Rhythmic American Poetry

JG The Jugganaut: Rhythmic American Poetry Review

You might remember JG The Jugganaut as the poetic force behind the intro to Yungg Soja’s, I Am Klasik Vol. 1. Setting the tone for that project, JG proved that his chops as a spoken word artist are not something that can be easily ignored. Rhythmic American Poetry is a testament to his lyrical skills as a poet, while giving an undeniable ode to what is perhaps one of his greatest influences: Hip Hop.

Rhythmic American Poetry (RAP) is not a Hip Hop album or a spoken word album, but a combination of both that aims to uncover the poetic roots of rapping through the use of spoken word against a variety of beats. The Hip-Hop influence is evident on J2 The Villain where JG uses a braggadocious, poetic flow against a heavy beat with lines like, “As heroic as I try to be, the Jugganaut is a villain, the prime suspect in a string of open mic killings,” presenting himself as a competitive emcee residing in the body of a spoken word artist. As atypical as combative rhymes may feel when it comes to poetry, it definitely sets the tone for what seems to be one of the running themes throughout the project: JG is a poet who has felt more at home with Hip-Hop than he has in his own lane as a spoken word artist. The skits throughout the album, like You Ain’t Got No Kufi? drives home the point that he is sometimes a displaced artist because he doesn’t follow the trends and stereotypes associated with being a spoken word poet. The inherent dichotomy in trying to be a poet who spits with the competitive soul of a rapper is further pushed in a track called Rhythmic American Poetry, penned after the name of the album:

When I first got hooked on poetry

they reeled me in and studied me

they said I sound too much like rap

they cut down my lines then they tossed me back

now rap, rap heard my words

rap said my flow was crack

but I never rhyme about rims and the trap

and Interscope ain’t found a way to market without that

JG also talks about his insecurities and desires when it comes to relationships on tracks like Marital Issues, where he discusses having marital issues as an unmarried man, Brick Walls, or I Need where he talks about all the qualities he wants in a woman; qualities that are subtly contradictory at times, which only adds to the complexity of the poem. Sperm Donor could be seen as a story of what happens when all that goes wrong, with a child inevitably trapped in the middle, while Black Widow is probably one of the most solid tracks on the album in terms of story-telling and matching the production with JG’s booming voice.

He continues to pay homage to Hip-Hop with 1995, reminiscing on his high school days growing up in Columbus, Ohio, and being influenced by artists like Wu-Tang, Biggie, Raekwon, Nas and Lauryn Hill. It’s another solid track, the production forcing you to reminisce right along with him.

While I won’t dive into every track on the album, I think that the ones that I mentioned are proof of JG’s abilities to craft stories with poetic wordplay. At times the poems can come off as rehearsed as opposed to performed because the emotion behind them doesn’t match the words on display. While the tracks on the album are, on average, the length of any Hip-Hop songs you might hear, the project feels long as a whole when combined with the skits. There’s definitely a theme to RAP, but I think it starts to get lost in the arrangement of the tracks and the length of the album, making it feel less cohesive.

None of that takes away from the fact that it showcases spoken word as something intrinsic and necessary to rap as an art, instead of a distant cousin far removed from it. JG talks about the conflicting nature of being a poet who feels like a rapper, while at the same time proving that the two are one and the same. If you’re a writer, a fan of poetry, or a Hip-Hop head who really listens to lyrics, then I would recommend this for you. Go cop it at the link below.

Until next time.

-Kia

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JG The Jugganaut

JG  The Jugganaut is a spoken word artist from Ohio whose album, Rhythmic American Poetry, was recently nominated for album of the year by the National Poetry Awards. You can vote for him on their website and download the album at the links below.

Rhythmic American Poetry Download: http://www.mediafire.com/download/gjb6juq8jo59db2/Rhythmic_American_Poetry_(final).zip

National Poetry Awards: http://www.thenationalpoetryawards.com/

JG’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jugganautical?fref=ts

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The “Real Hip Hop” Argument

A few nights ago, I woke up to a boy’s yells cutting the air followed by three distinctive pops, crisp and disappearing almost as quickly as they came. The silence that followed was unusual – no voices, no sound of car tires hitting the dip in the pavement as they went by, no people, not even the sound of the breeze that was moving the trees in the distance. It was as if time stopped in that moment – like it was waiting for something.

What came next were the sounds of Nikes, Chucks, Timbs, hitting the pavement, and a jumble of words, “Let’s go!” and “Hurry the fuck up!” intermingled in the rhythm of feet stampeding the sidewalk. The sound of cars coming to life were only outmatched by the thunderous roar that followed as they sped off, leaving the same dank silence that now offered the question of whether or not a body lay at the opposite end of the street.

Last year, I stood at the gate that separated my apartment building’s driveway from that same street, and watched as hundreds of people marched in the direction of the police precinct. They waved picket signs like crosses, chanting the tune of an eighteen year old boy who, just a week earlier on the block behind mine, had been shot and killed in his bathroom by a police officer who chased him into his home. Allegations that the boy had a gun were deemed false.

My friends tell me about being stopped by cops for walking the streets at night, for looking suspicious, for having too much rhythm in their steps, or for driving a car that looks too luxurious to have Kendrick Lamar, Nas or Future ripping through it’s system. Tales of young men being shot because they’re unfamiliar faces in the wrong neighborhood are regularly told  in our circles, around a campfire of speakers, iPhones, and Dre Beats, sparking the lyrics of Hip-Hop’s golden era classics, and those now carrying the flame.

I’ve often wondered if Hip-Hop is to blame.

Many times it has been the martyr for and messiah of every situation that I’ve mentioned, and many more, creating a rift that leaves people debating over what defines “real” Hip-Hop. However people describe it, it’s never exact. Sometimes it’s based on how socially conscious an artist is, or lyrical ability, or even how much boom-bap is found in an instrumental; how much it taps into that 90’s era nostalgia. Whatever the case, the explanation of real Hip-Hop usually comes from someone grasping at pieces of a whole, forming an abstract concept of what that person feels defines it in his own mind, but never something that is a truly satisfiable definition of what it actually means.

The truth: people no longer know exactly what Hip-Hop is, so they define it by what it’s not.

Real Hip-Hop is not radio, it’s not the glorification of money and violence, it’s not pop, it’s not rap, it’s not anything past the early 90’s or lacking that golden era influence, it’s not Soulja Boy, Chief Keef,  Drake, or anything that we didn’t grow up on, and it’s not mainstream.

But in fact, Hip-Hop is all of those things, whether you personally like it or not.

There is no such thing as real Hip-Hop, because it can’t be put into one tangible, rigidly defined category. It’s not any one thing. At it’s core, Hip-Hop will always be a dichotomy because it is a culture; one that is a direct reflection of the people who created it, good and bad.

This yin & yang has always existed. Grand Master Flash dropped “The Message” only a few years after Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” Tupac made “Brenda’s Baby” and “I Get Around.” Big L made “Street Struck” and “All Black.” Even Rick Ross rapped on both “Oil Money Gang” and “Poor Decisions.” Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.A.A.D City illustrated the effects and inner struggles that exist at both ends of the spectrum. Even he did “HiiiPower” and “Fuckin Problems.”

If the culture of the people is at odds with itself, then you can expect Hip-Hop to be just as unsure of what it should be. It can be revolutionary and powerful, and at the same time be violent and insecure; it can be uplifting and socially conscious, or it can be misogynistic and full of materialism. It can be a variety of things but it can’t be chopped up into pieces that are conveyed as something separate from the whole, no more than we can separate from the dichotomies that make us who we are. That’s why I believe that only penning certain things as “real Hip-Hop” is an illusion based on the ideal of what some people individually desire it to be. Hip-Hop is as real as the culture behind it, because it is a window into the hearts and minds of the people that developed and continue to invest in it’s name.

The protesters who marched down my street echoed the frustrations of a discrimination that would target people like Angela Davis and Assata Shakur  to Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, and countless others that go unreported and unmentioned in your news feed. They are every bit a part of Hip-Hop culture as the boy that would fire shots at another in the name of nothing but his ego; every bit as real to Hip-Hop as young men bragging about how much money and how many bitches they have, or someone like Chief Keef glorifying violence over Twitter. All of these incidents are rooted in the same emptiness that made Hip-Hop necessary in the first place. In fact, it has become a reflection of that emptiness which it attempts to alleviate through all of it’s conscious, humane, violent, and materialistic struggles.

To attach the label “real” onto Hip-Hop, then proceed to ignore the aspects of it that you don’t like, and then to separate it into categories so that anything undesirable is far removed from some idealistic pedestal, is both nostalgic and irresponsible. It ignores the fact that for Hip-Hop to be so dismembered, it means that there is something intrinsically broken in our culture. The misogyny, the violence, the materialism are just as relevant to Hip-Hop as the revolutionaries, the purveyors of the art form, and those who inspire us to uplift ourselves and others through the mic. This dichotomy shows Hip-Hop’s strengths, and exposes the wounds in our culture that have yet to heal; the void and the emptiness that still exists since it’s spark was first ignited in someone’s basement in the Bronx as an answer to the world’s indifference.

If Hip-Hop is flawed, it’s because we are. It doesn’t get any realer than that.

-Kia

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The legal stuff:  This post was written exclusively for Spraypaintandinkpens.com by Takeia Dunlop. It may not be redistributed without permission.

Yungg Soja – I Am Klasik

Yungg Soja -I Am Klasik

Dream Big, Live Klasik.

That’s the new motto of Columbus, Ohio emcee, Yungg Soja, and the theme behind his newest mixtape, I Am Klasik Vol. 1. The intro sets the tone for the type of lyricism you’re going to hear from this project – complex, gritty, and meticulous. But its the riveting spoken word of JG the Jugganaut following Soja’s lyrics that sets the tone for the entire mixtape by begging the question, “Are you classic?”

The idea of what makes an emcee classic becomes the conceptual basis for the entire mixtape. Soja often goes back and forth between asking himself that question, and answering it with life experiences and lyrical ability. Songs like Shoelaces and Hell Under Water paint a picture of someone with self-doubt searching for inner determination, ultimately contrasted by the more confident Crown Me Emcee, where he talks about his personal growth as an artist. At the same time, he’s not afraid to call out certain types of rappers on The Exception: those who want to be the exception to failure and want all the success without any of the work.

He goes on to pay tribute to the influence of Hip Hop in his life with tracks like Heart 2 Heart and All I Need, both cleverly disguised as more intimate love songs. The Feel is probably one of my favorite tracks on the whole mixtape as it questions the essence of the current state of  Hip Hop compared to where it has been, and you can hear the theme of being classic resonating between the bars:

I’m not knocking your flava/

I’m just saying don’t compare it to mine/

Cuz Hip Hop with that feel/

was in a different place and time

I’m not going to say that this is a perfect project by any means, but Soja’s growth, especially with penning concepts, is definitely there. There’s a solid theme going on here that is relatable to anyone with a dream. In the end, it’s clear that his stance on becoming classic is that it’s something that requires constant evolution and the willingness to step your game up.

Oh yeah.

And the ability to really spit. Let’s not forget that.

 

You can visit yunggsoja.com to download the mixtape for free. You can also follow Soja at the links below:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/yunggsoja

Reverb: http://www.reverbnation.com/yunggsoja

Dream Big, Live Klasik guys. Until next time.

-Kia

Poe Picasso: Bringing Hip Hop’s Reformation

“I am the magistrate, new face of this rap game, giving classic pieces of art, word to my last name.”

-Poe Picasso

At the time that my brother was attending VCU in Richmond, Virginia, he came home to New York feenin’ for two things: pizza and Hip Hop. We would have listening sessions in my room for the latest album that dropped, from Lupe Fiasco, to Jay-Z, to Nas. This time around though, with a mouth full of pizza, he dropped one track on me and simply said: “You gotta hear this dude.”

It was Poe Picasso’s 40 Days, 40 Nights, a song that uses a strong visual metaphor to relate the current state of Hip Hop to the story of Noah while illustrating Poe’s intentions to purge the entire industry in order to rebuild Hip Hop to it’s former glory.

Needless to say, I was interested.

I listened to the rest of Exhibit B: Manifest Destiny, the mixtape where 40 Days, 40 Nights can be found, and then downloaded his first release, Exhibit A: The Real Hip Hop Project. As I listened, I realized that Poe was a product of Hip Hop’s era of socially conscious wordsmiths, street poets, and lyrical masters – an era that made me fall in love with Hip Hop in the first place. He is able to draw a very real connection between a rough life growing up in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, and the overall political and social problems in New York City and beyond that have consequentially lead to the unfortunate circumstances of not just his hood, but those worldwide.

This week, Poe released Reformation, an aptly chosen title for his third release. While Poe’s previous releases focused on the decomposition of Hip Hop through a lens of social awareness and accountability, Reformation is more about the reconstruction, rehabilitation, and transformation of Hip Hop music as a whole into something that is not just dumbed down for the sake of radio airplay, but is a powerful force that sheds much needed light on common social, economic, and political problems that go unchanged. Poe also has no problem sharing his sentiments that New York, as the birthplace of Hip Hop, has fallen off. He intends to start this reformation right in his own back yard by taking what the original innovators of Hip-Hop left behind and bringing it to the next level for his generation.

I’ll be honest in saying that I personally didn’t think the production on Reformation was as strong as his previous two releases, and it lacked the vitality that he brought to his other projects. That being said, I think the lyrics and overall tone of this mixtape remains intact while keeping the spirit of his message consistent. The free download includes an audio book in .PDF format that allows you to play the songs and read the lyrics. I appreciated that approach because I honestly miss the days of CD booklets that laid out the lyrics.

Poe has already proved himself to be a viable wordsmith, poetic, and intelligent, so I’m looking forward to the main course where I can see what he can really do in the booth with stronger production and original beats.

Until then, check out his other projects on his Bandcamp page here: http://poepicasso.bandcamp.com/

And check out the video for his song, Inspiration, below.

Later folks.

-Kia