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Saturday, November 1, 2014


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Big Sean, local acts highlight hip-hop-themed day four of Common Ground




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Common Ground's fourth day was filled with hard-hitting beats and passionate assaults on the mic.

Big Sean, Juicy J, Machine Gun Kelly and Ace Hood highlighted a hip-hop themed Friday at Common Ground. Though many of the acts begun their sets later than the scheduled time, it didn't prevent thousands of fans from cheering, rapping and waving their hands in the air. 

Local acts also got into the mix. Hitman and DJ Klaverflav, along with James Gardin & The Full Respect kicked off and brought to a close, respectively, the bombastic festivities. Hitman and DJ Klaverflav got things rolling at the evening's onset with their old-school-influenced frat raps. 

Following an exhilarating performance by Big Sean, James Gardin and his band The Full Respect ended the night with jazzy, upbeat fare.

DJ Klaverflav

21-year-old DJ and Lansing native Benjamin Klaver provided the backdrop to Hitman's energetic college rhymes. During a phone interview on Thursday, Klaver said his name is not a pun on hip-hop icon Flavor Flav, but a nickname he received as a kicker at Okemos High School.

"When I was playing sports, one of my coaches would call me "any flavor Klaver," Klaver said. "And it worked out into becoming Klaverflav for short."

DJ Klaverflav sites rappers such as Drake and J. Cole, as well as Chicago-based EDM duo Flosstradamus as inspirations. 

"We're young and we cater to the young crowd," Klaver said. "I feel like people in their older teens and younger twenties really like what we've done. We're fitting in with that demographic. Even a little older with some of the lyrics that we use. It has that older hip-hop feel as well."

Klaver said sharing an evening with acts such as Big Sean and Juicy Jay was an honor. The duo has a small, growing following and attracted a fairly large crowd during their 45-minute set. 

Big Sean

Towards the end of his set, Detroit native Big Sean took a moment to honor his ex-girlfriend, whom he dedicated a song named after her, "Ashley," in his last album Hall of Fame. 

"She stayed at Hubbard Hall, ended up being my baby five, six years," he told the crowd. "I still got love for her."

Big Sean, born Sean Anderson, was the highlight of the night based on the energetic crowd. He performed many of his most well-known hits, including "My Last," "Mercy," and "Moolah."

He shared the stage with Juicy J for the first 10 minutes of his show, with whom he's collaborated with several times in his career.

Though he never attended college, Big Sean has several ties to MSU. It was reported in the past he was enrolled and had a full scholarship to MSU before he received a call from Kanye West, jump-starting his career in music. Big Sean is currently signed with West's label GOOD Music.

"Back when we were on college tours with Wale, man, we ain't make s---," Big Sean rhymed during his song "Higher." "From Greensboro to SoCal man all the way down to Cambridge."

The crowd chimed in with Big Sean for the next line. 

"And Michigan State, close to my Michigan estate!" 

Known for his gratuitous attitude toward his fans, Big Sean took a moment to thank the crowd for helping him succeed in the music industry, citing a 2009 performance with Southfield, Mich. native Mike Posner on MSU's campus during the beginning stage of his career.

Civil Engineering junior Alex Mullen said Big Sean was his favorite act of the night.

"He was really out there, and the whole crowd was so hype. It was amazing," Mullen said. 

James Gardin & The Full Respect

On a day mostly dedicated to mainstream hip-hop, James Gardin prided himself in showing the audience something more unique. 

A Lansing resident since the age of four, Gardin's brand of hip-hop is more organic and uplifting. With his band behind him, Gardin took the mic and explored themes beyond consumerism and violence. 

He sites a range of influences for his style, including Gospel, boom-bap rap, jazz and R&B. The image he aims to project, according to Gardin, is one that widens the scope of what is considered hip-hop. 

"I hope I can also show them there's a wide variety and what hip-hop and what urban music can sound like," he said in a phone interview on Thursday. "It's essentially the rap night, so people are going to hear Juicy J, (Machine Gun Kelly), Big Sean, and a lot of mainstream artists. I want them to be able to see that there's diversity and hear something a little different but it's still the same thing that gives them an idea of how fly the culture can go and how those influences can be put into it."

A member of Lansing-based collective BLAT! Pack, Gardin was previously involved in MSU program M-RULE from 2007-10. The BLAT! Pack traditionally has had a role in MSU's community. 

"It got me really involved with being more social and doing more community outreach, and just getting connected in different ways, which inspiring me in music just because in meeting new people you gain knowledge and new ideas," Gardin said. 

Marquette, Mich. resident Cody Ball said James Gardin was his favorite act of the night.

"I like how he used actual music," Ball said, referring to the live band. 


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