New Generation Ready to Take Back the Music
Essence and Berklee today revealed the five outstanding teens that are the winners in the third Take Back the Music Hip-Hop Songwriting Contest. Each will receive Berklee summer or online scholarships, empowering them to take their talent to new heights.
Grand Prize Winners:
Artist: Jennifer "Nesi" Chianesi
Song: "Shake Up"
Hometown: Cranston, RI
An 18-year-old singer and rapper from Rhode Island, Jennifer has already written over a hundred original songs with catchy and motivational lyrics. Moved by artists like TLC and Mary J. Blige, she is "ready to change the world with lyrical miracles."
Artist: Justin "Jae Guttah" McGibbon
Song: "Keep Goin"
Hometown: Breinigsville, PA
"I excel in lyrically describing life's unavoidable issues," says this 18-year-old living in Pennsylvania. "Sometimes simple, sometimes complex, but always real." He's been a serious music fan since as far back as he can remember.
Second Place Winner:
Artist: Nyles "Witness" Houston
Song: "The Gamble"
Hometown: Brockton, MA
The son of two pastors, Nyles, 17, specializes in gospel rap. Born and raised in Massachusetts, he has performed at churches and events all over the country. "I want to convey a message of hope," he says. "Not just talk about myself or material pursuits."
Artist: Bryan "Fidelity" Hill
Song: "Verbal Medicine"
Hometown: Alfred, ME
Artist: Nicholas "Phantom" Garcia
Song: "Feel It"
Hometown: Lodi, NJ
The two grand-prize winners will receive full scholarships-tuition and room and board-to the Berklee's Five-Week Summer Performance Program in Boston. The second place winner will receive a tuition-only scholarship to the summer program. The runners-up will each receive one course of their choice at Berkleemusic.com, Berklee's online extension school.
Additionally, Chianesi, McGibbon, and Houston are invited by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino to perform at the 2008 Peace Hip-Hop Festival at Boston's City Hall Plaza, August 2.
"I'm so excited," said grand prize winner Jennifer Chianesi. "There aren't many females who are really successful doing hip-hop right now, so it feels good to be noticed for doing it. I'm looking forward to learning everything I can about the music industry."
"Essence is proud to once again partner with Berklee College of Music," said Angela Burt-Murray, editor-in-chief of Essence. "The contest not only maintains the spirit of Essence's Take Back the Music campaign, but it also continues to provide a unique platform for a new generation of talent that is poised to take hip-hop to new levels."
The winners were chosen from more than 40 submissions by songwriters between the ages of 15 - 19 from all over the United States. In a first round of judging, a group of Berklee students and Essence employees held listening sessions in Boston and New York and chose 10 finalists.
The five winners were selected by a panel of hip-hop celebrity judges-Yo-Yo, Pete Rock, and Roxanne Shante-and Berklee scholars-professors Prince Charles Alexander (music production and engineering); Pat Pattison (songwriting),Mike Hamilton (music production, Berkleemusic.com), and Da'Raya Wilson (student, 2006 contest winner). The judges gave highest marks to songwriters with clever, innovative lyrics that conveyed a positive message, while achieving excellent melody and composition.
The contest was developed as an extension of Essence's Take Back the Music Campaign, which promotes balance in mainstream hip-hop's messages. Berklee became involved to offer the winning songwriters educational opportunities that will help them take their talent to the next level.
Office of Public Information, Berklee College of Music
- Wellesley High School student finishes Top 10 in nationwide songwriting contest (Wellesley Townsman, June 26, 2008)
- Sanford student runner up in national hip-hop contest (Lakes Region Weekly, May 21, 2008)
- Brockton Teen Hits Right Notes (Brockton Enterprise, May 12, 2008)
- Rapper Wins Again (Boston Globe South, May 8, 2008)
- Lehigh Count teen wins in songwriting contest (The Mornng Call, April 24, 2008)
- A Bad Rap (Harvard Crimson, April 24, 2008)
- Big Shoes to Fill in Songwriting Contest (Friendswood Journal, April 22, 2008)
- Detroiter in hip-hop finals (Detroit Free Press, April 9, 2008)
- Hip-hop contest seeks positive messages (Boston People's Voice, February 1, 2008)
- Local Teen Performs in Hip-Hop Festival (Community News, August 15, 2007)
- With Positive Message, Local Rapper Wins Essence Contest (The New Jersey Sentinel, May 23, 2007)
- Phantom, a Lodi Teen, Gains Attention in Hip-Hop Contest (North Jersey Herald News, April 27, 2007)
- Got wholesome hip-hop? (The St. Louis American, February 28, 2007)
- Seeking Talented Teens (Boston Globe, February 8, 2007)
- Teen rapper's New Song Wins Nationwide Contest (Columbus Dispatch, May 5, 2006)
- A New Star is Born in Brockton (The Enterprise, May 5, 2006)
- Taking Back "My Hump" (Inside Higher Education, January 31, 2006)
- Aiming for an Alternative Hip-Hop (Boston Globe, January 30, 2006)