Keep in mind that I am a fiction writer and not a poet. I give mad props to anyone who can use the hypnotic world of words and convey their thoughts, joys, and pains in deep and rhythmic ways. I give extra mad props to those who can remember their prose and perform it off the dome with no paper in their hands. Myself, I would probably overthink as I write a poem and freeze when it is time to perform it.
Though I am not a poet or spoken word performer, I am indeed a fan. Over the years and in several locations, I have been that audience member that has cheered, laughed, and snapped my fingers to many great ones and amateurs alike of multiple genres and races. I recently attended an event in Oakland, and it spurred a funny conversation I had years ago.
Regardless of the venue and vibe that allows individuals to express themselves lyrically, I tend to see some stereotypical types that often bless the mic, per se. I will speak on four types that I am most entertained by. No offense, if you or someone you know fits in these categories. Laugh with me as I describe them as I see it.
The Angry Woman
This sister has been hurt by love too many times or is pissed off at the world for its conniving scheme against her. She dresses defiantly as her way of throwing a middle finger to the universe around her. Usually wearing no makeup, she screams about how the one dude who broke her heart after several chances to do right by her is with some other “b!@ch” that doesn’t match her elegance or how she is sick and tired of women seen as less than their worth in Lil Wayne videos. (You better not mention Nelly’s Tip Drill video around her if you value your life!) Her eyes focus like lasers as she spits revenge and how that sad, pathetic brother she wrote about will one day see that he messed up.
She is a survivor because she tells you how that she realized that she had enough and rose above the foot on her neck. She will have her moment in life when she will no longer be fazed by the oppressive job that she goes to everyday or the haters that have the nerve to call her anything but a child of God. You know that her set is almost over as her voice gets louder and louder (you may even hear it crack a little as she holds back tears) causing you to want to look away or sit down before the microphone is thrown like a baseball or slammed on the stage.
Right on, sista….right on….
The Contradictory Militant
In case you didn’t know that a revolution was about to jump off, you better get ready and take notes when this brother hits the stage. He is naturally angrier than the “Angry Woman” and will in detail explain how “the man” has been the reason why we will never come out of our enslaved minds. His solution: Let’s band together and start all-out war against those who oppress us. F the shackles that have been placed on our ankles, and F the lost souls that forgot their heritage!! Whether it is a dashiki or black glove this guy is wearing, you know him. He may recite historic examples as well as cite African names and cities that you have never heard of. (He may even call himself something like “Brother Kahikilani, The Forgotten King of Metaphoric Righteousness”)
Contradictory, you notice that the same guy that just told you about his days as “a slave for the master will soon end” has a bigger and better ride than you and smells like the strongest weed possible. Now, I am not knocking anyone that smokes weed or likes nice things, but how do you rise above “the man” when you are a billboard for all the commercialistic tendencies that keep us “a slave” and keep yourself from consideration for upward mobility employment because of fear that a drug test may come up soon. He gives a shout out to all of the misunderstood Nubian queens in the audience, but he is posted up by the door at the end of the night spitting erotic game to the one with the biggest booty. I’m just saying…..
Are you ready for the revolution? Are you?….
The Soulful Butterfly
As the host announces the next poet, you notice the room dim as a beautiful spirit floats past you…literally floats past you. You swear you saw a bird land on her shoulder as she speaks her name. She whispers rainbows and makes your heart smile as her positive vibes take your consciousness to a level you never knew was possible. Humble in both dress and attitude, you wouldn’t dare say anything negative about such an uplifting speaker.
Well, part of the reason why you can’t say anything negative is because you got lost in how deep she was and don’t understand what she is saying half of the time. You question whether you are deep enough to follow or if she is too deep to exist in our reality. The lady’s third eye is so open, and her energy transcends the atmosphere enough to make Erykah Badu say “WTH?!?” There are so many pauses and inflection changes in each stanza she speaks that you hold back clapping because her set may not be over yet. When it is though, you know because suddenly the lights brighten again, and your confused mind wants to cry, scream, and high-five everyone in the place.
Thank you for the experience…..
The Overly Smooth Operator
You see this guy way before his name is even called to perform. All night long, you see him eyeing his “victims” that he wants to pull in to his words later. You can’t miss the guy in the room who looks like he has spent all afternoon doing pushups before he placed his tan leather jacket, with no shirt, over his oiled chest, or you noticed the “playa, playa” sunglasses and his polished socks. It doesn’t even matter to him whether the majority of females present find him attractive or not. He saunters up to the stage slowly speaking to each woman that looks gullible or hasn’t heard his “bs” yet.
He overuses words like love, desire, high, and ecstasy. (He saw the movie Love Jones too many times.) He only looks at the women in the audience as he licks his lips enough to make L.L. Cool J hand him his Chapstick. This brother may even have the audacity to look at your girlfriend as he starts to sing in the middle of his speech. He spends his time on the mic wisely trying to garner as many “ohhs” and “ahhs” in response to statements discussing his ability to give every woman explosive orgasms or describing romantic ventures that no one with a regular job can pull off. If you see a young lady that you want to converse with at the poetry slam, do it before this guy says anything on stage unless you have just as much game.
Brother, I swear if you look at my lady one more time…..
Those are just a few of the types of poets that entertain me. Again, I give them all props for having the guts to do what they do (and make me laugh).
photo credit: Thomas Hawk