Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Guante & Big Cats: WAR BALLOONS is available now!



Happy release day. It's available on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, and all that. Hope you like it.

And if you're in the Twin Cities, please come check out the release party this Friday! You can get your tickets now.


Will be sharing more thoughts on the album in a while, but wanted to give people a chance to just listen first. Thanks!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Poem of the Month: "Genderlect" by Donte Collins (Plus a Note About TruArtSpeaks)



"We aren't teaching our boys to be men; we are teaching them not to be women. And what does that say about women?"

I've been doing weekly write-ups of certain poems on Button Poetry's channel, but I also wanted to highlight some older poems that are personal favorites of mine, which I'll be doing once per month here. It's a way to shout out some good work, and also to highlight some tools and tactics that poets use that might be useful to aspiring writers.

First, I know this is an older poem from Donte, and they have a whole book of newer poems, as well as dozens of videos online. I also know that as poets, we don't always love drawing attention to our older work, but I wanted to highlight this poem for a couple of reasons.

First, even if Donte has grown as a writer and performer since this poem, this poem still has so much to offer. Using the Happy Meal toy imagery as a very small, concrete entry-point to a much deeper exploration of how we're socialized to internalize the gender binary is powerful. Moving from that into Disney princess imagery, into middle school bullying and sports imagery-- the poem is a waterfall of examples that support the poem's message. I've talked a lot about structure in this series, and this poem demonstrates the idea of a structural impulse-- not a strict, formulaic set of rules, but rather an intentionality around how an argument is constructed-- beautifully.

I know educators often use my poems (like this one and this one) in conversations about how masculine identities are formed and enforced, and how that so often connects to violence; I hope that Donte's poem (as well as others from this list I put together) can be added to the arsenal for those discussions. Because poems like these weave together personal narrative and concrete examples, they can be useful entry-points, something beyond a basic powerpoint presentation or whatever.

I also share this poem, however, because this video was taken at one of TruArtSpeaks' Be Heard poetry slams, and I wanted to give a shout out to TruArtSpeaks and how important that work is in the current climate. We're actually right in the middle of a campaign to raise $10k before October 15; ALL of that money goes directly into programming that ensures young people have opportunities to not only tell their stories and express themselves, but also to access high-quality mentorship and arts-educational opportunities. We run a free, all-ages open mic every week (Thursdays, 6-8pm at Golden Thyme Cafe), engage in dozens of school residencies every year, host all kinds of workshops and writing circles, organize the Be Heard series (every January-March), and more.

Donte was actually the first person this year to put up $1k for the rest of us to match. That generosity is a testament to the power of this work. Please consider joining the cypher and helping to power this work. You can donate here.


Monday, September 10, 2018

New Guante & Big Cats Retrospective Mix: "We Are Waking Up In Our Caskets" (Free Download)



With the new album, WAR BALLOONS, a week away, here's a free retrospective mix of songs pulling from the last decade of Guante & Big Cats' collaborative work. Perfect for a quick workout, hunting vampires, etc. Featuring:

Stories | Everything Burns | Welcome to the Border w/ Chastity Brown | No Capes | Gifted Youngsters w/ Lydia Liza | With Great Power | To Young Leaders | The National Anthem w/ Haley Bonar | The Hero | Asterisk

The new album is something else. Be sure to get your tickets to the release show (Friday, September 21) here!



Monday, September 03, 2018

Guante & Big Cats: "You Say 'Millionaire' Like It's a Good Thing" (REMIX)


For Labor Day, wanted to make another song from the new album (specifically, this song) available. If you already pre-ordered, you can download it now; if you didn't, pre-order now and you get this song (and another) right away. The lyrics are also available in that link.

Thanks to everyone who has already pre-ordered. Pre-ordering is one of the single best ways to support artists you like; it is definitely appreciated, and we're excited to share the whole album with you.

The new Guante & Big Cats album, "War Balloons," is out on September 18. The release show will be September 21 (get tickets now!). In case you missed it, another song from the project is available now: "Fight or Flight," and features this beautiful design by the incredible Frizz Kid:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Guante & Big Cats: WAR BALLOONS (Album Announcement)


Our first new music in five years. Pre-orders are live now, and if you pre-order, you get the first song on the album, "Fight or Flight," immediately. The lyrics are available at that link too.

Update: here's a free sampler mix of some of our best work from previous projects!

Excited to share this with everyone. We're having a release party on Friday, September 21 at the U of MN's Whole Music Club. Here's the cover and official blurb:

"War Balloons" is Guante and Big Cats' first collaborative project since 2012's "You Better Weaponize." Since that time, emcee Guante has become one of the leading voices in the spoken word movement, performing at the United Nations, giving a TEDx talk, and touring the country working with young people around issues of gender violence prevention, identity, and agency. Producer Big Cats has become one of the most respected beatmakers in the country, with work appearing on both solo and collaborative projects, as well as in media for CNN, The Golden State Warriors, PBS, TakeAction MN, and beyond.

Something else that happened between 2012 and 2018: Donald Trump. The songs on "War Balloons" are unapologetically political, but their politics are grounded in narrative and world-building, as opposed to platitudes and sloganeering. "Dog People" looks at the culture of white working-class resentment and the scapegoating (of immigrants, feminists, and other working people) that results from it. "You Say Millionaire Like It's a Good Thing" is a blistering remix of an older Guante song framing the uninhibited accumulation of wealth as a legitimate moral failing. In between, there are polar bears, superheroes, star-crossed lovers, and all of the visionary, just-this-side-of-magical-realism imagery that the duo's older work displays. 

Influenced by equal parts Bruce Springsteen, Public Enemy, and adrienne maree brown's "Emergent Strategy," this is a project called into existence by necessity. As Guante recently tweeted: "screaming at this hellscape is not enough to change it, but changing it probably won't happen without the screaming."

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Poem of the Month: "Field Trip to the Museum of Human History" by Franny Choi



Dry-mouthed, we came upon a contraption
of chain and bolt, an ancient torture instrument
the guide called “handcuffs.”

I've been doing weekly write-ups of certain poems on Button Poetry's channel, but I also wanted to highlight some older poems that are personal favorites of mine, which I'll be doing once per month here. It's a way to shout out some good work, and also to highlight some tools and tactics that poets use that might be useful to aspiring writers.

Monday, July 30, 2018

New Video: "Police Make the Best Poets"



New video up via Button Poetry. This poem is in my book, which is available now.

This is a poem about dominant narratives and counter-narratives. To quote MPD150:

As the bodycam footage in the Thurman Blevins case is released (which we won't share here, since enough people are sharing the footage via news networks and we don't want to re-traumatize people), we can see the official narrative starting to take shape.

Our challenge is to not lose sight of the context around that narrative. Police, politicians, and media will almost always zoom in on the specific details of a given case; this is understandable (and of course, we can't lose sight of the real human being and family at the center of this), but it's also a tactic that keeps us from talking about the bigger picture.

The MPD150 report exists, in part, to provide some of that bigger picture and historical context. Explicit instances of police violence are part of a larger system of violence; it isn't just about how individual officers act in individual moments; it's about the larger system/culture that led to those moments in the first place. What relationships between the police and that neighborhood existed before that moment? What kinds of mindsets did the police enter into that moment with? What sorts of resources and alternatives are missing from the picture? These aren't always easy questions, but they're worth asking.

This is all also in the context of just the last couple years here in Minneapolis-- from Thurman Blevins, to the ketamine scandal, to the Justine Ruszczyk lawsuit, to the occupation of the 4th precinct after the killing of Jamar Clark, to debates about mayoral vs. city council oversight, to ongoing, deeper questions about punishment vs. prevention and what we choose to invest in. Aside from the MPD150 report linked to above and this FAQs on police abolition, I'd also recommend this overview by Unicorn Riot. Knowing what's happening is a necessary first step.

For people interested, MPD150 is organizing a big interactive exhibit this fall, in collaboration with some amazing artists, to bring the report to life. If you'd like to support that, you can donate here. Look out for more details on that soon. Full text of the poem: