The air buzzed with static as the speakers in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union crackled to life. All eyes turned to the stage as a student strode out, wearing ripped black jeans and an excited grin. Over the next hour, she would share stories of ambition, love, and strength— through rap.
Hadiyatou Diallo, who goes by the stage name of Haddie the Baddie, is just one of several San Diego State students showcased at the Associated Students’ Nooner events. Diallo’s performance, the first of the semester, took place on Feb. 9, where she performed an hour-long set of her original music.
“I felt overwhelmed, but really filled with joy,” Diallo said. “I didn’t expect people to sit down and listen. It really solidified for me that I was making music that people wanted to hear.”
The event itself was organized by the Associated Students, with Music and Entertainment Chair Lindsay Scholbrock as its main coordinator.
“This is a great start to kick off the year,” Scholbrock said. “We try to recruit a diverse range of talent for our performances, and it’s been a while since we’ve had a rapper.”
Scholbrock mentioned Diallo stunned the audience with her performance at the GreenFest Battle of the Bands last December, where she earned the title of runner-up. For Diallo, that debut performance is “what made [her] want to continue performing.” From then, Diallo was a natural choice for a Nooner performance.
“I love her voice,” audience member Joalina Nyema said. “The writing, the beats, the flow– they’ve all been good. I really like the variety.”
Nyema had seen the posters advertising Diallo’s performance around campus and decided she would prepare for the show by listening to some of her music. Diallo’s repertoire is filled with songs that reflect her journey; on one track, the lyrics allude to the inspiration she gains from her family.
“I come from a musically-inclined family. I have two older brothers and we shared a room growing up,” Diallo said. “One was in a band and was always making noise, and the other was a rapper – my mother and I used to drive him to the studio. Watching them made me want to create my own music. When I got a phone and laptop, I realized that I could put music together on my own.”
Across all of her songs, Diallo combines the use of clever, fast-paced lyrics, with an infectious sense of rhythm, calling her audience to not only listen to her words, but to feel them.
“Her message, the energy she exudes, she carries herself with it,” Nyema said.
Behind the fierce beats and confident lyrics, Diallo exposed a vulnerable and expressive storyteller. Her words spoke of aspiration, independence and the highs and lows of modern love. Diallo cites rapper Nicki Minaj as a major source of inspiration for her wordplay, sound and message.
“I want my listeners to be left with confidence,” Diallo said. “My music is meant for people to tap into that part of themselves and own who they are. Because that’s what I want to do with my music: own who I am and tell my story.”
In between her songs, Diallo gave details about each track, interacting with the audience and sharing some of that energy.
In particular, her song “Big Day” emphasized her ambition and drive to create and share music, illustrating the hard work and dedication that goes into being an independent artist.
“I’ll be patient, waiting for that big day,” she sang.
The recurring Nooners offer a platform for student artists to pursue their own “big day,” providing them with a way to directly reach their target audience.
“It’s a really special moment for student artists, for them to perform whatever they want,” Scholbrock said. “It’s a spotlight on the artist. In the union, you can really hear them because it echoes off the stage. Even if you’re on the third floor you can hear them. It’s their time to shine.”
Diallo, who shared she is juggling eight classes, two-and-a-half jobs and her musical pursuits, used her time between classes to bring some positivity into students’ days.
“Balance is the hardest challenge – there’s so much I want to do,” Diallo said.
This sentiment was evident when, after the performance, Diallo shared she had to rush off to her next class before she was late. However, during her performance, she was able to make an impact on her audience.
“Her music makes me feel empowered and confident,” Nyema said. “Most of the music I listen to is by Black female rappers. To see that there’s somebody local doing this makes me happy.”
The crowd of friends and first-time listeners alike applauded and sang along throughout the hour-long set. In the moment, Diallo both lived and shared one message, best conveyed through her own lyrics:
“Whatever your dream is– you can have it.”