Writing

Character Sketch : Hotel Costes (Just a Happy Camper)

February 12, 2017

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Slicked back hair looking like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of champagne at 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon at the Hotel Costes. Baby blue-grey shirt just undone, sunglasses tucked in the neckline, and a navy blazer with red handkerchief at the heart side. Legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle. The world was his show as he sat there and took it in with a nuclear smile.

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Character Sketch : Hotel Grand Amour (This Is It)

January 21, 2017

The people-watching in Paris is on-point. Seeing characters in real life and imagining their stories is one of my favourite things to do. Here is a short piece I wrote about one character who caught my eye at the Hotel Grand Amour one exceptionally chilly evening last week …

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Camp Lo 3

Hotel Grand Amour

Camp Lo 2

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His style reminded me of Camp Lo in the video for “Luchini.” Sitting facing the bar at the Hotel Grand Amour he wore a camel coloured overcoat, matching newsboy hat, pale cream coloured poloneck, a gold hoop earring and assorted thick gold rings. He must have been in his early or mid seventies, with white beard stubble peppering his angular chin. He used an old-fashioned gold magnifying glass to read something, presumably messages or some article, on his iphone, whilst methodically working his way through a bottle of IPA and twelve oysters. He didn’t strike me as Parisian. More an old Harlem soul somehow lost in the 10th arrondissement. I would have loved to have spoken to him and found out his story. But alas, my friend arrived and the important task of dinner and gossip was to commence. Maybe another day, maybe another lifetime …

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New York 2016

September 4, 2016

Back in June I was lucky enough to spend a week exploring and hustling in New York. I stayed with my wonderful friend Heather in her beautiful apartment in the West Village and had a rather magical time. How can you not fall in love with NYC?

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I flew to New York from Los Angeles with a connection at Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina. It’s funny to think of all the places we go through but never really go to. It makes me think of those times in life, periods of transition where the focus is on the future rather than the present. Just passing through.

That said, I do love killing time in airports. It’s like a carte blanche to pause, reflect and window-gaze. Plus I’ve made some of my best friends through chance airport encounters (Lauren and Jesse I’m looking at you ;) ).

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 ~Runway reverie~

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~Red Eye View~

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~Greeted on arrival with champagne and a long-overdue catch-up~

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~The street I stayed on, the prettiest part of town~

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~West Village Selfies~

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~The Highline~

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An absolute highlight of my trip was getting to chill with Prince Paul and chop it up for Wax Poetics! We filmed a little interview on somebody’s stoop in Greenwich Village, and in keeping with tradition grabbed pizza afterwards on Bleecker Street :)

~Outtakes~

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 ~Wax Po Interview~

~Cymande playing Summer Stage in Central Park!~

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~I’ll never forget hearing “Willy’s Headache” live <3~

~Washington Square Park~

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One day I made it out to Brooklyn to visit the homie Andre Torres at the Genius HQ in Gowanus, and while over in BK hit up The Wythe Hotel to enjoy that famous view across to Manhattan…

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~No-no-no-Notorious!~

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~First time at The Lincoln Center seeing Swan Lake~

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~Soaking up some sun by the SoHo House pool on my last day~

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~Flying JFK 2 LAX a la Gang Starr~

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LA Daze

May 29, 2016

Palm trees in the wind and pizza by the slice. Catching up with old friends under cloudy skies. Writing by blue swimming pools and pink sunsets behind the hills of Hollywood. Oh Los Angeles, since getting to you earlier this month, time has been flying by too fast.  I’m feeling very lucky to be spending time with some of my favourite people out here, because conversing and laughing with like-minded souls is the best.

~Stunning views from The Getty~

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Music-wise, I’ve been listening to my very talented friends Nanna B and Jansport J, as well as a little Neil Young :)

I’ve loved helping out at some Delicious Vinyl events while in town, including the WAX record fair at Capitol Records and Boom Yard LA at Delicious Pizza.

~Me selling merch at Boom Yard LA @ Delicious Pizza~

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 ~Capitol Records~

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~Limited Edition Ol’ Dirty Bastard Vinyl~

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A couple of weeks ago I enrolled at Studio4 LA, James Franco’s film and acting school here, so have been taking some classes over in North Hollywood. I also attended a really awesome ‘Intuitive Actor’ workshop at SoHo with Todd Savvas at SoHo House, and have been dabbling in a real mix of yoga classes out here. After meeting the gorgeous Millana Snow in West Hollywood, I attended a poolside yoga class with Serene Social at the Standard Hotel on Sunset. A friend also introduced me to Black Market Yoga in Hollywood (where you can flow to Tom Waits!), and most recently I’ve been hitting up the Y7 Studio on Melrose for their hip-hop scored vinyasa classes.

~Chillin’ by the pool post-yoga~

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~Santa Monica Sunset~

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So California

May 11, 2016

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So last week I left my love San Francisco and came down to Los Angles. I took Amtrak because I really do love the time and space that long-ass train journeys provide. On the course of the trip I met a couple of characters who felt like something out of a Keroauc story. One in particular still stands out. His tanned skin was weathered like dirty leather, and he had one brown and one baby blue eye. He asked me if it was my first time on Amtrak (it wasn’t) and where I was going. He said he was going to New Orleans, and when I asked how long he had been in San Francisco, he replied “I got here today.”  Why would you get to San Francisco and immediately leave? He said he lived in San Francisco, but I didn’t believe him. His world seemed like a completely different one to mine, one that was fluid like oil and for some reason it seemed dark. In writing this out I realise it could completely just be my own romantic projections. Maybe he was having a bad day and there was a not so urgent emergency in New Orleans. Either way, he was a little odd and I didn’t choose to continue the conversation much further, but it made me think of how vastly different all of our paths are. I really think an awareness of the myriad routes and experiences there are in life is beneficial; at once you can appreciate your world and see how small it is.

~Views from the San Joaquin~

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~Difficult to capture the peace and serenity~

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The night I got to LA, my homegirl Denisse – aka Girl Is Tough – had a show at La Cita Bar downtown. I pretty much dropped off my bag and headed straight to see her perform. Her voice is so beautiful and I can’t recommend checking out her music enough.

 

~Girl Is Tough in her element~

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After the show we got late night tacos and horchata :)

I’m staying in the super cute neighbourhood Franklin Village, which has several neat spots to check out, including the Bourjeois Pig and the Oaks Gourmet. And I’ve been getting my yoga fix at Yogaworks in Hollywood on Vine – super chill and yummy free tea.

~My new hood~

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~The pool~

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Last Thursday was ‘Cinco de Mayo’, which I’ve honestly never heard of before, but I had a nice time catching up and drinking margaritas with my buddy LA Jay at Antonios on Melrose, before hitting up a party at the old Delicious Vinyl Shop spot on Sunset. I heard a song by Bia called “Gucci Comin’ Home” which I’ve been listening to on repeat since …

~Antonios~

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~My homie blew up all these balloons :) ~

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~Jansport J on the decks~

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At the weekend I finally got to check out Delicious Pizza in West Adams! I remember visiting the space back in 2013 before anything got set up, so it was really neat to come back and see everything in business. I had a ‘Soulflower’ pizza (dig the Pharcyde reference??) which was delicious, and some funky cold sangria (Tone Loc).

~Delicious Pizza~

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~Hip-hop memorabilia~

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 ~Delicious Vinyl Radio~

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I rounded off the weekend with a delicious brunch and catch up with my girl Teru at SoHo House in West Hollywood. One of the marks of a great friendship is being able to just pick up where you left off, even after a long period of not seeing each other. Which, over wine and cheese, we did :)

It’s been super cloudy in LA since I got to town so I’m hoping the sun breaks through soon ..

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Sailing On

May 6, 2016

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At the start of last week I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my favourite human beings and probably one of the most influential musicians of all time. George Clinton, the inimitable force behind the P-Funk juggernaut and a bonafide hero to many. Clinton is a dream to chat to, and I can’t wait to share our conversation with my write up real soon.

Since our interview I’ve been listening to a nice little mix of Smokey Robinson, Kendrick Lamar, Sly Stone, and Parliament (of course…).

I’ve also been listening to Deru’s “1979: Remixed” and a sweet little mix City Pop Vol. 2 that dropped on Wax Poetics:

~Ridiculous car in the Marina~

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I hit up Laughing Lotus Yoga on 16th St last Thursday and would definitely recommend going – the pranayama and sweet tea felt hella good :)  One of my favourite thrift stores in the city is Crossroads Trading by Church & Market, and on this trip I managed to pick up a vintage Missoni dress (pictured below) and some vintage Marni wedges for a song. There is also a cute cafe super close by called Church Street Cafe which I often stop at to write, and recommend if in the area.

~Bathroom selfie on Saturday night~

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On Saturday I hopped around a few parties with friends and got to see a really neat hotel called The Phoenix . It reminded me of the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs with it’s super retro US motel vibe.

~The Phoenix pool~

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I also got to visit a pretty dope house nicknamed ‘The Starship’ which was used as a location for HBO’s Silicon Valley.

~View from The Starship’s roof terrace~

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On Sunday I got to go out sailing around Marin which was super beautiful and a lot of fun. The waters were royal blue and the local wine flowed. We stopped off at Tiburon and Angel Island, before heading to a spot called Fish in Sausalito for dinner (luckily they serve salad ;) ). I just love how the fog envelops the land like something from science fiction when it rolls in at dusk.

~View from the water back to San Francisco~

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~Angel Island~

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 ~Party on a boat~

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~Sausalito~

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 ~Fog coming for Sausalito~

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As we sailed back to San Francisco through the dusky purple fog, fittingly listening to lots of vintage Prince, I found myself very nostalgic thinking about the first time I visited California with my family. I was 16 and remember taking the ferry to Sausalito one day, eating ice-cream by the water and being so excited about it all. I thought about all that had happened in my life since (a decade sounds rather epic, doesn’t it?) and how most of it I would have never predicted back then. It’s a funny feeling, a sort of culmination of energies and emotions, at once appreciative of it all though somehow there’s a sadness to it. To feel happy and sad at the same time, and that life is short but long too in many ways. It is quite amazing how all these feelings exist simultaneously. There are so many facets within us to experience that it is really rather staggering to contemplate.

~Embarcadero~

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~The Ferry Building. Time waits for no man~

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Having Big Fun

April 26, 2016

Propelled by the energies of joy, it is no secret that time takes flight when you are having fun. I love spending time here in California, and, it feels like the past week has somewhat flown by …

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A lot of dope music has come through my inbox just recently, so I’ve had a mix of Black Milk, Saba, The Lytics, Brassfoot, and Funkineven on rotation. Take a listen!

1) Saba “World in my Hands (ft. Amino & LEGIT)”

2) Black Milk & Nat Turner “Never”

3) Brassfoot “Dreamstate Intercal”

4) Funkineven “SSS (90s cut)”

5) The Lytics “Ring My Alarm”

As always, I’ve been spending a solid amount of time in cafes writing. Right now I would recommend The Blue Fig on Valencia for classic, chill coffee-house vibes, and Stanza Coffee on 16th for a trendy vibe and yummy coffee. Both have nice outdoor seating, as does my go-to veggie spot Herbivore on Valencia which also deserves a shout out!

~Coffee love in The Mission~

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I caught up with a friend for dinner last Tuesday and saw a sneak preview of the book So Much to Be Done, which is a collection of the writings of Barbara Brenner. Barbara was an incredible activist I had the honour of working with in the summers of 2009 and 2010 when I interned for the non-profit organisation Breast Cancer Action. Undoubtedly she was one of the most intelligent, straight-talking, and warm-hearted individuals I have ever known. After having breast cancer herself (twice), she was diagnosed with ALS in 2010 and passed away in 2013. I think it is fantastic that her writing is being published in a collection like this, and I look forward to reading it properly. You can learn more about Barbara here and check out the book here .

On Wednesday I hopped over to the East Bay to visit Berkeley University. The campus is so stunning and whenever I’ve been the vibe has always felt so good. The last time I was out there was 2011, when I was working on my undergraduate thesis. I visited the Bancroft archives to find some of Sarah Webster Fabio’s work (a really inspiring poet and activist I recommend getting hip to), and remember imagining how rad it must be to study there. Here are some pictures …

~Berkeley Campus~

IMG_6272~Beautiful Berkeley trees~

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~Me posing on campus~

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~Gold shoes in the grass~

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~More magical Berkeley trees~

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And for the first time ever I ventured down to San Jose in the South Bay for a little party with some buddies. I was super excited for the little adventure, mostly because of my love of the Dionne Warwick song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” (written by my hero Burt Bacharach). I remember dancing around to that song as a kid, probably never imagining that one day I too would have some friends down in San Jose.

 ~San Jose Station~

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~A backyard worthy of DJ Khaled~

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We headed back up to the city the next day to hang out at The Battery, and ended up at an incredible studio spot in SoMA. I really wish I had taken pictures, because the set up was pretty spectacular. Next time hey ;)

For now all I have is this accidental post-brunch-bliss selfie …

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Breathe & Stop

April 11, 2016

Urdhva Dhanurasana on the beach

I just got back from a pretty magical month in India studying Yoga at a school called Sampoorna. Hot, sunshine infused days were spent practising meditation and asanas amongst the lushest jungle vistas you can imagine. It’s hard to summarise the impact of an experience so removed from one’s usual routine, and I think I’m still in the process of distilling my meaning from the time.

Studying the philosophy of yoga really clarified and deepened my understanding of some things that I already felt to be true. We discussed spirituality and totality at length; how everything is connected and one. To me it’s like that feeling you get, that swell in your chest when something leaves you awestruck and at once you feel tiny yet somehow connected to it. I think I’ll always remember one time when I was eighteen, eating a bowl of cherries and listening to Public Enemy’s “Shut ‘Em Down” and experiencing this overwhelming sense of amazement, contemplating the song and all the history and emotion that led to it’s recording, and knowing that the flavours of the cherries and the wood frame of my bedroom window and me sitting there thinking about it were all connected to it and part of a much bigger whole.

(including “Shut ‘em Down” here because it really is such a dope and powerful song, props to Mark Pellington for the tight music video too!)

Back to India. I met many beautiful souls in Agonda, Goa, which is itself one of the most naturally beautiful places I have been to. Here are some pictures and memories …

~ Sunrise on the beach after morning meditation ~

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~ Canopies of green ~

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~ Steps up to the shala where we practised yoga and had our anatomy/alignment/philosophy lessons ~

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~ View out to the Arabian Sea from the empty shala ~

Rooftop Shala

~ Breathtaking sunsets each day ~

Sunset through the palms

~ Cola Beach ~

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~ Me posing on a boat ~

Me on a boat

~ Cola beach lagoon ~

Cola Lagoon

~ Palm tree day dreams ~

Palm Skies Palm Tree Vista

~ Another magical sunset ~

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~ Yoga mat awaiting in the shala ~

The mat awaits

~ Sunset on the day of Holi ~

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~ The Final Fire Ceremony ~

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~ Me graduating! ~

My Yoga graduation

~ My last sunset in Agonda ~

Last sunset

~ Flying home over Oman. Oh Man! ~

Flying home over Oman

 

I guess I feel somewhat restored after my trip, inspired to write and adventure more than I’ve felt for awhile. I fully advocate taking time out from whatever to do these types of things, and right now the wise words of Q-Tip (such a modern day guru) couldn’t ring more true. Breath and stop. For real. And give it what you got. 

Let’s go!!

 

 

PS. Big love and gratitude to all the teachers and incredible people at Sampoorna! <3 The energy there is so special. Check them out here : Sampoorna Yoga

Wax Poetics Issue 61 : Bishop Nehru & Soulection

April 25, 2015

I remember the first time that I bought a copy of Wax Poetics back in 2007. It was the Rick James issue with a feature on New York hip-hop club The Latin Quarter by Brian Coleman. Reading it blew my mind and provided glimpses into a world that inspired me to no end.

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I never thought then that I would one day get to write for the magazine, so it is such a thrill to see my first cover feature for Issue 61. I interviewed young rapper Bishop Nehru back in January, after having first seen him play at Birthdays in Dalston last year. Having already released an album with MF Doom and now working with Nas, Nehru’s career is seriously set to skyrocket.

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The feature runs back to back with a Ghostface Killah interview written by my Bay Area homie David Ma in what I feel is a very strong issue of the magazine. The alternate cover has James Brown and Curtis Mayfield back to back, two true musical icons with such musical depth and mass appeal. The overall theme for the issue is in highlighting the Black Lives Matter message in music, and examining the prominence of racial politics in music today as oppose to previous decades.

As well as the Nehru piece, I also have a feature in the issue on the Soulection collective: a record rundown with Joe Kay detailing the key records that have shaped the Soulection’s journey thus far. Joe’s selection are great and brilliantly varied – Slum Village, Arthur Verocai, Genuwine, and Rage Against the Machine all make an appearance.

Again, I am super excited about this issue. Big shout out to : Brian DiGenti, Freddy Anzures, Andre Torres, Bishop Nehru, Joe Kay, Jacqueline Schneider, David Ma, Robert Adam Mayer, and Eric Coleman!

The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop

April 4, 2015

This Spring sees the publication of my first academic chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop. The Companion, edited by Justin A. Williams, features a wide selection of Hip-Hop oriented essays from an array of contributors including Anthony Kwame Harrison, Adam Haupt, and Chris Tabron. I feel rather honoured to be a part of the collection, and also excited to see my work published in a book for the first time. My chapter “MC origins: rap and spoken word poetry” explores the shared history and facets of spoken word poetry and rap forms, with special case studies into the Black Arts Movement and the Good Life Cafe/Project Blowed.

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I met Justin A. Williams in 2011 while interning at the old Mixcloud offices on Featherstone Street, back when Mixcloud shared office-space with Drum&Bass Arena. Williams visited the then HQ to conduct fieldwork and speak to Mixcloud co-founder Nico Perez. After being introduced, we began chatting about academia and geeking out about Hip-Hop…

As I had researched spoken word poetry and music in depth for my undergraduate dissertation, and was building up a portfolio of hip-hop interviews, Williams commissioned me to write a chapter on spoken word poetry and rap for his next project: The Cambridge Companion to Hip-Hop.

Over the following months I began incorporating research for my chapter into my writing projects, sneaking in questions about poetry and rap during many of my interviews. In reflection, I appreciate how many memorable experiences and ideas I have been fortunate enough to encounter and enjoy through working on this project. I can so clearly remember sitting outside on a sunny day in Oakland talking to Bay Area poet D. Scot Miller about the transcendental merits of Camp Lo and Q Tip, partying with Freestyle Fellowship in Hollywood, afternoons in various libraries across London and San Francisco with a mountain of books by my side, and all the times that listening to poetry and rap made me feel inspired and excited to be alive. I believe that expansion of the mind is a very beautiful thing, and feel fortunate to have spent time developing my understanding of art and expression relating to some of my very favourite music. In sharing my work, I hope that it can stir some thoughts and feelings, and that readers can ultimately take something from the chapter.

To all those who have have been generous with their time, allowing me to pester them with questions and abstract musings I am eternally grateful. In no particularly order I would like to thank: Justin A. Williams, David J. Pugilist, Amiri Baraka, D. Scot Miller, Freestyle Fellowship, SlimKid3, Abstract Rude, Robert Glasper, and of course all the musicians and poets who have made my world richer through discovering their work.

You can find the Companion here .

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