With the ice melting and midterms around the corner, Columbia is just one month away from the Bacchanal spring concert. While rumors still abound over the headliners, last weekend's Battle of the Bands determined the two student openers for the April 4 event.
Hailing from Cincinnati, Morgan Hughes, CC '17, who goes by Trill Mah, is a rapper who is fairly new to the game, but has already found her flow. With a very traditionalist approach, her music pairs simple, heavy beats with samples of musical track.
Growing up, Trill Mah always considered music an important part of her life. She saw it as a way to have fun with her friends and cousins, whether through listening or rapping over tracks. With this approach, she explored various genres, never being confined to hip-hop, although she cites André 3000 as her biggest influence.
"I've been listening to music since birth," she said.
Despite the integral role music played in her life, it wasn't until she came to Columbia that her interest in performing really took off.
"I didn't start taking it seriously until last year—freshman year," she said. "I originally wrote poetry, but it wasn't as fun."
Mah said that fun and playfulness are important features of her style and a major draw that first got her rapping, which she saw as a better medium for expression.
"It's about me, what I think, what I think about, about the future," she said. She described rap as fundamentally narcissistic, so describing her life is a natural part of her lyrical motivation.
But Trill Mah is anything but narcissistic. If anything, her music is, at its root, very collaborative, and she repeatedly acknowledged the help she gets from the friends who send her beats and help with production.
Even her Bacchanal performance will reflect this. She plans to have her beats handled by the same crew that's helped her put out music this far, and will include long-time friends and collaborators in her performances.
In the meantime, Trill Mah plans to write more music, work on freestyling, and drop a mixtape before the semester is over.
"I'm from Cincinnati. I'm a ninja. I'm from the future. I just wanna have fun and live life with no regrets—with peace and love," she said.
Libby Styles, CC '17, fronts a band that bears her name, covering the singing and tap dancing, and looping her voice throughout to give a warm, harmonic texture to performances. But don't let the similarity between the names confuse you—this performance is more multifaceted than it sounds.
Maurice Goldberg, CC '17, performs on flute and works the synthesizers. Jonah "June" Apollo, CC '17, spits clever rhymes. And Sam Klein-Markman, CC '17, is key to adding the subtle jazz guitar tones underlying it all.
"It's dancy funk pop," Goldberg said.
"It's 50 percent sweat, 50 percent music," Apollo said.
Listening to their music, these descriptions are quite accurate. For a band drawing influence from Kanye West, Talking Heads, and Sigur Rós, "dancy funk pop" is a perfect synthesis of all these musical styles. Besides this, the band's music is about having a good time—and that's how it all got started.
Goldberg, Klein-Markman, and Styles all live in Potluck House, a special interest community, and eventually started playing music together and hanging out, finding ways to seamlessly mesh their different styles. Next, they came up with the idea of adding a rapper and reached out to Apollo, with whom some members of the band had already worked.
"This group—what's so cool about it is that it came together so organically," Goldberg said.
From small performances around the school, to Battle of the Bands, and now Bacchanal, this group has continued to explore where its mixture of styles can take it.
Now it wants to bring its unique brand of music to the spring concert and, in Apollo's words, "get everyone dancing more goofily than they normally would, and in doing that become friends with a stranger, someone they wouldn't normally meet."
firstname.lastname@example.org | @ColumbiaSpec
Correction: In an earlier version of the article, June Apollo was misidentified in the photo. Spectator regrets the error.