From February 12nd to February 28th, 2016, hip hop artists Jeff “Toyz Are Us” Chang (Dancer), Dan “Dirty Digits” Chaves (DJ), LoShondra “RyNea Soul” Hemphill (Beatmaker), and Dumisani “Dumi RIGHT” Ndlovu (MC), along with site manager Kane Smego, traveled to Thailand as part of the Next Level program. Next Level Team Thailand completed two residencies, one in the Southern province of Surat Thani and one in the Northern city of Chiang Rai. The unifying concept of the cypher was implemented throughout the Next Level Academy’s workshops and final performances, emphasizing the importance of collaboration.
In addition to hosting workshops on artistic and professional development Next Level Academy workshops, the U.S. artist-educators also took part in a number of collaborative jam sessions. In Surat Thani, the artists had the opportunity to share musical styles with a traditional Nora dancing group, a jakhe (Thai zither) player, and a Nang Talung shadow puppeteer. These jam sessions, which meshed U.S. hip hop styles with traditional Thai music and dance, embodied hip hop’s collaborative spirit.
The residency’s final performances featured student DJ battles, beat battles, cyphers with student beat boxers, choreographed group dance routines, and freestyle demonstrations. One show opened with a collaborative puppet show written and performed by Dumi RIGHT collaborated and puppeteer Ajahn Thepsin, and incorporated a collaborative performance between Rynea Soul, DJ Dirty Digits, and a Thai jakhe player, a fusion that combined traditional Thai music with with hip-hop beats and turntablism. Team Thailand is part of a larger Next Level cohort of American MCs, DJs, beatmakers, and hip hop dancers seeking to create global community through hip hop culture.