Friday, May 18, 2007

Hip Hop Literati

On May 13th, The Nightshift Chronicler had the privilege of attending The Hip Hop Literati reading curated by Adam Mansbach at La Pena in Berkeley California. Mansbach, author of Shackling Water and Angry Black White Boy curated this evening as part of the Hip Hop Theater Festival currently happening in the Bay Area. The evening toasted the work of writers such as Jeff Chang, who read from a forthcoming memoir, co-author of Grub and renaissance man Bryant Terry, spoken word luminaries Chinaka Hodge, Tomas Riley, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai and George Watsky, as well as American Book Award winning poet, Matthew Shenoda.

I am still waiting on pictures from this event to share with everyone because the murderow's line-up was as good as advertised. Everything from Watsky's duel with the infamous "Mc Hardcore," to Chang's poignant reflections of life in Hawaii, to Tsai's searing meditation on the ramifications of falling in love with an artist. Riley also neatly captured this author's imagination with his heartfelt rendering of a lotto line bearing a boatloads of San Francisco's proletariats assembled under a mango manicured telephone pole.

Mansbach's offering from his forthcoming novel, The End of the Jews, was layered with a piquant wit and manipulation of the languages of coming of age in a Black and Jewish world worthy of invoking comparisons to Roth's Goodbye Columbus and Beatty's White Boy Shuffle, Mansbach's book is sure to captivate readers.

Terry began the evening discussing his work since Grub and desire to take the words off the page and toward pronounced action by readers and citizens committed to making healthier food and lifestyle choices. A living representation of anti-nihilistic impulses of the 70s baby hip hop generation, Terry walked the audience through a conversation about food justice and options for sustainable development on a local level.

The evening concluded with Songs in the Key of My Life author Ferentz Lafargue reflecting on Stevie Wonder's masterful tribute to the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in the song "Happy Birthday." After recanting a story from his book about hearing Wonder perform this live in South Africa at a conference in honor of Nelson Mandela, Lafargue led the crowd in a rendition of "Happy Birthday," for Stevie Wonder and two audience members celebrating birthdays on May 13th.

En fin the six score in attendance to see this coterie of writers experienced a savory blend of art and activism, testimony and critique, and some dope beats courtesy of the Bay Area's own DJ Max Champ.

The Nightshift Chronicler

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