Students react to Markham’s “ZooMass” song

By Danny Marchant

The University of Massachusetts has a reputation for being New England’s leading institution in drinking and partying. One might recall the riots breaking out in Southwest when the Red Sox won the World Series. But is the image of “ZooMass Slamherst” accurate or an exaggeration? UMass administration would certainly like to distance the school from the image. Many students consider it a badge of honor.

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One such student, named Paul Markham, is so proud that he’s made a video about it. It’s called “Welcome to the Zoo,” and it features Markham and his buddies rapping about the wonders of UMass. Those wonders do not include the height of the DuBois library.

The chorus conveys his message perfectly: “Welcome to the Zoo where we drink beer/Getting messed up/We still think clear.” The video is meant to be an “anthem” to the Zoo’s partying prowess. It’s filled with lots of in-jokes that UMass students might appreciate: Complaining about having to walk to Marcus, hung-over trips to Berkshire on a Sunday afternoon and the notorious “hoedowns at Hobart.”

The video, directed by Ryan Weitz, was shot on campus – primarily on the bike path between Bartlett and Herter, but occasionally cutting to a party scene. Perhaps in spite of its content, the video itself is undeniably well produced. If you look past the entourage of posturing white guys, you can see how nice the campus looks in the fall. Markham’s crew is proudly dressed in “UMass F***in Amherst” shirts. Markham, a UMass junior, declares that he’s had the “time of his life” here. It bears mentioning that the people in the video seem to be having a good time as well.

But students seem to be split about whether to laugh at or laugh with Markham and his buddies. The highest rated comment under the YouTube video reads “Literally the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen.” Ratings for the video were disabled by the account that posted it within 24 hours of its posting. UMass senior Seth Hapenny calls the video “awful.” Others find that Markham just wants to express how much fun he’s had at UMass.

There’s a concern that the video gives UMass students a bad name. People who watch it and do not attend the University will now associate UMass with an amateur rap video about drinking and partying. A representative from the University couldn’t be reached for comment, but it’s safe to assume that Paul Markham won’t be asked to perform at any open houses.

However, amidst all the bros and Solo cups, the video offers some positive factual trivia about the campus. As Markham points out in the chorus, “With 25,000 kids/Our campus is a city” and that “Potential employers/They love us.” These may both be true, but the boasts are slightly jarring when they come after the line “I’m in my room smokin’ weed/Now my throat hurts.”

There are students on campus that came to UMass because they wanted to go to a party school, and there are students who came to UMass because they wanted an affordable education at a highly-ranked public university. In many ways, it is as if there are actually two schools. Both groups of people are happy with the school they attend, but for different reasons expressed in different ways.

Markham, who makes the questionable decision of informing listeners that he lives at 33 Phillips Street in his song, has posted other videos on YouTube. One of them is called “UMass Tailgate,” which is along the same lines of “Welcome to the Zoo,” but with a more parking lot-centric aesthetic. Try as some of us might, the image of UMass as a party school is hard to shake off.

But if anybody asks, you can always say you attended the university where Julius Erving received his doctorate.

Danny Marchant can reached at [email protected].