-Christopher Sy Anthony
April 22, 2017
When MADD ILLZ put out the call for poets I figured, “why not?” … I could share a piece or two, check out some talent, snap my fingers and report on the evening for the website.
I didn’t know what to expect from a poetry slam that was put on by a rap battle league at an Asian restaurant on Good Friday, but if one thing’s for sure it’s that hip hop events offer some of the best people watching opportunities ever. This one did not disappoint.
The diversity in the crowd was palatable as the event poured in poets, battle rappers, and people from other avenues of the culture into one cauldron of art. One of the guys behind the counter of the restaurant was a B-Boy that ILLZ met during his time at Universal.
“This brings business to the places we set up in. I mean, look around. People are eating” ILLZ said in a conversation on the business opportunities that the slam offers the league and venue.
He described how connecting venues such as the restaurant with the slam can potentially help both sides. One hand washes the other, and both wash the face.
As we began the slam, we were set up to face off against one another like you would in a traditional battle with the other poets surrounding, opposite the crowd.
Each poet was introduced. They gave their plug and the title of their work then began flowing. Being around the other poets almost sparked spontaneous camaraderie amongst us and that connection is what I love the most about Hip Hop.
I spoke with TROY KODY CUNIO (a competing poet that evening) about the slam and how GTN flavored the intimacy of the venue. This is what he had to say:
“I’ve been in slam for a while and have seen a lot of different formats. What GTN is doing is unique as far as I can tell, and I liked it. There’s space for it. It managed to be simultaneously competitive and friendly in a way that most slams are not. I chalk that up to the fact that the competitors were standing around in a circle the whole time. It was intimate. And the head to head format was nice, it’s no more arbitrary than the standard number score format but it feels better because the judges are not putting a quantitative score on your work.”
Followers of GTN are familiar with GG. Mighty with the pen, GG has had recent success (particularly in GTN) and this night was no different for her in terms of success as she became the first ever poetry slam champion for GTN.
Creatively radiant, GG shined bright that evening and won each round she competed in leading to her victory poem which would have made Malcom X “rise”. I caught up with GG and this was what she had to say regarding the vibe of the slams and rap battles:
The two are similar “because they are both creative literary competition requiring the artist to present some of their best work to be successful in the sport. Both platforms also require a great deal of thick skin because getting judged and compared to other writers is taking place. With the poetry slam atmosphere, normally, the judges are random, non-biased members of the audience that don’t know any of the competing poets or their work.
The poetry can be about anything. Compared to battle rap the art can be about anything as long as it’s related to your opponent and most of the time it’s in a creative yet insulting way. With battle rap one is more expected to rhyme, whereas with poetry slam it’s not required. They both require good wit and storytelling skills and the ability to paint pictures with words.”
As a competitor that evening I was able to get insight on how these events work. You can take away what you want from the event. I shared one of my latest works and was blessed to hear some really dope art that night. All the poets owned the room, very few got robbed and the final was a heavyweight round that was deservingly won.
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