SLAM THE POET
I first saw Slam the Poet jump on Vels Trio's sold out Madlib set at Jazz Cafe in May, bringing a mix of MC energy and wordsmith prose to the stage. Then, more recently, seeing a full performance of his solo work alongside guitarist Oli Haylett at Brainchild was another level, fusing spoken word and textured guitar tones. Not to mention the fire he brought when joining Footshooter on-stage in the STEEZ Cafe, the same weekend.
Over these three performances what captured me time and again was how Slam strikes a blissful balance of consistency and variety that make an artist feel both familiar and fresh. There are two things that make Slam the Poet a cut above the rest: the detail in his lyrical content and the rhythmic interplay in his intonation, whether performing spoken word or on recorded beats.
Of the former, politics and love, or relationships, are central themes that find themselves intertwined in much of Slam’s content. The attention to detail of such themes is on point. The romance he finds in the smaller details of everyday encounters capture life through his eyes. A perspective where to understand the world, we rethink relationships as excessively political. In the collection he performed at Brainchild, titled ‘Seeking Love and Meaning’, for example, Slam meanders through encounters of love in the concrete world and their relation to current political struggles, over the course of 30 minutes. His pieces of photo-poetry on Facebook are quite literally snapshots of this theme.
Slam’s unique use of rhythm in his intonation is next level, spreading words or sentences over a number of bars and lines. This has existed throughout hip-hop history but what differs with Slam is that rather than altering his prose to suit a beat, he uses his delivery to define the beat itself. Whether on a produced track or performing a spoken word piece, the articulation of his words becomes an additional layer, like an instrument.
Such techniques are clear as day on his recorded tracks. On hip-hop track, ‘To Lend / Let Go’, Slam puts the politics of peace side-by-side with internal conflicts, while switching up syllabic count and rhythm of the rhyme on each line:
“I’d give my right arm for an olive branch conversation //
For peaceful relations //
For peace among nations //
I’d give you a minute and a little bit of patience //
If you thought you could explain my everyday situation”
Slam plays a key role in both the MVC and STEEZ collectives. It’s clear that with the creativity surrounding him and his genuine talent, we’ll be seeing more from Slam the Poet.