As I wrote a few weeks ago, the artist formerly known as Mos Def will be in Kenya for a concert in Nairobi on 28th of this month. Yaasin Bey as he prefers to be called nowadays, will be in town for a one night performance as part of the Nairobi Hip Hop Rapsody event.
Although Mos Def is known more for his successful career as a Hip Hop Artist, a lot of poets around the world got introduced to the Spoken Word movement through the Def Poetry Jam Television series in which he was the host in all 6 Seasons
Yaasin Bey the Poet
Few of us who knew Mos Def before the Def Poetry TV series knew that he could not only spit rhymes, but that he also wrote poetry some of which he shared throughout the 6 sessions with the most outstanding ones being ‘Pornographic Content’
Bringing Poetry to the Mainstream
Def Poetry Jam was a spin off of the popular Def Comedy Jam series that launched the careers of most if not all African American stand up comedians like the late Bernie Mac, Martin Williams, Chris Tucker among others.
Conceptualized and produced by Russell Simmons through his company Def Jam, Def Poetry brought poetry from the lecture rooms of academia to the streets and onto prime time TV on HBO where it went on to become one of the most successful Poetry TV shows ever.
Despite the show only being available on HBO, the show series eventually made its way world wide spurning a spoken word performance movement everywhere including right here in Kenya. I remember being introduced to the videos by Imani Woomera who used to hold Poetry Master classes back in 2007 where she would play some of the seasons as part of her lesson on performance.
Whilst working with many of the Poetry organisers and spoken word open mic cafes around the United States, the show brought together a great mix of previously well known poets such as Saul Williams with not so well known poets as well as with those, like Kanye West who were starting off in the Rap world as artists in their own right.
It is through Mos Def’s great hosting of the show that made me appreciate the diversity in type of poets that graced the show from the late Amiri Baraka to Jill Scott to Taylor Mali to the hip hop artists like Common and Kanye to less known poets who made their name on that stage like Black ice & Steve Colman among others.
A Poet in a Hip Hop Concert
Am sure if you are a poet reading this, you have been wondering
What would a poet be doing in a hip hop concert, won’t I be out of place?
Poetry and Rap are from the same mother, in fact, they are Siamese twins. Poetry, decided to forgo the beat, and for some, the rhymes. I listen to a lot of Hip Hop because most of it is poetry with a beat.
As we count down to the 28th, I bet we are all going through our favorites by Mos Def and hoping that he plays at least one of them. He has such a rapporteur to choose from that I am not sure if 3 hours will be enough.
I loved how Talib Kweli was able to weave through his old, not so old and very recent music during his Nairobi concert last year in October.
I will be somewhere in the crowd taking in every moment hoping its not a dream as I silently pray for him to play a few verses of Ms. fat Booty