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Performance Wed Jun 02 2010
The beauty of spoken word lies in its diversity; whether it comes via social issues, everyday life, political statements, or even erotica, spoken word artistry is a poetic form of expression that has something for everyone.
At the "Kings of Poetry," held recently at Kenwood Academy, the audience was treated to five spoken word artists with very different styles and messages. Hosted and produced by Chicago spoken word artist Blaq Ice, a South Side native who began his poetry career in the early 90s, the "Kings of Poetry" took the audience on a poetic adventure with their a variety of subjects that included youth violence, spirituality, relationships, gentrification, and even the headaches of highway construction.
The evening's first artist, "Ova Flo," who had a vocalist accompany him, delivered his spoken word in a sermon-like fashion, complete with a preacher's cadence. At times, however, he came off a bit too preachy, which tended to detract from what he was saying. And while I'm sure the use of a vocalist was to add more artistic effect, it was both too loud and distracting.
AJ Bryson, who had a more familiar style, powerfully engaged the audience with his piece, "It Just Ain't," a nod to the ideal that things and people aren't always what they seem and the very relatable "Them," a poem about the "tug-of-war" that sometimes exists in relationships.
The fun artist of the evening was poet Darryl "The Real Deal," also known as the "King of Cometry" (comedy and poetry). With an "old school" charm and a rhythmic style similar to comedian Rudy Ray Moore, Darryl provided [clean] comic relief via one of his pieces entitled, "Young Generation," an expression of his confusion about today's youth:
"Pants hanging down real low,
Fallin' off their behind,
I wonder do they need to borrow a belt,
Because if they do, they can borrow mine!"
Another performer was "Kharacter," a poet who morphed into different characters as he moved from piece to piece. Gentrification served as the subject in "Spaces, Places and Faces"; however, in what was undoubtedly the most unique piece of the evening was when he morphed into a drunken character. While this was certainly "different," it was extremely long and would have been better suited for a one-man stage play rather than spoken word or poetry.
For the show's finale, Blaq Ice wowed the crowd with his testimonial "E.G.O." (Easing God Out), a piece about holding on to one's faith; however, due to another [loud] vocal accompaniment, not all of it could be heard. There were even moments when their dual performance seemed like a competition for the audience's attention or having to choose which person to pay attention to. Again, there is nothing wrong with pushing the artistic envelope, so to speak, but the incorporation of a vocalist in a spoken word piece really should be done intermittently, especially if there is an important message to be heard.
In all, the show was entertaining, and I appreciated the difference in the various performers; however, a little less singing (or at least at a lower tone) and a little more spoken word would have been great. And if a music must be included, some nice, bass guitar in the background would definitely do the trick.