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Hip-hop artist busterwolf celebrates artistic possibility with BCMA-sponsored performance and discussion

September 15, 2023

Cora Dow
BUST A WOLF: busterwolf performs in Kresge Auditorium to commemorate “Mina Loy: Strangeness Is Inevitable.” busterwolf released a single entitled “Mina Loy” in 2016.

On Thursday, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art (BCMA) hosted a community concert and discussion in Kresge Auditorium to commemorate the closing of “Mina Loy: Strangeness is Inevitable.” The event featured experimental hip-hop artist busterwolf and artist-composer Ross Cisneros. Growing up in a Puerto Rican household in Brooklyn, busterwolf recalled finding solace in expressing his creativity through spoken word poetry and in the diversity hip-hop had to offer.

“Mina Loy spoke multiple languages, and where a word in English didn’t do, she would just create her own,” busterwolf said. ”I grew up in a Puerto Rican household where everything was a mishmash of Spanish and English, and I was constantly surrounded by different dialects. Neither of them really felt like the language that I spoke until I started getting into hip-hop. And I was like, ‘This is my language.’”

Roger Conover ’72 is one of the world’s leading experts on Loy. He played an outsized role in helping make her poetry accessible, publishing her first posthumous poetry collection and supporting “Strangeness is Inevitable.” When the exhibition launched in the spring of this year, Conover gave a speech that made an initial connection between Loy’s work in relation to other contemporary musicians—one of which was busterwolf.

At 4:30 p.m. yesterday, busterwolf began his performance for the Bowdoin and Brunswick community, a multimodal experience that combined Loy’s art with hip-hop music. The performance moved from bare beats to more complex rhythms, ending with an a cappella rap.

busterwolf’s connection to Loy began when he was a student in college. His gravitation to what he referred to as, “aliens, weirdos and people on the fringe practicing avant-garde hip-hop,” created the foundation for an undeniable connection to Loy’s unprecedented lyricism and futuristic sound in her poetry.

“I felt like it wasn’t 100 years old. It sounded like someone could have written it today. It was amazing,” busterwolf said. “I realized that I could be a ‘Mina Loy.’ I’m from the future. I’m an alien. I am ‘stellectric’ too.”

BCMA Co-Director Anne Goodyear added that the transcendent nature of Loy’s work solidifies itself in contemporary music such as busterwolf’s.

“[busterwolf’s work] reminds us of why museums matter as a repository of knowledge, because at their best, they are connecting creative souls with one another across time and space,” Goodyear said. “One of the things that I think Mina Loy was most excited about was the potential for exploding the boundaries of time and space. So, for you to be here, busterwolf, is the most poignant testament of success there could be for any creative expression. It surpasses the limitations that exist around us physically, by leaping up and beyond a single lifetime and becoming this sort of wonderful comic that cross-pollinates across time.”

busterwolf said that he hopes that his performance inspires audience members to revisit their ideas about what hip-hop is—and what it can be.

“Performing at Bowdoin is an opportunity to give folks an idea of not just what my art is, but maybe change their perception on what hip-hop sounds like, and even expand on their preconceived notions. Hip-hop is an art form full of incredible expression and has validity and weight, just as museum pieces do,” busterwolf said.

“I was really impressed by all the layers and texture in busterwolf’s performance,” Mei Bock ’25 said. “From his synth beats to verses about growing up in Sunset Park looking out at the handball courts to thoughtful reflection on the history of New York hip-hop and his own journey through music, it was a lovely and ever-evolving experience!”

busterwolf added that he hopes student artists at Bowdoin pursue their own creative endeavors, wherever they may lead.

“Keep an open heart and spirit of wonder,” he said. “Throw yourself into your work and embrace it all—even from the most unexpected places and times.”


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