Friday, July 31, 2009

When hip-hop meets Hogwarts

For those of you who don't know, I'm actually one of the biggest Harry Potter fans in the world. My motley crew of friends on a daily basis use terms such as Muggle, Slytherin, and Tom Riddle to describe those we dislike, and more than once I have invoked a broken Sorting Hat as the explanation for my relationship woes. This brief background is meant solely to prepare you for the lyrical greatness that takes place in this video. Shout out to Carv for putting me on to it. Voldemort is the man.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My homies go in.

Featuring Carvens Lissaint, one of the four newest members of the Speak Green Team that will be performing at Sundance in 2010. This man is nice. Step your vulnerability game up.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My childhood hero

Ya'll know you used to love this jawn. This man's sweater game was vicious. Peep a young Larenz Tate conspiring against Urkel in the corner. Such a shame.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I hope that you're the one...

Outkast "Prototype" from Michelle Van Der Water on Vimeo.

I just completed a 30 page paper in which I close-read this song for a veerrry long time. There's definitely a lot going on here. Recently, I've been rather interested in Afrofuturism, cybertheory, and what the benefits are of posthuman identity particularly for Black musical and stage performers. Alex Weheliye and Kodwo Eshun have been incredibly helpful, but I'm really trying to make an intervention in performance/hip-hop studies with this stuff. The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


This man inspires my life. Listen close.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bianca thinks rainbows are like angels.

Spent the last couple days chillin with this man right here. A consummate professional, incomparable performer and undeniably brilliant writer, Brook Yung is (as I often tell him) my arch-nemesis in the poetry game. Always one to keep me on my toes when it comes to producing new work that is both listenable and subversive, I can truly say that my drive would not be where it is if not for the visible passion and drive evident not only in this young man's poetry, but in his work ethic. Just seen the brother fly from New York to Chicago to France to Chicago to New York in 3 days. The embedded piece is one of my favorites from him. Get home safe, king. It was good building with you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Shout out to Harlem.

Sorry for the hiatus, folks. Been coaching at Brave New Voices 2009 for the past week and have had absolutely no internet access. I'm incredibly proud of the 2009 Philly team, they all did their thing and I will be sure to put up some of their footage when I get a hold of it. Each told their individual stories and had a personal breakthrough of some kind; a collective transformation I was overjoyed to behold and honored to play a part in.

Still, juxtaposed against the beauty of this year's BNV was a cloud of rumors, and the appearance of serious misguidance by the powers that be.

For the first time ever at the festival, I felt as if some of the voices that I was hearing were tailored by a mix of YouTube and overly aggressive coaching. Replacing the raw, uninhibited voices I was so used to coming across were poems that at times seemed forced, etched from the stencil of BNV teams past in an effort to attain the highest score possible and eventually win the competition.

Now, don't get me wrong. Only a year ago, I was one of the most competitive cats to ever touch a microphone. A relentless, calculating strategist more times than I care to remember, I have on various occasions forgotten to indulge in the beauty that so often sprouts from poetry slams in favor of concentrating instead on attaining victory. It is that sort of energy that lingered over this last festival; unnecessary choreography,a lack of substance, and a blatant refusal to support other teams. While this week made me unspeakably joyous at moments (practicing with the Philly team,watching Saul Williams perform live twice, seeing old friends and making new ones) there were also instances where I genuinely feared for the future of the art form, where my face buried itself in my hands in a mix of confusion and sadness over what so many young folks have been told that they must sound and perform like in order to be successful.

I earnestly hope that spoken word poetry,(and slam as arguably its primary vehicle), does not devolve; does not become so concerned with the validation of the mainstream that it forgets its roots, does not become a product to be sold to the highest bidding sponsor. I hope that the people who spoke their own truth this weekend continue to do so and refuse to let whatever happened in Chicago bruise or break them.

I hope that there are more folks like Brandon Santiago, who spoke a powerful truth into my heart this afternoon. Like Ittai Wong, who shared an incredibly vulnerable moment with me after his team, Hawaii, took the title for a second year in a row. Like Alysia Harris, whose honesty and willingness to forgive never ceases to astound me. Like Team Philly, Team Denver, Gregory Corbin, Urban Word,all of BNV '07-'08 and the thousands of poets I have seen, heard and grown with since.

Never let someone else define your voice,poets. Take back what is yours and make it whole again. Who you are always has been, and always will be, so much more than enough.

Shout out to Jorge Brito. This piece goes in, it's straight from the heart.

Monday, July 13, 2009

T-Pain who?

I'm a fan of the "Rapper Ternt Sanga"as much as anyone, but nobody will ever reach the heights of vocoder-laced greatness ascended to by Zapp and Roger Troutman. Peep this live performance of a personal favorite. Goodness gracious, listen to that talkbox...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Joy boooosted mine.

Just....enjoy. Reconciliation feels good. This song is the embodiment of how I feel right now. Chea!

Friday, July 10, 2009

For when your body feels like an elevator you're stuck in.

Shira Erlichman is definitely one of the illest poets in the spoken word niche of performers that completely push back on the notion that traditional narrative structure is the only way to tell a story. "Daddy's Parking Lot Sermon" is a roller-coaster ride of images and undeniable truisms, all bound up within the package of an invaluable message to the generation coming up after us. Shira Erlichman is fresh, hope to see her live show one day. Apparently she also plays the guitar.

Who says poets aren't multi-talented?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

This post has been in the works for a minute...

I've written about "gettin lite" before. The last time I did, it was the form of an extended post on my former blog from my sophomore year, Ethos. I discussed the NYC dance movement as one that was,

"this incredibly fluid amalgam of musical influences that span the last century of African-American dance culture combined with hip-hop swagger and an undeniable NYC flavor that eludes any sort of label that my limited vocabulary could place on it. It’s breaking, tap, vogue, ballet, miming, pop-locking and probably many other dance forms that I’ve never even seen before all compacted into one ever-evolving, indescribable package that has literally taken parties by storm in the New York City area for the past couple of years..."

Further, I wrote:

"Gettin’ lite serves not only as a means of cathartic release for youth that are far too often told to sit down and be still within the confines of decrepit NYC school systems, but also as a medium through which the stringent borders of hetero-normative behavior and race can be pushed. Within this incredibly complex culture, you have dance crews composed of members of various genders and ethnic backgrounds who battle fiercely for bragging rights and YouTube hits; crews ranging in name from The Brotherhood to the Fast Food Club all dancing their hearts out anywhere they are allowed to circle up and get the party started the way they see fit. These young men and women are warriors fighting through the difficulty of their everyday realities using their craft as a means of both enjoyment and expression in a city that that took art class out of their curriculum and left them nothing to replace it with"

This past week, during a conversations with my 6'4 lighthouse of a best friend (shout out to Gryffindor House), I came across one of the illest dancers I have seen in a while, Kid Tokyo. It's just...something about his approach to the form that strikes me as rather remarkable. I would go far as to say (in a world where so few things are) that is style is truly singular, undeniably unique.Keep doing ya thing, Kid. You're clearly building a name for yourself.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Absolute musical genius. Somebody needs to write a book about acapella performances of hip-hop in Black youth culture. Between the above video and the gaggle of "gettin lite" videos currently dominating YouTube, there's really some interesting stuff going on with youth of color across the country making, and dancing to, their own music (without, mind you, what many of us would consider "instruments"). I hope these kids record this song ASAP and put it out. It's certainly no sillier that current radio fare and I personally have always recognized the importance of Johnson and Johnson products, though not necessarily of the baby lotion persuasion. Enjoy the clip, these kids are dope sauce. Wipe them elbows!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Rough day.

Today, I got hit in the face by a tree while reading a book I spent 25 bucks on. Ouch. While I nurse the wound, enjoy the soothing sounds of my favorite songstress of the moment, Feist. Someone please explain the video to me when you get the chance. I have no idea what's going on. Song is dope though. Hooray for aesthetics!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The epitome of doing a lot with a little

Check out my man, Red. This dude goes in. Hip-Hop at its finest; no machines, no microphones, just a man and his mind. Go on, Red. Go on.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I will personally foul anyone who comes at this person, Illy, foul. What?!!!

Illecism is may favorite unsigned MC (now that Drake has signed with Young Money). Everyone who is not onto him, get focused. Though content-wise dude definitely needs to work on the misogyny, violence etc. (what rapper doesn't at this point? smh), in terms of raw lyrical inventiveness and clever punch lines there are certainly few nicer with the pen than this man right here. Check out this clip my boy, Ev, put me on to. Extended metaphor is sick; listen close.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

With grad school on the horizon.....

Searching for graduate programs is quite the endeavor. As my "work" (if I can even call the two or 3 serious research papers I have written in my lifetime such a thing)at this current juncture is primary concerned with disability, popular culture, African American fiction and performance, finding a potential home is proving to be trying beyond all expectations. I want to produce a body of scholarship that is both subversive and accessible, respected for its academic rigor and adored for its potential to reach the masses. I want both the professors and the peeps to love my stuff. I feel as if I need them to; need to know for myself that I'm making a difference across lines of educational access and class privilege with the work I put forth.

Dr. Johnson has been incredibly helpful so far, and clearly his own trajectory serves as quite the model for what one can accomplish when they relentlessly pursue their artistic passions and are able to put it in conversation with their academic interests. Seeing folks like him, Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Dr. Salamishah Tillet, and Dr. John Jackson (to name a few among the scores of folks who have helped me get to this point) makes it undeniably clear to me that such a path is possible; I am just having trouble mapping out that road for myself.

While I go continue to search for programs, enjoy this footage of Dr. Neal speaking at the Theorizing Blackness conference which took place at the Graduate Center at CUNY over a year ago. Feel free to follow up with clips from the full speech on YouTube, it's certainly worth a listen. That reminds me, shout-out to everyone from my (Il)legible Blackness class in the Fall; our weekly discussions made all the difference. Wouldn't be on this path without ya'll.