(photo by Monica Rivera)
1. STANDING UP IN FRONT OF STRANGERS AND TALKINGMost of my time and energy this year was spent performing at colleges, conferences and other spaces in every corner of the country. I feel honored to have been able to connect with so many people in so many different places this year. And that's all on top of local shows like the "Shut it Down" night of speaking out against street harassment, the "Let the Bars Breathe" poetry-of-rap show, the "Page, Stage, Engage" show which sold out the Whole at the U of MN, and other shows I organized or helped organize. Booking for 2015 now.
2. SIFU HOTMAN (Guante, deM atlaS & Rube): EMBRACE THE SUN
My last year-in-review also kicks off with Sifu Hotman. But where last year's three-song suite was a fun little side project, this extended version is one of the best full albums I've ever helped create. With support from BBC Radio, Ego Trip, Amazing Radio, Bandcamp's "New and Notable" feature, and more blog write-ups than I usually get, it also became one of my more successful projects. And with Josh's new success as part of the Rhymesayers family, I'm hoping even more people discover it; get it here.
I released this way back in February with no media campaign, no physical copies, no release party-- just a mixtape for me to get some stuff off my chest. Over 9 Dungeon Family instrumentals, it's a concept album about bullying, identity, activism and more. The second verse on "Chain Lightning" is one of the best things I've written, as is the song "Greater Shout," though I think the whole project has its moments. Oh and all of the song titles are level 1-9 D&D spells. And it's all one 30-min track. And it's free.
4. MORE SEMI-VIRALITY
I was on Upworthy twice this year, back in January for The Family Business, and again in October for Action (which was also featured on Everyday Feminism and the NoMore Project). Between my own YouTube account and my videos on Button Poetry, I reached well over a million views this year. Obviously, the numbers aren't everything, but when you write sometimes-challenging poems about social justice issues and people actually pay attention to them, you have to celebrate those little victories.
5. NEW SPOKEN-WORD VIDEOS
Via Button Poetry, a poem about the iconography of the Twin Cities, and the importance of digging deeper:
Via Button Poetry, a poem about the "continuum of action" involved whenever we witness injustice; this was written after Ferguson, but relates to a lot of different issues:
A poem about the weight of history, and how that weight can be a burden, but it can also be a source of tremendous strength:
This poem was actually an assignment for class; it documents my experiences with education and systems of education:
6. OTHER NEW MUSIC AND MUSIC VIDEOS
Here's the video for "First Ave. Funeral" from the Sifu Hotman album. This is one of four videos I've been involved with shot by Adam J. Dunn:
We shot a video for everyone's favorite song from "You Better Weaponize," the one that talks about whiteness in hip hop. Directed by Patrick "PCP" Pegg:
Here's a random song about nihilism, aliens and Burger King, produced by the great Katrah-Quey. It's a free download:
Producer Blamsiss remixed one of the standout songs from the Dungeons mixtape; it's also a free download:
I've worked with Ganzo on a handful of songs now; here's his remix of "Limb from Limb" from the Sifu Hotman album:
7. Writing (Online and In Real Paper Books)
I wrote a ton of essays and op-eds in 2013; some of them got a lot of attention. But I made a point this year to write less and signal boost more, whenever possible. I tried to only go into "thinkpiece mode" when I felt like I had something unique to contribute. A few things I wrote this year:
- Extended thoughts on whiteness and hip hop based on the aforementioned video.
- Thoughts on the sometimes tense relationship between local hip hop and local media, plus a followup piece addressing some questions and concerns.
- A piece on bar dress codes and aversive racism.
- This is Not a Think Piece: Turning Outrage into Action from Ferguson to the Twin Cities: I tried to collect interviews, event info, organizational links, and resources in one place so that anyone interested in police brutality activism could get an overview of the local activist landscape.
- A review of Toki Wright & Big Cats' album Pangaea.
- Why I Vote
- Planting Seeds vs. Planting Crops: A Few Thoughts on How Artists Can Support Social Movements
- I also have an essay in the book "Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence," which you can purchase here.
- I also have an essay in book "Eminem and Rap, Poetry, Race," which you can purchase here.
8. TEACHING AND FACILITATING + TRUARTSPEAKS
As much as I was on the road this year, it's also important to me to be building something here at home.
- It was incredible to work with TruArtSpeaks again this year on the Be Heard youth poetry slam series plus all of our ongoing programs, both in-school and out. Next year is going to be even bigger. Lots of news coming soon.
- I'm also thankful to COMPAS for hooking up a number of in-school residencies this year. Working with them has taken me out of my urban comfort zone into the suburbs, into rural areas and beyond, and it's always been a great experience.
- I finally started my video series sharing tips, tools and tactics for aspiring spoken-word artists. We are three videos in, and more are on the way!
- Also facilitated classes or workshops at what feels like a million different conferences, summits, activist events, etc.: Department of Justice conference on preventing gender violence, ACPA national conference, Overcoming Racism conference, the Safe Schools youth summit, TC Daily Planet media trainings, and much more.
9. GRAD SCHOOLYeah, I also finished my first semester of grad school at the U of MN. It was a busy year. I'm studying intersections of critical pedagogy, social justice education, and social media, all through the lens of hip hop and spoken-word.
10. NEW BOOK AND NEW ALBUM
Both of these projects will see a 2015 official release, but they're both done. The album is a sampler mix of all of my best songs (plus some brand new tracks and remixes), and the book contains the lyrics booklet to that album, plus all of my poems, plus a bunch of my essays and other writings. They're both called "A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry," and will be available soon. I'll end this with the video to one of the new songs on the album; thanks for listening. Let's keep building.