Slide6-e1524591239237Describ­ing the event as a “hip-hop fuelled rhythm and poetry party”, on Sat­urday 9th June at King’s Place, Poet in the City hos­ted The Col­lege Dro­pout R.A.P party. Poet in the City is an arts organ­isa­tion ded­ic­ated to push­ing poetry for­ward to new audi­ences. They host around 50 events a year across Lon­don.

The event exhib­ited spoken word poetry from poets inspired by Kanye West’s sem­in­al The Col­lege Dro­pout album with their DJ Sid Mer­cu­tio fol­low­ing each poem with a song from The Col­lege Dro­pout and later song from Kanye’s oth­er work.

In some ways this event was both a cel­eb­ra­tion of Kanye West’s artist­ic leg­acy and an elegy for who Kanye has become. Most of us in the hip-hop com­munity grew up being inspired by ‘Ye even before we heard him rap­ping. We loved his pro­duc­tion on Jay‑Z’s Blue­print for example (Izzo (H.O.V.A) will always be incred­ible). But The Col­lege Dro­pout rep­res­en­ted some­thing big for many of us. It was fant­ast­ic­ally pro­duced of course, but it brought to the main­stream charts a lyr­ic­al depth and vari­ety that was over­shad­owed by rap’s ‘bling bling’ era. The bling bling era was fun, but most of us didn’t have 22-inch rims or a $50,000 gold chain nor even want those things. But The Col­lege Dro­pout went bey­ond mater­i­al excesses and con­nec­ted with the every­day per­son, and was filled with intro­spec­tion and a self-aware­ness that provided a blue­print for mod­ern day hip-hop and its fans.

Kanye West was our soundtrack dur­ing the mid-nought­ies and it’s fit­ting that the first line-up of per­form­ances reflec­ted that. Kareem Par­kins-Brown, a former Bar­bican Young Poet, based his poem on Slow Jamz, and depic­ted an awk­ward teen­age boy at a house party learn­ing to nav­ig­ate girls, dances and friend­ship. Han­nah Lowe, a cur­rent poet in res­id­ence at Keats House and win­ner of the Michael Murphy Memori­al Award for Best First Col­lec­tion, offered a poem inspired by ‘Workout’, except sig­ni­fic­antly less sex­ist and an ode to Brixton’s finer char­ac­ters.

But as men­tioned before, this night was also an elegy for who Kanye Omari West has become. It’s safe to say that no one in the room was a fan of real­ity TV Kanye West, the con­tro­versy court­ing TMZ embra­cing polem­ic.  Kanye “Slavery is a Choice” West was dis­sec­ted in a man­ner that was part evis­cer­a­tion and lov­ing chas­tise­ment in the way one might try to cor­rect a fam­ily mem­ber.

Theresa Lola, win­ner of the 2017 Ham­mer and Tongue Nation­al Slam Cham­pi­on and 2016 Magic Oxy­gen Poetry Prize, delivered a stun­ning con­dem­na­tion. Recit­ing to a stunned audi­ence, she said:

I want to know which slaves spilled spicy secrets to Kanye

Which one implied chains were such high-qual­ity accessor­ies it had to be wrapped and re-gif­ted to their chil­dren?

Oh Kanye, I want to know how much you pur­chased your expired con­science for

With a crisp and power­ful deliv­ery and tre­mend­ous imagery evoked, East Lon­don based writer and musi­cian Shadé Joseph gave us a les­son in how to over­achieve. Not only did she write her poem on the same morn­ing of the event but it garnered one of the best recep­tions.

The spoken word ele­ment was handled fant­ast­ic­ally, but DJ Sid Mer­cu­tio did a won­der­ful job play­ing songs from across Kanye West’s dis­co­graphy and then bey­ond into more sol­id 00s and 10s staple tracks, which made for a fun dance filled night, even if some of the poem top­ics were heavy.

Poet in the City show­case artist­ic and spoken word exhib­i­tions through­out the year. Their next event is on Monday 18th June and focuses on reflec­tions on silence and solitude.


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Mark Mukasa

Mark Mukasa

Mark is a South Lon­don based writer and avid fan of all things hip hop. He’s also an MMA and his­tory enthu­si­ast who tries to keep his love of animé under wraps.

About Mark Mukasa

Mark Mukasa
Mark is a South London based writer and avid fan of all things hip hop. He's also an MMA and history enthusiast who tries to keep his love of anime under wraps.