talk it out: jayz’s DOA, the hip hop mental health project, and a roopa singh poem for mr. powell

[here goes jay-z’s new cut, highlight of yesterdays hot97 summer jam: DOA, death of autotune, produced by No I.D. im not generally a fan of hip hop elders dissing new music movements, but my fav line so far: “i know we’re facing a recession/but the music yall making goin make it the great depression.”]

dear readers,

i spit some poetry last night at a benefit for the hip hop mental health project (hhmp). rha goddess found hhmp out of a one woman show, called “low,” which she created based on her own sister’s struggle with bi-polar depression. we got a taste of rha’s art, and man, what a tour de force. we covered substantial ground in that room, one woman talked about her father’s suicide, saying she’d never been able to talk about it before. talking can accomplish so much, esp when its intentional and courageous.

the inspiring performance line-up included: kevin powell, irum malik and shekeima cooks from yo-tv representing a film they produced on depression and young people of color (about to debut on hbo, go yall!), kristen, and more.

for those who don’t know, kevin powell is a core shaper of generation hip hop and politics. he’s authored 10 books, ran for congress twice, and still spits a soul churning poem. i was honored when kevin asked me where he could see the poem i spit. so i’m posting it here. but first, a short inspired by powell’s dear momma piece.

*
“powell and dear momma”

kevin powell and his mom
and the song
in the middle of his long
ing the awning of his childhood yawning
like a skyscraper with no legs
to run from the eternal night
see when we cover our own light
we shun our own bright
as the animal bright
as the animal
bright

*

“roopa singh: immigration poem (recently heard at mnn, sawcc, hhmp)”

five boroughs full
give me your tired your poor your hungry
so I can job them, rob them
scrape quarters to
call them on a calling card
remind them of your voice
immigration is not only a choice

there was a little boy alive and dead
tell me your story, this is what he said
cinema road, gorakphur
his father a lawyer, a prayer
the homefront, a rajput lair
theres a well, temple, spire, neglect spirals
he tags on the wall, scrawls pictures, equations
whole nations away hope glimmers
make it to america, where everyone’s a winner
his youth, traded to the highest bidder
and does it make me a sinner
I don’t call him pitha ji, baba ji, I don’t call him papa
I call him dad

five boroughs full
give me your tired your poor
so I can job them, rob them
bridge over troubled water
call them on a calling card
remind them of your voice
immigration is not only a choice

rajasthani brahmin
two spirit shaman
nani ji sang, drummed, played, prayed, braided songs into the black chords of their hair
her 5 daughters all dared to sing
her 2 sons got the milk
first
the girls got the silk
saris
my mom, the tomboy, played in trees
stared out between the branches
horizons roads
whole journeys
wings spread wide
together mom and dad collide
love marriage, intercaste, light skinned, dark skinned
abandoned by their families
they had a boy

five boroughs full
give me your tired your poor
so I can job them, rob them
bridge over troubled water
call them on a calling card
remind them of your voice
immigration is not only a choice

never be another
he was my brother
a musician, a james dean, a sid and nancy scream
till the backbone of his self esteem
split
into too many times
and not enough rhymes to tell the story
a tenor with no glory
used to be a singer
now he gives his family the middle finger
cuz he’s alive but his minds half gone
all the lights aint on

so I shine bright
for all of us
cuz I believe change soon come
but the story aint done
ten little Indians
and then there was one
this ones a girl
lets name her roopa
american born
India not scorned
she grew against the grain of the san diego desert
grew amongst the rajasthani hills and california valleys of her families minds
spine
strong like 2pac
rose in the concrete
got too freaky between the sheets
at a young age
but hey
we all go through stages
now she rages, rhymes, just tryna figure out how to have a good time
with hip hop as a story
and India as her glory
desis and proud
brown is beautiful
im down to shout it loud
we got style, swagger, khana, sub jugai se ana
America wali
got a kahani
a story

five boroughs full
give me your tired your poor
so I can job them, rob them
bridge over troubled water
call them on a calling card
remind them of your voice
immigration is not only a choice

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2 thoughts on “talk it out: jayz’s DOA, the hip hop mental health project, and a roopa singh poem for mr. powell

  1. sick ass piece yo.

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