Spoken word links

Spoken Word Poetry

Black Ice “Truth Is”

Patricia Smith “Skinhead”

Saul Williams “Coded Language”

Sonia Renee “The Body Is Not an Apology”

Shihan “Flashy Words”

Taylor Mali “Totally Like Whatever, You Know?”

Lacey Roop

Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) “Who Will Survive America?” (1972)

ibid. “Rhythm Blues”

***note: the lyrics contained within are not necessarily the same as those delivered in spoken word performance. Some have been changed or cut by the author for time and effectiveness of delivery.

Black Ice “Truth Is”

Let me ask ya’ll a question..
When you look at my brothers, what’s your first impression?
Does the sight of us leave you guessin? or do you understand the stressin,
The aggression, the look of no hope on me and my niggaz faces
Like the lord overlooked us when he handed down his graces..
You see embraces, fall short on the numb tips of street entrepeneur fingers,
stuck in the walls of the project halls where the coke smell still lingers –
External blingers is all we can be, ’cause on the inside we been given nothin to shine on.
and a gig is harder to get than coke, so niggaz get they grind on
Cause the TV tells us, aim high nigga, make all goals lateral
But that takes paper that we don’t have so, niggaz put they souls up as collateral..
Now, some niggaz reclaim ’em, some blame ’em, make an excuse to sell ’em
But when a nigga goes from not doin to doin, what can you tell him?
Not to be a nigga? Shit I gots to be a nigga, that’s how I pay the bills
And I’ma do that whether I got to sling this coke or exploit these rhyme skills
See, America makes you an opportunist, and at the same time they institutionalize you.
So the fact that niggaz get, these big record deals,
big money and go to jail shouldn’t surprise you..
That’s what lies do, and most of these guys
do have raw talent just infinitile education
So the business feeds em’ all the weed and ecstasy
and a little bit of paper to provide some pacification
from all the bullshit frustration they serve you
Meanwhile they corrupt your perception of what the real is
See they takin all our businessmen, and made em drug dealers..
Took all our messengers, made ’em rappers
just flappin they jaws afraid to admit their treason
Took all our soldiers for the cause, made ’em killers for no reason
And bein fucked up, ha, well that’s in this season
So, if you’re negative you’re positive, and if you’re positive you’re called a hater
But I maintain control of my soul cause I know it gets greater later
And I told y’all the last show,i’m no hater, I just know what the truth is
I Been intertwined in this puddin for a year now so I know where the proof is it lies in these midtown Manhattan skyscrapers
where former hustlers sign papers
and do fucked capers like, 16 infamous stars of the time
They got us choppin and, baggin and
servin that shit to niggaz 16 bars at a time now
The crime is undetectable by the feds
cause in heads of our kids is where the track is
And music shoots straight to the soul it’s so potent,
so it’s much more addictive than crack is..
Now, the high is just an illusion lies and confusion
But to feel that rush just once, these young bucks’ll go through it
So in essence, they still floodin our streets with the thugs, drugs and the killing
They just usin these record labels to do it..
Takin our hearts off demos, puttin us in limos
tryin to fuck up direction
and most niggas is trained to chase money
and pussy, so we fall victim to our own erection
convincin’ ourselves we’re on our way somewhere where we’re not goin
But ignorance is bliss and niggaz love this so, niggaz take pride in not knowin
We not growin, nigga I don’t give a fuck how slick you flowin
if you ain’t showin nuttin to these kids or addin nuttin positive to the earth
see I been destined to touch this world since I was born..
To be honest, fuck a record deal, God gives me what I’m worth.

Shihan “Flashy Words”

Flashy words make the world turn but, it don’t turn right
So i use these real eyes, to realize, the real lies
being spoken but not heard
cause we are more fascinated by that which is fabricated
so i tell you a blind man once said i once saw
believe what he said but not believe what he said he saw
like the mute who told the deaf man the true meaning of life
there are 3 types of people in the world today
those who play the game
those who watch the game
and those who don’t even know the game is being played
and that’s a beautifully painted picture
and a picture’s worth a thousand words
but a picture’s worth a thousand words doesn’t mean anything
if them thousand words don’t mean anything
or if them thousand words mean that picture means nothing
they can mean so many things like i love you
three words can mean an infinite amount to one person
not enough to another
if not enough intent is held behind those words
from a piece of mind
brings peace of mind
and all i have to do is give a piece of mine
or in other words
piece together the pieces in me to create peace within me
but, they are all pieces, pieces to a puzzle which when put together is me
but hey i’m sick of working at Starbucks for less than star bucks
I said I’m sick of working at Starbucks for less than star bucks
or in other words my time is worth more than $6.50 an hour
i’m a poet
supposed to be speaking that spoken word
break that word down Po’ – Try
what are the poe- trying ?
cause poets stay broke
and poets write poetry cause they can’t afford therapy
so maybe i need a therapist
and you know what i tell her
I say what if i told you it’s all a matter of mind over matter
but mine doesn’t matter
when they try to pull matter over mine
but don’t mind me
cause it’s really all in your mind anyway
or maybe it’s all in the words
so how heavy is what you say
cause you have this pattern of saying the same things at different times
and if there is a pattern to everything
then what will be will be
and i’ve already heard the things you’re going to say
so shhhh
and don’t speak unless you mean
cause a good man is hard to find
and a hard man is good to find
and i’m half the man i used to be
and one fourth the person i should be
cause i sacrificed wisdom for stardom
after being fucked out of my freedom without a condom
now how dumb was i
see i thought i could handle the truth
but given the truth
i mishandled the truth
and watched the mute call the blindman’s bluff
while he tried to panhandle the truth
but nobody hears him
and the deaf man tells me that words get in the way of the wind
so i show him the pleasure and pain of the truth
and how the truth hurts
so don’t hurt you
let me hurt you
for you
and the on going battle between the have gots and ain’t gots is getting way out of hand
and i have to hand it to those who have a hand in those who got got
cause i’ve forgotten what it’s like to get got you got me
they can mean so many things
but if i told you everything i just said was a lie what would this mean?

Patricia Smith “Skinhead”
They call me skinhead, and I got my own beauty.
It is knife-scrawled across my back in sore, jagged letters,
it’s in the way my eyes snap away from the obvious.
I sit in my dim matchbox,
on the edge of a bed tousled with my ragged smell,
slide razors across my hair,
count how many ways
I can bring blood closer to the surface of my skin.
These are the duties of the righteous,
the ways of the anointed.
The face that moves in my mirror is huge and pockmarked,
scraped pink and brilliant, apple-cheeked,
I am filled with my own spit.
Two years ago, a machine that slices leather
sucked in my hand and held it,
whacking off three fingers at the root.
I didn’t feel nothing till I looked down
and saw one of them on the floor
next to my boot heel,
and I ain’t worked since then.
I sit here and watch niggers take over my TV set,
walking like kings up and down the sidewalks in my head,
walking like their fat black mamas named them freedom.
My shoulders tell me that ain’t right.
So I move out into the sun
where my beauty makes them lower their heads,
or into the night
with a lead pipe up my sleeve,
a razor tucked in my boot.
I was born to make things right.
It’s easy now to move my big body into shadows,
to move from a place where there was nothing
into the stark circle of a streetlight,
the pipe raised up high over my head.
It’s a kick to watch their eyes get big,
round and gleaming like cartoon jungle boys,
right in that second when they know
the pipe’s gonna come down, and I got this thing
I like to say, listen to this, I like to say
“Hey, nigger, Abe Lincoln’s been dead a long time.”
I get hard listening to their skin burst.
I was born to make things right.
Then this newspaper guy comes around,
seems I was a little sloppy kicking some fag’s ass
and he opened his hole and screamed about it.
This reporter finds me curled up in my bed,
those TV flashes licking my face clean.
Same ol’ shit.
Ain’t got no job, the coloreds and spics got ’em all.
Why ain’t I working? Look at my hand, asshole.
No, I ain’t part of no organized group,
I’m just a white boy who loves his race,
fighting for a pure country.
Sometimes it’s just me. Sometimes three. Sometimes 30.
AIDS will take care of the faggots,
then it’s gon’ be white on black in the streets.
Then there’ll be three million.
I tell him that.
So he writes it up
and I come off looking like some kind of freak,
like I’m Hitler himself. I ain’t that lucky,
but I got my own beauty.
It is in my steel-toed boots,
in the hard corners of my shaved head.
I look in the mirror and hold up my mangled hand,
only the baby finger left, sticking straight up,
I know it’s the wrong goddamned finger,
but fuck you all anyway.
I’m riding the top rung of the perfect race,
my face scraped pink and brilliant.
I’m your baby, America, your boy,
drunk on my own spit, I am goddamned fuckin’ beautiful.
And I was born
and raised
right here.

Saul Williams “Coded Language”

Whereas, breakbeats have been the missing link connecting the diasporic
community to its drum woven past
Whereas the quantised drum has allowed the whirling mathematicians to
calculate the ever changing distance between rock and stardom.
Whereas the velocity of the spinning vinyl, cross-faded, spun backwards, and
re-released at the same given moment of recorded history , yet at a
different moment in time’s continuum has allowed history to catch up with
the present.

We do hereby declare reality unkempt by the changing standards of dialogue.
Statements, such as, “keep it real”, especially when punctuating or
anticipating modes of ultra-violence inflicted psychologically or physically
or depicting an unchanging rule of events will hence forth be seen as
retro-active and not representative of the individually determined is.

Furthermore, as determined by the collective consciousness of this state of
being and the lessened distance between thought patterns and their secular
manifestations, the role of men as listening receptacles is to be increased
by a number no less than 70 percent of the current enlisted as vocal

Motherfuckers better realize, now is the time to self-actualize
We have found evidence that hip hops standard 85 rpm when increased by a
number as least half the rate of it’s standard or decreased at ¾ of it’s
speed may be a determining factor in heightening consciousness.

Studies show that when a given norm is changed in the face of the
unchanging, the remaining contradictions will parallel the truth.

Equate rhyme with reason, Sun with season

Our cyclical relationship to phenomenon has encouraged scholars to erase the
centers of periods, thus symbolizing the non-linear character of cause and
Reject mediocrity!

Your current frequencies of understanding outweigh that which as been given
for you to understand.
The current standard is the equivalent of an adolescent restricted to the
diet of an infant.
The rapidly changing body would acquire dysfunctional and deformative
symptoms and could not properly mature on a diet of apple sauce and crushed
Light years are interchangeable with years of living in darkness.
The role of darkness is not to be seen as, or equated with, Ignorance, but
with the unknown, and the mysteries of the unseen.

Thus, in the name of:

We claim the present as the pre-sent, as the hereafter.
We are unraveling our navels so that we may ingest the sun.
We are not afraid of the darkness, we trust that the moon shall guide us.
We are determining the future at this very moment.
We now know that the heart is the philosophers’ stone
Our music is our alchemy
We stand as the manifested equivalent of 3 buckets of water and a hand full
of minerals, thus realizing that those very buckets turned upside down
supply the percussion factor of forever.
If you must count to keep the beat then count.
Find you mantra and awaken your subconscious.
Curve you circles counterclockwise
Use your cipher to decipher, Coded Language, man made laws.
Climb waterfalls and trees, commune with nature, snakes and bees.
Let your children name themselves and claim themselves as the new day for
today we are determined to be the channelers of these changing frequencies
into songs, paintings, writings, dance, drama, photography, carpentry,
crafts, love, and love.
We enlist every instrument: Acoustic, electronic.
Every so-called race, gender, and sexual preference.
Every per-son as beings of sound to acknowledge their responsibility to
uplift the consciousness of the entire fucking World.
Any utterance will be un-aimed, will be disclaimed – two rappers slain
Any utterance will be un-aimed, will be disclaimed – two rappers slain
Sonia Renee “The body is not an apology”

The body is not an apology
let it not be mountain when it is sand
let it not be ocean when it is grass
let it not be shaken, flattened or raised in contrition
the body is not an apology
do not ask for it to be pardoned as criminal
the body is not a gun
not a wrong number dialed
not a crime
to shame white dresses.
Your body is not your prison.
the body is not an apology
not soiled
not filth to be forgiven.
it is not a father’s backhand
the body is not calamity
the body is not a wrong answer
the body is not a failed class
you are not failing
the body is not a gun
not a crime
not a sentence
your body is not your prison
the body is not an apology
do not offer the body as gift
only receive it as gift
the body is not to be prayed for
it is to be prayed to..
hallelujah for the shower song throat that crackles like a grandfather’s Victrola
hallelujah for the spine that never healed
hallelujah for the heart that didn’t either
hallelujah for the sloping back, hip, belly
praise the wound that opens like a trap door
praise the body
for the body
is not an apology
your body is not your prison
it is your church
it is your home
it is the only righteous love that will never need repent.
the body is not an apology

Taylor Mali “Totally like whatever, you know?”

In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?
Declarative sentences – so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not –
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don’t think I’m uncool just because I’ve noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It’s like what I’ve heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I’m just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?
What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we’ve just gotten to the point where it’s just, like . . .
And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we’ve become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!
I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.

Published by

C. Alifair Skebe

C. Alifair Skebe, M.A., PhD. Interests: 20th Century American Literature, Poetry and Poetics, Creative Writing, Gender Studies, Post-structuralism Dr. Skebe currently teaches writing and literature classes at the University at Albany. Her books include Love Letters: Les Cartes Postales (Basilisk Press, 2004) and El Agua Es la Sangre de la Tierra (Finishing Line Press, forthcoming). Her poems have appeared in numerous print journals and online magazines.