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Artist of the Issue: Michael Aduboffour ’17

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While some Groton students blow the community away with their visual art, theatrical pursuits, or dance, Mike inspires with his words. He is an artistic force to be reckoned with in his own right. This year, Mike has truly blossomed as an artist, releasing his first professional single “Vapor” this winter and finding a new outlet for his passion for rap in Freestyle Fridays.

His first taste of the power of words was when for his seventh grade English final project. Instead of simply writing a poem or short prose, he composed and performed some verses of rap. His class praised the work, but Mike put his talent back on the shelf for a couple of years. He didn’t get back into the craft until he came to Groton, and only started considering himself an artist in his fifth form fall, when he began to freestyle and write more seriously. To aspiring artists, Mike asserts the importance of reaffirming yourself: “It’s bad to just depend on what other people tell you.” Even if people hype you up, Mike says, “the only way to have the confidence to keep going comes from you.”

Freestyle Friday is Mike’s own invention, and while he runs the event now, Mike has not always had such skill in freestyle rap. At yet another party during his fourth form fall, Mike’s friend encouraged him to try his hand at it. “I was wack,” says Mike, “but I kept freestyling whenever I felt like it to have fun with my friends.” Over the year, Mike improved and his work paid off. “By Fifth Form spring, when I was already writing and freestyling a bunch, I decided to make Freestyle Friday, and that’s when I began to be known around campus for freestyling.” Now, Mike runs the Groton Freestyle Group. Rohan Varkey ’18, a regular participant in Freestyle Friday, says, “I originally started doing it for fun in the dorm. Now I go to Freestyle Friday because there’s such a huge mix of people.” Mike plans to continue writing music in college and perhaps even to start something analogous to Freestyle Friday. Past that, he hopes to make a career out of music either as a professional rapper or the owner of a record label.

It is something of a happy accident that Mike has now released a single. The idea to produce “Vapor” came about largely on a whim. Mike was attending a party this past fall when he began to freestyle. “At one point,” he says, “I was freestyling in front of forty-five people in silence.” Mike caught the attention of a music producer, who reached out to him about recording a single. Over the course of a couple of weeks, Mike crafted lyrics to fit over a track. “I want to differentiate myself from what most people consider hip hop right now,” he explains. In “Vapor,” Mike calls out rappers who don’t say anything real and whose production, not their lyrics, carries the work. He cites as artistic influences rappers J. Cole, Logic, and Kanye West.

Even though he considers himself first and foremost a rapper, this winter Mike delved into a budding theater career. After a significant disturbance on campus Laurie Sales reached out to Mike with the script for “Open Admissions,” a 25-minute play which sheds light on racism in an academic context. Mike was immediately interested. When asked if he was apprehensive about being such a big figure for the school, Mike responded that he was “completely comfortable.” The play was important to him, he says, because it started important conversation at school about the reality of subtle racism. “I could see in people’s faces that what we were saying actually affected them.” He went on to say that the feeling of having his words and performance affect people deeply was extremely gratifying, as many student actors can attest to. Although Mike doesn’t consider himself an actor primarily, he still hopes to explore acting in college.

The School will lament the loss of its house prefect, Mike Aduboffour, who leads through both his actions and his words. Who else can take a crowd from laughter to tears in one iconic chapel talk or performance? If Mike’s legacy could be distilled into one idea, it would be that your mindset is key. To borrow a verse from “Vapor:” “Make a plate of the haters / let ’em baste in the flavors.”

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