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Englewood Natives’ Performance at Riot Fest Serves a Dual Purpose

Evan F. Moore | 9/16/2015, 4:55 p.m.
Big names such as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill and De La Soul often overshadow underground and independent acts ...
Englewood natives Bowen and Claybourne, performed as a part of a 4 woman collective called “The Rapper Chicks” last weekend at Chicago's Riot Fest. The Rapper Chicks

Big names such as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill and De La Soul often overshadow underground and independent acts at Chicago’s Riot Fest. However, two Englewood natives shined right along with the big names this year at the popular festival.

Cristalle Bowen, better known to underground hip-hop fans as “Psalm One,” and Dorothy Claybourne, better known as “Fluffy,” performed as a part of a 4 woman collective called “The Rapper Chicks” on the Friday set of Riot Fest in Douglas Park on the city’s West side. Fluffy admits that performing in Chicago takes on a different meaning.

“It’s a special privilege to perform at these shows in our home town,” Fluffy says. “We get to perform at big shows in many places, but rarely here. It’s heartwarming.”

Bowen and Claybourne, met while attending Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. They created a non-profit workshop called “Rhyme School,” to expose young people to the nuances of songwriting.

Englewood natives Fluffy and Psalm One.

Englewood natives Fluffy and Psalm One.

They used their platform to promote their ideas and eventually partnered with Intonation Music Workshop.

“We wanted to do the same thing in the city [Chicago]. We move around the city and work with different schools,” Fluffy says. “We try to teach classes about teamwork, creativity and truthfulness.”

According to Psalm One, between eight and 30 kids come through the program which has taken place in several schools across the city. Many of the youth who participate are between the ages of 8 and 21.

“We do one or two day workshops where we put together a show or a song that’s written,” Psalm says. “We leave that up to the kids.”

Both Bowen and Claybourne want to change the narrative around female rappers.

“These kids don’t have many opportunities. They don’t have a lot of experience expressing themselves creatively at this point,” Claybourne says.” There’s a problem in the community with communicating and kids getting along with each other. They have to work through that.”

Bowen says the kids are appreciative of what they’ve learned in the workshops.

“We want to provide a service to underserved areas and do it using our expertise,” Bowen says. “Hip-Hop can be a little too fun by not teaching core values. Every other genre of music makes sure that they do.”

She went on to say that Rhyme School serves as an ulterior motive to open kids up to critical thinking skills.

“We’re living examples of what hip-hop can do for someone from the ‘hood.”

To find more information on Rhyme School, log on to http://www.intonationmusic.org/.