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:

A Prominent Anti-Feminist Visited My School; Here's What I Learned (Plus: A "Feminist FAQs" Handout)

First, I'm not going to say his name. He's a media personality, so Voldemorting him only works in his favor. Basically, a conservative student organization brought this guy to campus for a talk entitled "CALM DOWN!! Restoring Common Sense to Feminism." You can probably tell from the casual sexism and double exclamation points that the speakers weren't exactly titans of scholarship; one of them, however, has become quite famous, so there was some buzz around the event. There were also multiple protest actions.

Rather than write about the guy, or the woman who spoke with him, or the specifics of the actual talk, I wanted to share a few bigger-picture thoughts. I also want to thank Lindsey and Ryan, whose liveblog was helpful (and insightful and kind of hilarious too). Here are a few things on my mind this evening:

Friday, February 12, 2016

MN Poets Are Everywhere: The Late Show, the United Nations, Paris By Night, Viral Stardom, and Most Importantly, Right Here

Just a quick post shining some light on a bunch of MN poets making big moves. Some of them are from here, some are transplants (like me), some are college students here, but they all have a MN connection.

I don't at all mean this in a sour grapes sense, but our local media (generally) doesn't pay much attention to what we do in the poetry/spoken word community. Even when we have sold out shows and viral stardom, we're still an underground movement in a lot of ways. I think that is going to shift, but this post is a reminder that it really could shift sooner than later. A few examples of how powerful this community is:

1. Danez Smith on Stephen Colbert's Late Show along with Macklemore:

Danez, a graduate of Central High in St. Paul, is one of the top poets in the country right now, spoken word or otherwise. He deserves it too. His work is consistently breathtaking. Find more here.

2. Sierra DeMulder just published a new book through Andrews McMeel in collaboration with To Write Love On Her Arms

Sierra has been doing great work for years now, but her new book is coming out through a major publisher and is now in stores like Barnes & Noble across the country. What's more, the work is having a profound impact on a lot of people. Get it here. I performed at her release party a week ago and it was completely packed.

3. Twin Cities-based Button Poetry passes 100 Million Views on YouTube (and 10 million of those views are for Twin Cities-based poet Neil Hilborn)

As popular as Button Poetry has been getting lately, I think a lot of people still don't realize that they're based right here in MN. Neil's poem "OCD" (which Button hosts) is the one with over ten million views; I'm sharing this one instead; I've always really liked this piece, and I think part of that is because I don't really like the first minute or so of it. But its arc is so powerful; it ends in such a beautiful, important space. Button also kicked off a monthly poetry slam called Button Poetry Live at Camp Bar in St. Paul, which has been sold out every month since it started.

4. Bao Phi on Paris By Night

If you've never heard of Paris By Night, you may just have to take my word for it: it's a REALLY BIG DEAL. And Bao is one of my favorite poets ever. His book is one I still come back to, all the time.

5. Tish Jones was named the first-ever Brave New Voices Leadership Fellow + TruArtSpeaks and the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam series taking off

This means she is now serving as the Festival Director for what promises to be the biggest Brave New Voices ever. More info here. Tish is also the Executive Director of MN-based TruArtSpeaks, which is currently wrapping up five incredibly successful preliminary bouts in the Be Heard MN Youth Poetry Slam series. Semifinals and Finals (3/26 at the Walker) are going to be huge this year.

6. Remember when I performed at the United Nations last year? 
I performed at the UN for the Barbershop Conference on gender equity last year.

If I'm going to shout myself out, I can also say that my work was featured on Welcome to Night Vale, Upworthy and a bunch of other places, and is used by educators all over the country in social justice trainings and educational spaces.

7. Everyone's Going Viral
I'll also shout out Bryan Thao Worra, Blythe Baird, Anna Binkovitz, Donte Collins, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Heid E. Erdrich, Keno Evol, Khary Jackson, and ALL of the other poets (my apologies-- I'm definitely leaving some out) who have been everywhere from Huffington Post to Afropunk to Everyday Feminism, to shout outs from celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Zooey Deschanel, to winning big awards, publication placements, and fellowships. It'd be too much to include all of it here, but the community continues to do fantastic work.

And as I've written before, national and international accolades are great, but I'm also proud of how much work is being done RIGHT HERE in the Twin Cities. A lot of poets who may not ever "go viral" are doing even more important work in schools, prisons, community centers, and beyond. Spoken word is a culture that encourages looking back as you look ahead, opening doors for others, and using your access to space to create more access for others. That's been happening in a big way lately. See for yourself; a few resources: