Loyola University’s Hip Hop and R&B program, the first of its kind in the United States, released a student-created compilation album on July 7. The album “4 The Culture Vol. 1” was released in two versions — the “Maroon Edition” and the “Gold Edition” — symbolizing Loyola University’s school colors. The “Maroon Edition” focuses on exhibiting the essence of  hip-hop, while the “Gold Edition” highlights the soulful malleability and expressiveness of R&B. 

The 20-song double album delves into topics about college, life, love and more, and was curated primarily by the students.

“It’s all student projects. It’s all their songs,” said longtime music producer Lovell “U-P” Cooper, co-founder of the program. “This is totally their pride project that was done by them, their ideas and their energy.”

The album was a collaborative effort between all of the students involved in the program and featured on the album. Boston native and Loyola student C.M. Young is featured on the song “So What.” He offers a rap in between the singing talents of two other student-artists.

“Figuring out the puzzle pieces of words to fit into the right melodies with these two artists was the magic of it all,” Young said. “These two amazing singers set me up perfectly to execute the finishing touch on this moody record.”

Piper Stringz (left), who recorded “Blessed” on “4 The Culture Vol. 1”, working with producer Jason “MSSNGR” Washington in one of Loyola University recording studios. The two are students in Loyola’s Hip Hop and R&B program. Credit: Photo courtesy of Piper Stringz

Student Piper Stringz, a Chicago native who has been singing since she was 6 years old,  is featured on the song “Blessed” on “4 The Culture Vol. 1.”

“I love how everyone was invested in their craft on the songs, especially how we all helped to lay tracks, write, produce, record background vocals and add other things to add spice to our songs,” Stringz said.

Cooper said he tried tirelessly for more than six years to establish a program focused on the curation of hip-hop and R&B and the mentorship of the next generation of artists.

Cooper and Raney Antoine Jr. co-founded Loyola’s Bachelor of Science of Hip-Hop and R&B program in 2021. The program focuses on more than just the production and recording of music. It also teaches prospective artists the inner workings of the music industry, from artist management to the business side. 

Students in Loyola’s Hip Hope and R&B program have access to the latest music technology. Credit: Photo courtesy Lovell "U-P" Cooper

“Working under U-P and Raney over the past year has really heightened my standards and pushed me to become great in my craft,” said E.V. Soto, a junior in the program who is featured on the double album and mixed eight songs on the project. Soto also released a solo album, Arrow, last month.

“4 The Culture Vol. 1” is set to be the first yearly installment of an album that will showcase student talent. The album will be distributed by rapper Jay-Z’s entertainment agency Roc Nation’s Equity Distribution.

Equity Distribution is a distribution service that provides independent artists with business and branding tools as well as information on building a career in music.  Artists are allowed to share their music with the world through the platform and also own their own masters. Loyola and Equity formed an exclusive partnership to offer students more opportunities to customize their profiles, network and showcase their creativity.

“The next goal would be to continue to open those doors so that more of those opportunities can keep flowing to my students,” Cooper said.

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Khalil Gillon is a New Orleans native from Algiers. He attended Thomas Jefferson High School and is a graduate of Louisiana State University in political journalism. Passionate about politics, Gillon ran...