Tension rose at the Watermyn Cooperative house Friday night as two hip-hop teams came face-to-face on stage, cheered on by shouts of encouragement from fans. Audience members were preparing for the “Superbowl,” a rap competition put on by College Hill hip-hop collective NOTSODIFFERENT, which was created last semester. They swapped footballs for mics, traded players with musicians and opted for a stage rather than a stadium for this “Superbowl” performance.
NOTSODIFFERENT divided its members into two teams, denoted by their respective colors: red and purple. Throughout the night, the teams battled it out for the win, each one hoping for their performances to elicit louder audience cheers than the other.
Ilyaas Sugal ’23, the event’s master of ceremonies, kicked off the “Superbowl” in a suit and sunglasses. After greeting the audience, he introduced members of the Red and Purple teams: Gustav Hall ’24, Jesse McCormick-Evans ’25 and Rose Posyer on the former; and Jordan Walendom ’23, Osiris Russell-Delano ’25 and Jordan Turman ’23 on the latter.
The NSD team came up with an intricate backstory for the performance, hoping to further engage the audience and increase interest in the performance with elaborate storytelling and world-building. “They all have a character,” Valerie Villegas ’25, one of the performance’s organizers, told The Herald. “Some of them are new to the game, some of them have been trying to make the Superbowl for really long, and this is finally their year.”
The storyline was promoted on NSD’s Instagram in the days leading up to the “Superbowl,” with every performer’s character getting a pre-competition interview.
During the show’s introduction, the performers booed their opponents and raised their fists at one another in mock competition, building on the pre-existing tension between the teams advertised previously on social media.
Following several rounds of performances — including covers, original songs by the artists and some freestyle — the audience cheered the Red team to victory. Even though most of the performances were staged, Villegas clarified that the winner was not — not a single audience member or performer knew who would win until the end of the “Superbowl.”
The “Superbowl” is the “culmination of multiple (club) events,” said NSD co-founder Elliot Urgent ’24. Namoo Song ’24, Walendom and Urgent founded NSD last fall to create a community for hip-hop at Brown and RISD after feeling that there was a “huge demand for” on campus.
NSD is about “creating spaces and creating a universe where (artists) can succeed,” said Walendom.
Last semester, the group’s performances mostly consisted of DJ sets and small gatherings. The “Superbowl” also showcased artwork, with Song and other NSD members creating works of art to hang around the co-op during the competition.
Even though NSD is not yet officially recognized as a Brown student organization, the collective is already leaving its mark on the community. Monica Zhang ’24, NSD’s marketing representative told The Herald that her biggest takeaway from the group was that “no idea is a bad idea, and you can always build off of each other.”
“What is ‘NOTSODIFFERENT?’” Song asked. “You’ve gotta be there to understand.”