Connecting the underground

Artistic UB students break creative ground in upcoming series

The Spectrum

Jakeem Daniel has a plan to salvage UB's art culture.

Daniel, a junior communication and media study major, created a show called Live from the Underground. It will bring out "underground" music artists and students with hidden talents - ranging from singing to dancing and music producing to creating any art form out there.

Daniel believes Live from the Underground's November debut will shift how artists are viewed on campus.

As a research school, UB does not place the arts as one of its top priorities, Daniel said. The Center For the Arts, separated from the majority of academic buildings on campus, metaphorically represents how the arts are isolated from the rest of UB, he added.

He feels like artists of all talents at UB need a place to come together.

"There's no place for anybody to connect with each other or talk about it," Daniel said. "[The] people who do their art are sort of hidden."

He hopes to send a message through his show that the arts are equally important and should receive the same attention as other departments.

"A lot of people don't know Miramax Films was created from UB's campus," Daniel said. "We're changing the world in the medical campus, but, it's like, Miramax Films was created here."

Daniel calls Live from the Underground a "necessity" for UB.

As a New York City native, he has seen different people pursuing their artistic passions.

Just this summer, Daniel shot a music video in New York City for his friend and fellow UB student Wale "Breathe Easy" Balogun, a senior computer engineering major.

Daniel said that back in the city, artists try to network through each other, and by bringing that to UB, students have become more connected and inclined to open up about their talents, which can reveal what the population is capable of.

"We definitely have a pulse of what's new, what's cool and what's hot," said Daniel, who interned this summer at Sean "Diddy" Combs' music cable network Revolt TV. "[It's] a big thing for us to translate that and bring that culture out here."

After featured artists are introduced on Daniel's show, they'll be interviewed about when and why they started, who inspires them, etc. Artists can then share their talents in a segment called "Can I Kick It."

Can I Kick It is an "opportunity to flex and just be who they are and be comfortable and be able to put on a show," Daniel said. It is also meant to be impromptu.

Live from the Underground works with talented students behind the scenes, too. The show uses some equipment and marketing services from TD Channel, a media company started by senior health and human services major Uwaoma-Silachi Nwogwugwu. The student-run business offers video producing, public relations services and more that fits a college-student's budget.

While Daniel works to connect student artists, Nwogwugwu aims to bring artists behind the scenes together.

"If we work together, we kind of uplift each other and share each other's stuff and we can help each other," Nwogwugwu said. "We can help each other not only get exposure ... but by building a network of talented individuals with different crafts, [we] help each other gain experience."

Nwogwugwu is also a singer and will appear on Daniel's show.

"Now, [Daniel] is going out of his way asking others to be on [his show]," Nwogwugwu said. "[But] it's gonna come to the point where [he] won't be interviewing just artists on the underground. [Spring Fest] artist managers will be like, 'Hook us up with Live from the Underground' because he has such a wide outreach ... because he gets like a million views on the interviews."

Nwogwugwu has a wide understanding of the spectrum of talents at UB.

He manages the singing career of Esther "Hadassah" Branch, a junior political science major.

Branch never thought she'd be able to be a professional musician; she always loved singing and song writing. Last year, she met Nwogwugwu and then others in the underground music scene of UB. When Daniel asked Branch to make a guest appearance on his show, it gave her another platform to solidify her decision to pursue a music career.

"I feel like it's the best environment because everyone's just so willing to help each other," Branch said. "It was genius because it got all of us together."

Branch was featured in Balogun's first single and music video, "Todd Smith" - the one Daniel shot this summer in NYC.

Balogun said at the start of the video's production, he had a whole crew - but then, one by one, they all dropped out of the process - except Daniel. Balogun said that many things were going wrong, but they stuck through it and produced the music video.

"He takes his work very serious. That's why I'm very hopeful for his show," Balogun said of Daniel. "His work ethic is something that I've never seen by any individual. He's really the reason I did the video."

Since then, Balogun's song and music video have accumulated over 1,000 views. Although Balogan is graduating in the spring and Daniel is graduating next year, the rapper believes the show will continue to grow.

Balogun always felt like no one looked out for artists like them at UB, but with Daniel starting Live from the Underground, it is reassuring for his peers.

On Nov. 6, Live from the Underground will cover the Midoriginal Showcase, run by Osei Nile Mbhaso, a sophomore sociology major, who said the event is meant to promote UB's talented students and unify its art community. Artists performing at the showcase include Nwogwugwu, Branch and Balogun.

Mbhaso raps and produces his own music, which will eventually be presented on Live from the Underground.

Through the show, the underground music scene at UB continues to expand. As more students are meeting each other, they're sharing their music, developing a platform for others to discover their talents and building a stronger artistic presence on campus.

As Balogun puts it, the person standing on line at Pistachio's may not just be another hungry UB student, but a rapper or a music producer.

"There's still people out there that we don't know about," Balogun said. "And that's really what it's about - people that are underground on campus."