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Freestyle rap in Utah County? Find it at the DAF House Music League

Brady Aste, founder of DAF House Music League, leads the crowd in a chant.
Brady Aste, founder of DAF House Music League, leads the crowd in a chant.
Tayson Egbert, Tayson Egbert Photography

OREM — Brady Aste, a marketing student at Utah Valley University, was sitting in class a few months ago when he overheard a stranger say, “Employers look for people who do things without being asked.”

The comment stuck with Aste, eventually pushing him forward to collaborate with friends to create something entirely new to the Provo/Orem area: DAF House Rap League.

DAF House Rap League consists of a group of freestyle rap artists trying to create a new rap culture in Utah County, Aste explained.

“It’s a platform for local rap and hip-hop and freestyling artists to show their talent and make a name for themselves,” he said.

DAF House aims to fulfil multiple purposes, including bringing in and sponsoring local talent, while also creating an underground rap battle scene.

The evolution of DAF

Before DAF House acquired an identity or a name, it was simply a rap night where Aste and his buddies played rhyming games, a proving ground for friendly rap battles.

“All we had was my computer and Spotify,” Aste remembered.

He said their set up was essentially homemade — no fancy speakers, sponsorship or crowd. In the early days, it was just a group of friends looking for something fun to do.

“It was super low-key and way fun,” he said.

His friends encouraged him to keep the rap nights alive and it wasn't long after they started getting together that the group came up with the word DAF.

“It’s symbolic of the fact that you never really know what to expect at a freestyle cypher,” Aste said.

What started as a fun night with friends grew, and in less than five months, attendance had risen from 15 to 175, causing Aste to move the event to larger space in a warehouse.

In addition to the change in location, Aste said he hired a professional DJ to create music beats for the rap battles, as well as videographers, photographers, break dancers and, of course, local freestyling artists.

Legends are born

Part of DAF House’s image is based on the local artists it recruits.

“Just in Provo and Orem alone, there are a handful of freestyle rappers that go unnoticed, due to a lack of places for them to perform,” Aste said.

One such artist is Ian Hullinger, otherwise known as Holly the Rapper. Hullinger believes that performing at DAF House has helped his career, stating that performing there has helped him become a better rapper.

“Knowing that I can freestyle and perform, plus knowing how to battle … you get that all under your belt, making you more of a creative writer,” he said.

With so much local talent, Aste said that he hopes that DAF House can not only “play as that underground rap battle scene where everybody knows where to go for rapping, but also a medium through which local talent is found.”

Expect the unexpected

Aste’s vision for DAF House is not only to help aspiring artists like Hullinger, but also to create a rap scene and atmosphere, a place where anyone can come and enjoy themselves.

Kayla Reynolds, a DAF House Rap League attendee, said that in addition to helping local talent, DAF House also benefits the audience.

“It’s an event for any type of person to come out and just let loose," she said. "DAF House really tailors to its audience and really includes everyone during the whole process.”

According to Hullinger, DAF House events provide local Utah Valley residents with a unique weekend activity.

“It’s something else to do in Utah. … It won’t let you down — it’s impressive,” he said.

As far as what to expect — “expect the unexpected,” said Aste, referring to what the talent might say or do. Since the rap is freestyle, no one, including the rappers, knows what they are going to say, but the nights generally include a friendly rap battle, rhyming games, a local beatboxer, a hip-hop team and a 30-minute dance party at the performance's end.

“DAF House includes the audience through the whole night,” Reynolds added. “The audience helps vote for a winner; we help start the battle by saying, ‘Three, two, one, spin it!’ and we do that before each battle.”

She also said the event is a good way for attendees to meet a variety of different people.

The future of DAF House

“If you are someone who wants your career or talent to take off, we want you on that stage,” Reynolds said. “We want to give everyone a chance to show what they’ve got, whether that’s being the most cool audience member, or dropping the dopest rhymes.”

The DAF House Rap League is edgy, rebellious and yet it's wholesome in the aspect that even your mom could go, Aste said. In addition to clean content, neither alcohol nor illegal products are sold at the event and even a high school student can attend.

As to the future of DAF House, Aste said that everyone should hop onto the DAF House train soon because of how big he hopes it will become.

“DAF House Rap League will become a household name. … You don’t know how fun it is until you come and experience it yourself, then you’re sold,” he said.

Sydnie Storer is a student at Brigham Young University where she is currently studying Broadcast Journalism. Contact her at sydniestorer@gmail.com