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Auditory learning

Art and hip-hop come together in Cambridge pop-up

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO

Last week, quiet Cambridge came alive on a Thursday night for an underground evening of hip-hop beats and alternative artwork. Artist John L. Griffin, who works at The Sinclair to supplement his artistic pursuits, noticed that the popular music venue rarely showed hip-hop artists. In an effort to highlight urban artists, he organized “Audiovisual: An Art and Hip-Hop Night,” a free event featuring music by local DJ Rilla Force and visual artwork by Griffin, Jousef Massif and Caitlin Rose Morrison-Dyke.

One of Griffin’s works features a profile pen drawing on wood of a black man in a Native American headdress. The burnt orange, painted background gives the piece an earthy tone. Griffin says this is his spiritual alter ego, The Chieftain. Painting this alter ego allows Griffin to connect with a more peaceful side of himself. Griffin’s woodwork pieces are his best. Tucked in a back corner hung several stunning works in gradations of cut wood. Simple figures in neutral tones were made striking and intricate by the textural component.


Massif’s work has a spiritual component as well. Two of his portraits framed The Cheiftain, both subjects portrayed with multiple heads, as though different facets of them were sprouting up in a dreamlike fashion. The female portrait, painted on canvas in rich greens, shows three faces clouded in a puff of cigarette smoke. The subject doesn’t engage with the viewer, but appears to be having a quiet moment with herself. Her red necklace blows to the side of the frame in a whimsical gesture, bringing a positive sensibility to a reflective painting.

Community was the hallmark of the evening. The hip-hop world of Boston is small enough for everyone to know each other. Force excitedly greeted guests all night, keeping one hand on his music and the other on his buddies. The venue and music were as much a part of the experience as the artwork. Hosted in The Sinclair’s Kitchen, the space was intimate and rugged, with exposed brick, dim lighting and industrial décor.

“I think art and music go well together,” Griffin said. “I wanted to produce something that highlighted both.”

Griffin is a Massachusetts College of Art alumnus and knows how difficult it can be for young artist to show their work. In addition to supporting emerging talent, the event appealed to a young African American community that isn’t always targeted in Cambridge nightlife.

For those looking to experience the artwork, Rilla Force’s work can be found on Spotify and Sound Cloud. John L. Griffin, Jousef Massif and Caitlin Rose Morrison-Dyke’s work can be found on Facebook.