Dobbs Drops A New Beat

Mercy's unorthodox music department in bringing a new sound to Victory Hall.

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He calls himself L, and he talks with the confidence that he is already famous, or will be after graduation once he can trade in his homework and midterms for mics and stadium sized crowds. Among Mercy’s students who may know him better as May Thurd, he is already eminent; he and several of his fellow music majors spitting rhymes up and down Victory Halls corridors.

The fact that his appearance mirrors that of a young Jay-Z is only amplified by his lyric swagger and his natural ability to insert an “uh” in between “truths” via raps.

Anyone reluctant to admit to his “Mr.Carter” vibrato would be lying to themselves in efforts to quiet their secret hatred concocted out of jealousy. But L, rocking a nickname his friends most likely gave him, is a hard person to hate.

Because maybe more admirable than any artists skill, more than their actual words, more than their finished product, is his humility. For rappers or really anyone in the music industry, it’s a hard coup to balance. How does one go about preaching their self worth from their 8 Mile soap box without coming off as a pompous ass?

Yet, contrary to his street hard demeanor on the microphone, L is really quite the charmer. Soft spoken and reserved he took the stage at last month’s open mic night hosted by Fast Forward, Mercy’s rising creative entertainment club.

After his introduction, L flashed the crowd a smile, as if sharing an inside joke with himself, “They aren’t ready.”

Then, the beat dropped.

What really makes Mercy’s Music Industry and Technology program a beat above the rest is its urban influence. Sure, NYU and Julliard are renowned for their pianists and tuxedo wearing cello players, but the likes of Mozart are centuries away from Mercy’s musical repertoire.

“I chose Mercy because no other schools really focus on the music industry today as far as recording and individuality, most are classically based. Our music program has so many different ranges,” commented Hunter Stout, another one of Mercy’s music majors.

Stout’s band, Sons of Society, has quickly grown a fan base among students, city dwellers, and anyone with an iTunes gift card. The trio recently played at Tammany Hall on Manhattan’s Lower East side as well as gained sponsorships for their YouTube channel.

While their style may be a little less Tupac and a little more hipster-hop, it is evident that Sons of Society’s unique sound has harmoniously translated from classroom to real life stardom.

Like a pack of wolves, the programs beat dropping undergrads patrol campus each with a pair of headphones dangling around their neck. But true to artistic stereotype, they, like all musicians, seem to surround themselves with a crew that shares the same passions, same outlook, and same level of motivation.

Heads bobbing in unison, the pack seems to communicate by some unseen kinetic vibration, feeding off each other’s energy. They understand each other and carry a respect for their fellow artists.

That was how I first met the boys, in their pack at the Ardsley train station: Hunter Stout, Marken Hester, Quentin Patrick, Thomas Ryan, and L, who even then seemed to lack a last name; just L.

After a few minutes of shameless flirting and fantasies of the lavish life accessorized with expensive cars and VIP treatment, the group chose their seats on the train.

At the risk of throwing off the groups all male dynamic, I scrunched in between Thomas and L. The boy’s blushing confidence had somehow turned me into a groupie with a growing curiosity for what really went on inside Mercy’s recording studio.

From time to time, I would catch one of the guys in the editing room, head down, unscrambling binary arithmetic on their MIDI Keyboards. It is like a sacred meditation room; no one talks, only listens.

But what in their free time are they listening to on the other end of their now muffled headphones; their own music, Yeezus? A person’s playlist says a lot about them, and on the train, I wanted a listen.

“A song…what song do you want to hear?” Quentin asked, “I’ll sing you one right now.”

My heart stopped. I suffer from second hand embarrassment, and know from past experiences that the people who normally volunteer to sing in public are normally the ones that shouldn’t.

Quentin patiently sat, waiting for a request. He, unlike the rest of the group had no headphones. Instead he carried a leather briefcase that matched his jacket, giving him a producer like appearance, which was enhanced by how sure of himself he was.

“How bout I sing you one of my own.”

It was obvious there was no polite way of coaxing him out of causing a spectacle on the train.

“Ok,” I stammered and buried myself a little deeper in between my two new acquaintances.

Yes, heads turned and strangers peeked in our direction, but as Quentin continued to sing I realized he was an exception to my rule; the boy was good.

Suddenly my discomfort turned to gratitude; I had never been serenaded before, and doubted it’d be by anyone this good.

I was impressed, what other talents were hidden on this train car?

After Quentin had broken the ice with his rich John Legend rendition, a game of musical iPods started. First Marken, then Coffee Blakk, who up until open mic night I referred to as Thomas Ryan.

Thomas, like L, talks about his music with a definitive manner; he already knows it’s going to happen and that one day he won’t have to ride the Metro-North train.

Unlike other students at Mercy, majoring in partying or subjects they know they can’t make a career out of, Coffee Blakk has thrown hours of focus into his school work. Open mic night isn’t just an amateur chance at getting some face time, for him it’s a business opportunity.

“I just know exactly what I want,” Ryan admits with a shoulder shrug.

 

Upon the next few weeks I lost my pack of music majors along the shuffle on campus. They bumped under the radar until their debut at open mic night. Then, they were no longer mine, but names that the entire campus could admire and listen to.

 

Paul Steinman, the Music programs director is not only complimentary of the programs promising students, but also of their prestigious faculty.

“All of our faculty are working professionals. They’ll come from their jobs in the studio and will be in the classroom an hour later, commented Steinman in the departments promotional video. “The students develop really close relationships with our faculty because the faculty and the students are here for long hours working on projects. Our full time faculty and adjuncts function as both colleagues and mentors.”

Along with Mercy’s professors, the department pulls influence from local musicians, most of whom have surely endured their own nights at open mic. Part of being a creator is drawing inspiration from , sometimes the first place that happens is the inside of a campus lecture hall.

Mercy’s open mic night concluded with the promise of a spring concert featuring more of Mercy’s music marvels, but for now, the parking lot is emptying and fans are returning to their dorms, leaving L alone on his walk to the train.

It was the first time I saw him without his pack. He looked serene. It was as if he was an entirely different person than the one I had just seen on stage. I wanted to tell those waiting on the platform who he was, what he had just accomplished, but for some reason, L was now unapproachable.

I couldn’t figure out if it was because I knew he was walking in a cloud of temporary nostalgia that should be left uninterrupted; reliving the crowd’s relish in his mind, or if it was because I was suddenly star struck.

I didn’t have to tell the people on the train because I know that one day they would know him too, not as a Mercy student, but by the name on their expensive ticket stub.