The genre of hip-hop has become a very polarized form of expression in pop culture. While many rappers consciously craft poetry to consider existentialism and social issues, they are frequently outweighed by the less artful, superficial side of the genre. UC Berkeley senior Myles Santifer — commonly known by his artist name, Mylo MU — is a multitalented rapper-producer-artist with a genuine and contagious spirit for subverting this notion. Along with ASUC SUPERB, he hosted the Clearing, a student music and art exhibit, on Saturday evening.
Open to ID-holding students only, the event was intimate and therefore concentrated with passion. A mix of contemporary and window-shaking rap tunes ushered in the first wave of guests while people moseyed around to chat and observe the art. Mylo himself painted many of the pieces himself, with canvassed paintings ranging from very abstract experimentations with color to vivid portraits, including a very floral one of Frida Kahlo.
The venue, Anna Head Alumnae Hall, proved to be the perfect size for the gathering, with a low and close stage and a secondary perimeter level for VIPs. The first performers took the stage, the lights dimmed low, and the close-knit crowd huddled around the subwoofers.
The evening set included with performances by DJ Nick Fury and DJ Kamau, who treated the crowd to some bass-heavy instrumentals. Mylo’s best friend and chief collaborator, K. Solar traveled all the way from Los Angeles to deliver a lively and lyrical opening while jumping on every inch of the small stage. After several performances and guest appearances by various music artists, the students welcomed Mylo onstage with a chant too heavy for no more than 150 people.
Opening with projected visuals of forests, gardens and other scenery, Mylo’s long-awaited performance shook the house. His songs sent emotive waves through those who listened intently. While the heavy kick snares and bass lines curated a party vibe and got most people moving, his lyricism took the energy to another level of enjoyment. Perhaps the most memorable moment was the beginning of his most popular hit, “Black Power and Flowers,” off his 2015 mixtape of the same name. Many of the more avid fans recognized it immediately, which clearly excited MU and amplified the collective energy. His performance was soulful, genuine and anything but superficial.
Mylo’s artistic expression communicates unity, human interconnectedness and the sacredness of creative expression. He attributes inspiration to “John Coltrane, Kendrick Lamar, Quasimoto/Madlib, definitely — one of the biggest inspirations when I was in middle school. … I remember the first song I heard was ‘Real Eyes,’ and I was like, ‘I have to make beats.’ ” His sound is typically a fusion of experimental hip-hop and neo-jazz. Yet visual and sonic art is simply a vehicle to carry his theme and image.
His vision for art and music is that they are spiritual techniques that can express the underlying connection between people of all backgrounds. He hopes to spread this vision of human connectedness and impart a sense of unity and equality, particularly in a racial context. He said, “Black power is about energy. It’s a unity within energy” when talking about his 2014 mixtape.
Regarding the name of the event, Mylo stated, “It’s actually from Toni Morrison’s Book ‘Beloved.’ … The Clearing was a space for people to gather (for) self-love and how to love themselves and their bodies. They would cry, laugh and dance. It was a very spiritual space. And I believe that sound is spiritual as well.”
Mylo even took a break in the beat to talk about the importance of The Clearing: “This space is our clearing today. We have art so we can see our own reflection in it.”
Mylo has just recently announced a new project, “Absurd Romance,” which has an anticipated Friday release.
He is a graduating senior this year, but when he talked about music in relation to his life after graduation, he claimed, “I am taking it with me full fledged.”