after the workshop day to share in experience and illustrate to the teaching artists their style of creative and in some instances, traditional expressions. The culminating event took place at the Major Noot Hall of Combermere School in Bridgetown and featured program participants, members of Team Barbados, and Rubytech, a local artist who also participated in the jam session. The concert was extremely successful in seeing what the student participants had worked on, created, and developed in such a small window of time. Team Barbados is part of a larger Next Level cohort of American MCs, DJs, beatmakers, and Hip Hop dancers seeking to create a global community through Hip Hop culture.

Project summary

Next Level: Barbados
Regions: Western Hemisphere
Countries: Barbados
Impact Areas: Cultural Diplomacy
Program Areas: Culture
Partners: Public Sector