When Hamzah Khan got an email about a contest to open for rapper Playboi Carti to a sold-out crowd, he knew exactly what to do.
Khan, a fifth-year in electrical and computer engineering, is a member of SolSpectrum, a hip-hop collective made up of five friends, four of whom are Ohio State students. The group entered a music video in CAMPVS Live’s contest to open for the upcoming Find Your Grind University Festival, taking place Friday on the South Oval.
CAMPVS Live announced SolSpectrum Thursday as the winning act for the FYGU Festival’s Ohio State stop.
The group, made up of Khan; Anant Maitra, a fifth-year in electrical and computer engineering; Lock Wang, a fifth-year in electrical and computer engineering; Jackson Shiffert, a fourth-year in geographic information systems; and Mihir Parshionikar, will be joining Playboi Carti, Luh Kel, Supa Dupa Humble, Teyonahhh and local act Bread on the lineup.
“Weavin,” SolSpectrum’s contest submission piece, was an obvious choice.
“When it came to submitting a video on the CAMPVS website, that was the only real video I had that really was like a full-blown music video,” Maitra said.
The contest allowed students to submit entries for a campus showcase event at the FYGU Festival. Chosen via public voting online, the winner was guaranteed a slot performing at the main event.
Other finalists, chosen by a panel of judges, will join SolSpectrum in a showcase, where the selected winner will receive a $600 Amazon gift card, Evan Shapiro, CAMPVS Live executive producer, said. He said a variety of other factors, such as originality, performance strength and community engagement, are also considered in the selection.
SolSpectrum entered the contest late and sent the voting link to everyone they knew, Maitra said.
“We’ve just been putting it into every group chat we’re in, any way we can,” Shiffert said. “We do the same thing for shows so it’s not unusual for us. We’ve done this before.”
When all was said and done, the group had amassed over 3,200 votes, landing them on the front page of CAMPVS Live’s national leaderboard.
“I even hit up family and friends in India,” Maitra said. “My friend’s whole office floor voted for us and everything. That was just insane. A lot of people want to see us do big things, so I’m happy for that.”
Maitra said community engagement is everything for the band. It first broke into the Columbus music scene by organizing a show of its own at Scarlet & Grey Cafe, where THR3ES is now located.
“I didn’t really know much about organizing shows back then,” Maitra said. “I was laying in bed; this was one of my craziest ideas. I was like, ‘You know man, we could do a show.’”
He had been attending a weekly jam night at Scarlet & Grey Cafe to play saxophone and approached the venue about hosting a show. When they accepted, Maitra said he called all of his contacts from Columbus to Canton.
Since then, the group has performed at Wild Goose Creative and, most recently, TRISM.
“I remember I used to walk by TRISM with these guys and be like ‘Yo, man, TRISM just got built; one day we’re gonna have a show here,’” Maitra said. “And here we go, it happened.”
Maitra said the group always goes all out for its shows.
“We always try to bring our best effort and make sure people know that we’re serious about this and it means a lot to us,” Khan said. “We want to make sure we’re interacting with the crowd as much as we can, to really build that relationship, even outside of the music, too.”
Maitra and Khan said they both discovered music through their fathers.
“My dad always played the harmonica around the house, and he always played old school Indian songs like Kishore Kumar, things like that,” Maitra said.
Maitra said he began playing the saxophone in fifth grade and before long was performing across Northeast Ohio. He said he got into hip-hop in high school and brought his other tastes into the genre, as did most of the group.
Khan said he mainly listened to electronic music, while Shiffert was a piano player and Wang listened to Mandarin music while growing up in Hangzhou, China.
“Looking back, it’s pretty wack, listening to it now,” Khan said of his first recorded effort, a song called “Titration” he recorded with his AP Chemistry classmate Parshionikar. “We tried to combine EDM, house music, with like hip-hop, and we started rapping. That was the first time I started rapping.”
While Khan, Maitra and Wang all contribute vocals, Shiffert sticks to producing beats for the group.
Maitra, Wang and Shiffert met in Ohio State’s Music Producer’s Club in 2016. Wang discovered they were all in the same Calculus 1172 class, and the group was born under the moniker 1172ReverbPosse.
As the group added members, Khan said its name was changed to include them.
Khan and Parshionikar had operated as a duo called Solanta, and as they joined, the group evolved into SolSpectrum. They said the “Spectrum” in the name comes from the diversity within the group, both in culture and style. SolSpectrum’s music thrives off the different perspectives brought by its members, and Khan said they feed off it as well.
“I feel like it creates a lot more diversity within the group, and we can kind of bring our cultures and eastern influences, south Asian influence into our music,” Khan said.