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Walk-Ons, Cypher conflict leads to concert

On most weeknights around 10 p.m., the Pit is primarily trafficked by students either filing out of the library, visiting the Student Union or walking home across campus. On Wednesdays, though, the Pit resembles a stage, complete with live music and a captive audience. 

For years, the coed a cappella group, the Walk-Ons, have debuted new music in their standard Carolina Blue Converses in the Pit during their "Wednesdays with the Walk-Ons" mini-concerts. 

This year, however, the growing popularity of the UNC Cypher began to impinge on the group’s set. 

The Walk-Ons considered changing the venue or time for their show to accommodate the Cypher, but instead decided to turn the scheduling conflict into an opportunity to bolster both groups. Now, instead of seeming an interruption to the Cypher, the Walk-Ons provide an exciting pace-changing intermission. 

Jordan Holoman, the Walk-Ons' co-assistant music director, said though frustrating initially, the relationship has been mutually beneficial. 

“It was a little bit clunky at first, but it’s been a great thing for both groups,” Holoman said. “We were worried about the energy dynamic changing from rapping to a quieter a cappella piece, but we were able to finagle our performance and maneuver around the issue, and I think it’s working really well."

What started as conflict has flourished into an artistic relationship between the groups. The Walk-Ons tapped the Cypher to perform during their fall concert this Saturday night: A Film Noir. 

As opposed to a strictly a cappella set, the Walk-Ons have incorporated both the Cypher and a cinematic aspect to the show. The group has filmed a concert movie to play in between sets of a cappella pieces, displaying a tragic murder and allowing the audience to participate in a musical murder mystery.

Representing the Cypher will be three of the Pit’s mainstays —  (J) Rowdy, Tracy Lamont and Konvo the Mutant. Rowdy said at first there was friction between the two Wednesday night acts, but he and his fellow emcees are excited for the show. 

During their set, Rowdy, Lamont and Konvo will mix freestyling with original songs, forming a dynamic intermission for the show. Despite the differences in preparation, Lamont, a student at N.C. Central University, said performance ultimately boils down to expression. 

“The Cypher is more or less about involving people as a whole and getting them to express themselves while still expressing yourself,” Lamont said. “But stage presence, for me, is making sure the people have a good time and are hearing the messages you penned in your songs.”

The intrinsically personal nature of musical expression is yet another theme that bonds the Walk-Ons and the Cypher rappers. 

Meredith McNairy, a first-year performing in her first fall concert with the Walk-Ons, said the intimate nature of a cappella is one of the reasons she’s so passionate about her art. 

“I think singing as an art form is very personal and emotional because it’s you, and in a small group setting like a cappella, you feel a very special bond with the people around you singing."

“That’s one of my favorite parts. I love it — I can’t get enough.”


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