At this stage of my career as a performance poet, there are certain expectations within this community of artists and writers: a book. Not just any book, but hopefully a publisher will hook up editing, press, ISBN, the whole 9. Luckily for me, my first book was a part effort by Fractal Edge Press, a brainchild of Chicago writers affiliated with Puddinhead Press. In 2004/5 Fractal Edge gathered writing from many hosts and regulars of Chicago’s open-mic poetry scene. Conscience Under Pressure was one of the 1st 10 collections released, followed by The PolyRhythmic Anthology [a.k.a. The Hosts @ Trace]. Both with ISBN codes, square-bound spines and the best distribution that consignment can buy or D.I.Y.
Conscience represented my first few years immersed in a scene that to that point had boosted or provided career foundation for writers that sprung from HipHop culture such as Saul Williams, Sage Francis, B Dolan, Dessa, Kevin Coval and many others. The poetry slam community has seen more than it’s share of both failed rappers, and MC’s true to their culture even with their non-linear, often abstract “spoken word” as opposed to straight beats and rhymes. It was the written side that had flourished since I decided that the “Let’s start a band!” wouldn’t get past “Let’s start.” My book (as well as my work PolyRhythmic book) contained relatively diverse styles, mostly free-form and representative of my early frontman B-Boy meets Rocker MO. As I have improved over the last decade as a writer I have had many submissions to journals and anthologies accepted and published, recorded a couple CD’s. I always intend to stand shoulder to shoulder with my published peers by repeating the difficult trick of hooking on with a publisher/distributor that will put your career in a more literary, more academic spotlight. BUT…first, a mission…
I am Hip Hop. I am a B-Boy. There are certain aesthetic principles that I lean towards in order to legitimize my career to myself. My newest collection, Way of the B-Boy is hand-made, mostly self-edited, complete personal expression of my culture with no other filter. From recreating images of late night club or block jams to spelling out the Zen of rooftop “one-man-show” to simply how the language is used, Way of the B-Boy is not an example of what is expected of a writer-performer in the slam community. It is what is expected of any MC or DJ, breaker or graff writer: Self-creation, action and an example of not just doing something but being.
The book is hand-made, black cover similar to journal or piece book, no page numbers or table of contents, just 4 sections preceded by the HipHop curriculum sketch previously seen in this blog. Each section its own theme and distinctive energy and related pieces. Altogether, it is a testament to the urban inspirations that have gotten me and much of the world around me to this point. It is a testament to the being of HipHop, an expression of spirit not unlike Saul’s The Dead Emcee Scrolls or KRS-ONE’s The Gospel of HipHop.
I look forward to presenting much of the work at feature readings. Some of the work has already seen light at festivals, open mics and major slam competitions, if you are interested in a copy, they will be available in the coming weeks on the retooled BillyTuggle.net as well as straight out of the backpack.
Inspired by the 25th anniversary of the Bridge Wars…
In the early 21st century HipHop has begin to over shadow the typical evolution of youth cultures. A major reason for it’s longevity is that it has grown beyond being a simple ‘sub-culture’ or ‘arts culture’ with timeless art, archives and curriculum built upon the lessons that it presents at it’s most positive moments. However, the fame of hip-hop art and commerce is sometimes magnified through negativity. It would be misleading to think that persons of any culture would always have parallel or similar points of view, we are after all human. A culture such as HipHop is very opinion-conscious from who has the flyest style to who the greatest of all-time is. The GOAT argument, in pop culture, is reserved for rappers, but we all know who our favorite DJ’s are and who the graff writers and dancer are that inspire us. It is in the Hiphopper’s nature to debate, to battle, to “show and prove.”
The traditional arenas in which Hiphoppers bring the noise, the skills, the style are the party spot. Your crew is the crew that is the ONE to tear down the house, no matter what the media is. The DJ and his sound system, the MCs,\; the B-Boys & B-Girls ruling the floor; Did your crew do the backdrop or an installation? Flyers? Maybe it’s your clique tht simply threw the party and helped get the tape out of the headlining group. There is always another artist or crew out to push more and the most primal battles come at the center of the circle.
Before rappers gain the type of legendary status of commercial radio playing their major label releases… Before racking up the statistics and victories of big money contests… Before being crowned the king of your city or sector… A DJ or, much more often, an MC will battle their way out of their neighborhood or district. The tradition is rhyme for rhyme, schoolyard to block to park to party, but also getting recordings out and around because you also need money for resources. There-in is developed an instinct to be and fight for number one.
Rhyme battles have been fought epicly from day- or weekend long festivals, pay-per-view, live radio broadcast, on records and simply traditionally in a club open mic or cipher.
Detractors point to conflicts that have seemingly gone beyond musical and lyrical antics but no major incidents have ever been proven to be a result of “rap beef”. In some cases, conflict resolution and even alliances have resulted from conflict among rappers. In many cases, the music inspired by the feuds have become known as classic songs in the cultural cannon. Research some of the following [beyond my wiki gateway]…
South Bronx vs. Queensbridge – the Bridge Wars