Thursday, January 5, 2012

First Night Knoxville 2012, Part 4: Black Atticus, Poetry, The Theorizt and Hip Hop

Black Atticus at the Hotel Oliver
It's a long title to a post and it was a lot to take in. After I left the sweet sounds of Carrie Rodriguez at the East Tennessee History Center, I walked to the Hotel Oliver, which is looking very nice these days, and served as the "spoken word" venue for the evening.  I couldn't really imagine where this might happen other than in the Peter Kern Library, but of course Mr. Kern had some celebration libation to share with the revelers, so that space was taken.

Advertised as a "poetry slam," I'm not sure that quite described it. Black Atticus hosted the event and for the time I was there he was the only person scheduled to recite. Eventually a couple of audience members agreed to share a poem. A young woman recited a cute, brief Shel Silverstein poem and a young man, who appeared to be acquainted with Black Atticus, presented a love poem more in the oral poetry style.

Poet at the Hotel Oliver
Poet at the Hotel Oliver

Black Atticus, who describes himself and many local fellow poets as "Carpet Bag Babies," referring to the local Carpet Bag Theater and the nurture they provide young artists, gave several stirring recitations. He's by turns funny, poignant and occasionally combative.

The poetry slams I've attended tend to feature angry poets and then a few angry poets. Emotion has to be powerful to come across from the stage in front of a tough audience and, I suppose, anger is the easiest emotion with which to do the trick. His poetry is much more complex and refined than most of the slam fare. He also mentioned that he likes to speak to middle and high schools and given that some of his poems seemed to challenge current assumptions endemic in teen culture, I'd say he has a good word to deliver and he certainly has the presence, intelligence and persona to pull it off in front of that extremely difficult audience.

The Theorizt, Latitude 35, First Night Knoxville 2012
The Theorizt, Latitude 35, First Night Knoxville 2012
From the Oliver we crossed Market Square. By we, I mean at least myself and Black Atticus because he was to be part of the next act performing downstairs in Latitude 35 in the space formerly known as the World Grotto. The Theorizt is a local hip-hop band voted the best in our city in the most recent Metropulse poll. With a little jazz, folk, mariachi and poetry under my belt for the night, it seemed like a logical next stop.

They blasted the crowd of about fifty who trickled into the underground space. The most enthusiastic was a ten-year-old (or so) with Kanye glasses and an Angry Birds t-shirt who wallowed about on the ground as if break-dancing and brought the house down. He was pretty proud of himself. A small contingent danced around him.

The Theorizt, Latitude 35, First Night Knoxville 2012
The Theorizt, Latitude 35, First Night Knoxville 2012

The music is difficult to pigeonhole. The first thought I had was Arrested Development, but that was mostly because I think Black Atticus looks a bit like Speech and maybe has some of him mannerisms. His poetry also breaks some of the same earth, at least thematically as Arrested Development. Additionally, this is hip-hop with actual music. By that I mean the drummer holds sticks, not a computer. The bass player actually plays a bass. The guitar player does not play a guitar, he coaxes, caresses and shreds the guitar. He's the most exciting guitarist I've run into in a while.

In addition to the music laying the foundation and the rapped lyrics, there is also melody. I realized early in the advent of rap that I need a little melody mixed in with the beat to listen for very long. So, Arrested Development, yes, but they are also heavier and harder driving. There is nothing like that guitar in Arrested Development. Then I thought of the Roots and that's a better analogy. If you like the Roots and their intelligent, hard-driving, musically sound in-your-face sound, you will like these guys. There is also a bit of Living Color (the band) in the sound of the guitarist and you'll surely hear a little Outkast. Mainly what you will hear is excellent music.

The Theorizt, Latitude 35, First Night Knoxville 2012

Black Atticus did most of the singing for the night and unfortunately I haven't sorted out the names of the others. They mentioned the guitarist was new, I believe, so I'm not sure the web page is accurate on that count. Just trust me that he is incendiary.

So, this turned out to be my favorite stop of the night. Something different from my usual fare became a new pleasure. I've "liked" their page and if you visit the web page linked above you can download five songs from their in-progress CD, "Samurai Love Songs," for free. I'm posting the the single "Call Me" below. See if you don't hear some Roots roots. I think you will.

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