Thursday, April 07, 2016

New Footage of "Ten Responses to the Phrase 'Man Up'" Plus a Massive Update of My List of Other Poets' Work

Lots happening right now, especially with my final grad school presentation right around the corner (Monday, 4/11 at 7pm at Rarig; free and open to the public). Two things related to that:

First, here is brand new footage of what has become my most popular poem, "Ten Responses to the Phrase 'Man Up.'" The Button Poetry version already has 850k views (!), and there's another version with 100k+ too, but this performance is just better, I think. If you know me, you probably already know this poem, but it's always nice to have a more definitive version available online. Find the full text here.


Second, I just completed a huge update to my "Beginner's Guide to Spoken Word and Slam Poetry" page. There, I've collected over a hundred poems that I would recommend to others; a few personal favorites mixed in with some that I think just do a good job capturing the power of spoken word as both a form of artistic expression and a potential teaching tool. Check it out, and feel free to get in touch with any suggestions.

Friday, April 01, 2016

My Final Presentation/Performance for Graduate School: Monday, April 11 at the U of MN's Rarig Theater


I've been in grad school at the U of MN for the past two years. I'm super close to being finished. If you're interested in my research, you can come check out this public presentation/performance on Monday, April 11 at the U of MN's Rarig Thrust Theater. 7pm. Free.

I won't go into super-specific detail here, but my project basically centers around how spoken word can be a useful tool for making social justice education programs not just more engaging or more entertaining, but more critical. We are often tasked with covering specific topics: consent, microaggressions, bystander intervention, identity & privilege, etc. But part of my project is about figuring out how we can talk about these things while also cultivating real dialogue, making systems of power more visible, challenging capitalism and the neoliberalization of the university, encouraging agency and activism, and creating spaces for real collaborative learning and organizing.

Especially when we're talking about first-year orientation and welcome week programs, where time is short and real relationship-building is a challenge, I'm interested in how spoken word (whether through live performance, online video, or generative writing prompts-- and the open discussion that would accompany all three) can be used by facilitators to do the kind of work that powerpoint presentations or bullet-point lists of statistics can't do.

There will be a free, public, online element of my project too, so if you're interested in that kind of thing but can't make it to the event itself, stay tuned.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

New Video: "How to Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist"



I could write a whole thinkpiece here, but I will try to keep this commentary short. This poem has been through a lot of drafts-- even this video is subtly different from the one on the album, and both are different from what I've been performing over the past couple of weeks. Just a couple of quick thoughts (all of which are in addition to the album commentary I already wrote):

Probably the biggest theme on "Post-Post-Race" is the importance of having a more critical, wider perspective on issues of race and racism. Racism isn't just about "bad people being mean to other people because they look different;" it's about history, it's about systems and institutions, and it's about power. This poem is maybe the most direct exploration of that idea on the album.

Especially today, in the context of Trump (and the movement that he represents) it's important to see racism and xenophobia as bigger than one individual's bigotry. We should work to defeat Trump, but we should not labor under the delusion that defeating Trump will be enough. It won't. Electing a Democrat won't be enough either. Even electing a progressive Democrat won't be enough. Defeating racism (and sexism, homophobia, etc.) will take a multi-tiered approach, and I'd argue that step one is affirming that these problems are fundamentally bigger than individual attitudes or actions.

And "bigger" doesn't mean "invincible." It just means that our work is not just the work of changing people's hearts and minds; it's the work of changing our institutions, laws, policies, media, and systems too.

I'd encourage everyone to read Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow," which might be the most important book of the last decade. I'd also recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates' "The Case for Reparations," which describes the system that we call "racism" as clearly as you're likely to read anywhere.

Finally, I'd like to shout out a couple of organizing efforts that have been successful lately, especially in the context of challenging racism as a system. Here in Minneapolis, organizers have been mobilizing around efforts to stop using the Grand Jury system for police shootings-- and they've won. In Chicago and Cleveland, the prosecutors in the police shootings of Laquan McDonald and Tamir Rice were both voted out. Campaign Zero continues to propose and fight for policies to end police violence. This isn't exhaustive, obviously, but I think it's important to point to some successes too.

Thanks again for listening and for sharing. The whole album is still available here:


Full text of the poem:

Monday, March 07, 2016

Guante & Katrah-Quey: POST-POST-RACE Available Now



The new album is here. Thanks so much to everyone who pre-ordered it, came to the release show, and had a hand in putting the project together. I will likely do a follow-up post with some more notes and thoughts on specific songs, but for now, just wanted to get this out there (although I will share a few more general reflections below).

As always, the only real way people will hear this is if you share it-- on social media, in real life, however. All of those RTs, re-posts, and emails make a real difference-- and me and Katrah-Quey really, truly appreciate it. I'm not really expecting this one to blow up on the rap blogs, haha. Word-of-mouth is everything.

Also, because you can't release an album without some kind of video too these days, here's a video of me performing the last two verses on the album (which work as a pretty good encapsulation of the whole primary theme of the album, as does this video I released last week) a capella:



Finally, I'd like to share a couple of thoughts and reflections, especially since this album is attempting to do some pretty specific things.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Get a Brand New Song When You Pre-Order "Post-Post-Race," PLUS A New Video on Button Poetry

These updates aren't necessarily related; there's just a lot happening in my life right now. First off, I just made the pre-order live for the new Guante & Katrah-Quey album, "Post-Post-Race." If you preorder it, you get an instant download of my FAVORITE new song from the project: "Our Relationship is a Slowly Gentrifying Neighborhood" featuring the incredible Jayanthi Kyle!



And don't forget: our release show is coming up on Thursday, 3/3 at the Whole Music Club, and it's going to be something really special. All of the performers are also guests on the album, and they're all people I have endless respect for both as artists and as people who "walk the walk" when it comes to the issues that the album is tackling. Check out the Facebook event page here. It's free and all-ages too!

This would normally be a separate post because getting a poem up on Button's channel is a pretty big deal, but like I said, these are tumultuous times so I'm just going to put this here. They got footage of my poem "Small Talk" from Sierra DeMulder's book release show. This is a very personal poem I wrote about art, identity, and profound introversion.



If you missed it, I have ANOTHER new poem up at my own channel, brand new footage of "The Invisible Backpacker of Privilege," which is a great introduction to the themes explored on the new album.

Finally, a reminder that the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam series is heading into semifinals this month-- 3/5 at the Loft Literary Center, and 3/12 at the MacPhail Center for Music. Finals are coming up too-- 3/26 at the Walker Art Center. All three of these shows are going to be amazing; I've said it before but it bears repeating: these young artists (all between 13 and 19) are mind-bogglingly talented, and deserve our support!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New Video for the Poem Version of "The Invisible Backpacker of Privilege" PLUS the New Album's Tracklist


Brand new video for an older poem courtesy of Patrick Pegg. Full text after the jump. I usually like to let the poems or songs speak for themselves, but a few background points on this one:

1. I'm trying to walk a pretty fine line in this poem. The argument that hip hop is a rainbow-colored racial utopia isn't true. And the argument that white people have no place whatsoever in hip hop is an increasingly abstract, academic one. Both of these arguments, however, are easier to stand behind than what I'm trying to actually say. I think it's important to recognize the facts on-the-ground, while at the same time being careful not to excuse anyone or cop pleas; we have to understand the history of cultural imperialism, and we also have to know how that history interfaces with what is happening right now. The ending of the piece is intentionally layered/muddy.

2. White privilege as a symptom of white supremacy plays out in many different spaces. When I was more actively doing social justice education/facilitation stuff, a common argument among students was that white people lose their privilege when they become the minority, or visit another country, or whatever. Part of this poem is pushing back against that idea. Even in hip hop, a culture created by and still driven by people of color, white privilege plays out-- that's kind of a central message in this piece. It's also about pushing the "privilege framework" a little further and complicating the idea of "allyship." The key line in the poem, for me, "what is the difference between acknowledging your privilege and acting on that acknowledgement?"

3. My perspective in this poem is also complex-- I'm speaking as a white MC, while also speaking as a mixed-race, white-presenting MC; beyond that, I'm speaking as a practitioner. While the racial identity stuff might get more attention in this poem, that last point is really important to me. I think it's important for practitioners (active, involved MCs, DJs, b-boys, b-girls, etc.) to be driving these conversations, not just think-piece writers and bloggers.

4. The title is confusing, yeah. I have a SONG called "The Invisible Backpacker of Privilege" too; plus the older version of this poem was called "Confessions of a White Rapper." I decided to use the former title for both the song and the poem-- partly because I just think it's more clever ("backpacker" being casual slang for underground hip hop fan, and the whole title riffing off Peggy McIntosh's "invisible knapsack metaphor), but also because I wasn't super comfortable with the old title-- didn't want it to push into "isn't it so novel and amazing that white kids rap?!" clickbait territory.

5. Finally, this poem isn't on the new album, but it is a great introduction to the ideas and themes explored on it. Reminder: the release show is 3/3 at the Whole Music Club in MPLS (free and all ages!), and here's something special: the full tracklist featuring song titles and guest vocalists:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Just Announced: The POST-POST-RACE Album Release Show: March 3 at the UMN Whole Music Club


The brand new album features beats by Katrah-Quey and vocals by me and a bunch of my favorite artists (including Jayanthi Kyle, Lucien Parker, G.P. Jacob, Tish Jones, Tony the Scribe, See More Perspective, and Laresa Avent-- who are all performing at the show), all talking about race, racism, and solidarity.

More info coming. For now, here is the event page, and here are the first two singles: