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Monday
Sep 15th

Teen artists’ spoken word reveals sterling originality, deep thought

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Hopefully U Have The Right (Another Level Records), an invaluable gathering of fledgling voices, won’t fall on deaf ears just because it’s not vulgar, profanity-laden prose laced with pornographic imagery. Hopefully U Have The Right (Another Level Records), an invaluable gathering of fledgling voices, won’t fall on deaf ears just because it’s not vulgar, profanity-laden prose laced with pornographic imagery. One dares imagine there’s an audience for sterling originality, that deep thought won’t get dissed to the periphery just because these teenage artists aren’t run-of-the-mill thugs-in-training but, instead, perform spoken word for the sake of social change. Don’t let their being High School for Recording Arts students make you think these are a bunch of braniacs dabbling in public service announcement. U Have The Right solidly hits the mark famous rappers and hip-hoppers characteristically miss. Where market-mongers exploit the artform to glorify misogyny, this recording honors a lineage harking to The Last Poets; articulate oration that pulls society’s coat.

U Have The Right offers 13 selections of prose-poetry that confront teen dating violence from teens’ perspectives. It keenly illustrates the disastrous impact of unhealthy relationships and as such, promotes the alternative of romantic connections based on mutual respect.

The title cut is an insightful overview. This brief, sinewy missive backed by Layne Bellamy’s percolating bass, lays down the word that “you have the right to, equality, honesty, openness, clear boundaries, support, understanding, growth, trust, acceptance, space, affirmation, communication, individuality and responsibilities.”

Most impressive is the painfully profound “It Ain’t Right,” written and performed by Mia R with music by St. Nick. A somberly reflective saga of date-rape recounts the crime and its aftermath, intones, “Emotional scratches and bruises bled more from my heart and soul than my body and face.” The piece includes an account of its author’s frustration at contacting police who, owing to the offenders age and the fact that she initially accepted his overtures, find no unwanted force was inflicted. This despite that when her mom came home, the perpetrator fled.

Mia R says it all in a nutshell: “When a woman says, ‘no’...she’s not playing with your ears. The system in society needs to change. We need to teach our young men how to go about their sexual activity. Make sure she wants it.”

A telling indictment of not only the rapist, but a rape-condoning culture is her recollection of the knee-jerk response from peers which instead of sympathizing with or, for that matter even acknowledging her being victimized, went along the lines of “She’s lying” to label her a slut.

“Control” by the trio called Li’l Magic depicts all too-familiar conduct, a girl knuckling under the thumb of a boy who will mature into a domestically abusive man. “Understand” by Tonye Member examines the issue of boys who beat girls and girls whose low self-esteem leads them to tolerate abuse. Richly poetic verse avows, “You will never understand until you’ve been robbed by someone’s hand that holds you prisoner to their demands.”

It’s heartening to hear T. Stewart/Unit 7’s “Re-evaluate”, perhaps the most hopeful of these works by which a young brother looks back on his victimizing conduct and decides he needs to change his ways, to “reconstruct myself. ...My mind took a journey to the past where I didn’t have a clue or any concepts of how to respect anyone besides myself. I had to re-evaluate that. ‘Cause there were times when my mouth would spit out words of venom into a woman’s ears, poison her spirit and break her down. An’ Um, like, man, I need to re-evaluate.”

Not since the Minneapolis-based, Old Arizona-produced magazine Chicas In The Mix has the Twin Cites-area faithfully seen to it that young voices are heard. Sponsored by Verizon Wireless, U Have the Right is an important contribution which, thankfully receives national distribution. It inarguably merits
 

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