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God’s Gift: A Spoken Word Journey with Double G

While his name is Michael, he’s known on the Chicago poetry scene as Double G (G2 for God’s Gift).  He’s been blazing open mics for well over 20 years in Chicago.  Southside, north side, west side, east side, it doesn’t matter.  He is a legend of poetic expression and authorship.  On Saturday, July 21, he will release his upcoming debut album His & Hers, a blend of Hip-Hop and poetic creativity that will bless the mic and the people who will be in the building. I sat down with one of the Kings of Poetry, Double G, as I plan to do with many Chicago artist in the next year, to talk about his journey and what it means for him.

  • How long have you been doing poetry?
    • I started writing when I was 12. I have been performing for going on 20 years. I don’t remember the exact date but the first venue I ever performed at was Giovanni’s on 147th.
  • What has been your experience on the poetry scene in Chicago?
    • I have met some phenomenal artists on my journey! In a culture that is ever evolving, Chicago poetry is the one thing that has remained consistent. Over the years I’ve seen many new faces but all have left an unforgettable impression. Chicago poetry is one big family. Sure there are distant cousins, and sibling rivalry is commonplace. But at the end of the day, our legacy and the culture we’ve established are undeniable.
  • Who is your greatest Spoken Word influence?
    • First and foremost I am just a vessel. This gift is exactly what God allowed it to be. As much as speaking is implied in my gift it is also the ability to absorb, digest, process, and elaborate on all that I experience. When I started performing my writing style changed drastically. The structure became so much more complex. I pulled inspiration from everywhere. I wanted the stage presence of Frank Pete, I wanted to be able to paint a picture with wordplay like Just Lillie. Soulful like M’reld, gritty like Red Storm, I wanted to have Yadhna’s courage! Like Moe Mentum wanted to teach people exactly just how valuable they really are! They all showed me what this art could be. But it was Lemon (from NYC) that showed me the importance of being true to yourself and the impact it has on your work. After that, being a lyricist, I became obsessed with being as dope of a lyricist as I could possibly become. I drew influence from hip-hop artists like Mos Def, Pharaoh Monch, Talib Kweli, but through the years it was Common and Lupe Fiasco that helped my polish the craft. They taught me how to mix the art of storytelling with the lyricism and how to make complexity and cadence coexist.
  • So, your album is dropping in this week. What’s the title and where can people find it?
    • The album officially drops officially on July 21st. The Title is called His & Hers.  Put simply, you can find it everywhere! I initially pressed up 200 copies of a physical album. So much production and the efforts of all involved made my dream of putting a physical product in someone’s hand a reality. The wonderful folks at Team At Ease encouraged me to get digital distribution for the album. It is available on 20+ outlets, either sales or streaming sites. The most common of the two is either CD Baby, iTunes, GooglPlayay, and Amazon for purchase. Your best streaming alternative is most likely either Spotify, Tidal, iHeart Radio, and Pandora.
  • What is your vision for this project and what’s next for Double G?
    • I wanted His & Hers to embody what I picture the perfect relationship to be. It is a marriage in which husband and wife place God above all else, even each other, while simultaneously serving each other. (His) ~ The pieces which I glorify my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (Hers) ~ is the journey I have taken to meet my future wife in addition to love letters to her!
    • Getting in the booth at Studio 11 lit a fire in me bruh! Coming very soon I have two projects slated to be released in the next year and a half Lord willing. The first album will be called Jeremiah. It is inspired by Jeremiah 1: 1-10. The second project will be called Goliath: A giants submission. I will be working on both albums simultaneously. I also have a play called “A Day In The Life” I have yet to bring out. I am also currently writing another called the “Ninety9”. I am also going to work my first book in there somewhere.
  • Do you think there will be a true poetic collaboration CD in Chicago?
    • I honestly believe that the era of poetic collaboration has been ushered in with the release of His & Hers. Tracks like Ambassador and #Freedom are just the beginning. Hopefully, under the umbrella of The Movement, we will begin to see that change. I think that the right causes have brought us together. It is a tragedy that loss of life due to gang violence and police brutality and corruption are the spark to our creativity but is an opportunity to take ourselves and our ego’s out of the equation. The poetic collaboration will happen in the City of Chicago. It will spark a call to arms for the rest of the nation. We are called to the Kingdom for a time such as this!

It was great chopping it up with Double G.  His & Hers CD release is a ticket-only event that will take place July 21, 2018, at Xquisite Premier, located 5939 W. Madison, Chicago, IL 60644.

Kells the Artist: An Epic Journey

Kells the Artist is beyond Spoken Word.  He’s a wordsmith and a Hip-Hop artist who is destined to make waves in Chicago.  I first saw this young man at Dr. Finney’s church on the South Side of Chicago and learned then he’s a member of the group Team At Ease.  Since then, he has remained a part of that spoken word group and has started his own team called EPIC. I sat down to chop it up with him about life and his upcoming project.

How long have you been writing?

  • I’ve been writing since I was about 7. I started taking it seriously when I found out I was actually kinda good at putting sentences together.

What was it like growing up for you in Chicago?

  • It was difficult at first because I grew up in the projects of the Southside
  • I spent a majority of my life as a follower. Doing what appeared to be cool. Chicago has a certain swag I felt I had to keep up with until I started thinking for myself.

Do you have a mentor?  If so, who is it and why?

  • Yes, I do have a mentor. My mentor is Jesus.  I say Jesus, because he’s the perfect example of the person I intend to be like.

What does EPIC stand for and what are your goals for the organization? 

  • Epic stands for Effectively Producing Immaculate Creativity. My goal is to cause people to believe in their own dreams enough that they actually to accomplish them.

Kells the Artist

You have a CD coming out this April 13,  what’s the title?

  • It’s called CloudTalk.

What is the motivation for the CD and what can people expect?

  • Today’s rap music is what motivated me to do it. I will not let real hip hop die, lol. People can expect a refreshing uplifting experience from start to finish, with motivating lyrics and great affirmations.

How do you stay motivated?

  • stay motivated by knowing that no matter what I can ALWAYS do better. I know where I came from and I’ll be damned if I go back!

What is something people have assumed about you that may be inaccurate?

  • Two things:  First, that I’m arrogant. I have a certain level of confidence that can be mistaken for arrogance.  Secondly, that I’m not shy! Since I’m a performer nobody believes I can be shy, lol.

After this CD, what’s next for you?

  • Book number two.  I will finally sit down and finish working on my second book.
  • Where can people find you in the social media world?
    • Facebook, Epic Fan PageSnapchat, G- Mail, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter all @Kellstheartist.

Join Kells The Artist Friday at 2239 South Michigan for his CD Release and Birthday Party at 7PM.

EPIC Poetry

Frozen

It feels like months

Where have I traveled?

A place of mystery and uncertainty

I can’t believe I am here

In this place, at this moment

Thinking, relishing, questioning

My purpose, my call, my existence

Surrounded but alone

Clinging to hope yet untethered

Trapped in the crevices of thought

I’ve traveled here before

It’s uncomfortable, that face, the reflection

Its shadow reaching out to hug me

Whispers of I love you, you have a purpose

You exist for a reason

I don’t embrace it

I turn off the light

Tears run down the mirror

I’ve been here before, it hasn’t been days

It’s been hours

In front of an empty table

Food cold, coffee bland, water lukewarm

Depression says hello

 

End of the Year 2017…Time Flies

Well folks, it has been a year.  So many downs and so many more ups.  Yet, I thought I’d end the year on some greatness and what I have done so far.

    • I set out to lose 25 pounds; I lost 10.2.  That’s major yal! I lost half a size in my neck.  18.5 to 18.
    • Completed six songs on my album and looking forward to working with one of Tupac’s producers in 2018.
    • Spit an ill flow on my man Double G.’s album for the song “Ambassador”.
    • Conducted some of the greatest young adult conversations on Christian living at my church.
    • Another year with my CHAMPS mentees and POET family.
    • I was promoted to Director of Information Technology in May of this year.  Major career move.  Growing and still searching for a mentor.  Until then, The Lord is guiding as He see fits.  Not sure what’s next for me but hanging tough.
    • Had a very successful year at NIU.  The journey towards my bachelors degree continues.
    • Fell completely in love with https://beautybeyondbones.com/ blog.  She really is my drive for consistency and creativity as a blogger.  Keep me moving beautiful and thanks for sharing your heart and experiences.
    • I dropped my first single, Soul Restoration, and video with the fabulous Restore. A whopping 48 copies sold, yet, I don’t despise small beginnings.
    • I completed a pretty dope class on Fatherhood and it’s challenged me to be a more intentional parent, father, and husband.
    • I will be writing for rapremnant.com in 2018.

No resolutions for 2018.  I am learning to live, love, and laugh at 47 years of age.  I’m putting fear in front of me as a stepping stool to faith and trust in Yeshua. I’m realizing the Creator has no boundaries.  I’m fighting against depression with lots of Joy, Love, and Prayer and of course counseling because I’m unashamed.  I can’t hope the best for 2018, I have to be the best for my family, my church, my job, my ministry work, my community work, and the young people and young adults I mentor.  I look forward to this year. I look forward to the journey. I look forward to sharing it with you all.

Blessings and Happy New Year.

Yours truly,

Tony Briscoe

 

Lecrae: Why They Hate Him

The racial divide in Christianity is so real and a recent comparison between Lecrae and NF, in a premierechristianity.com blog, in my opinion, further perpetuates why young African-Americans are drifting away from Christianity and church “as usual”. I find it very divisive though it clearly remains unbiased in its approach to both artists. My concern is how the headline “occurs” for others. I’ve already witnessed the racial tension in a Christian Rap group on Facebook.  Lecrae has done more for Hip Hop and Christian Hip Hop than most. For years he has endured attacks from within and without. Let me be clear. This isn’t a knock of Premier Christianity, a media voice for Christian thought and issues throughout the UK and the Christian world.

The blog mentions that sales of Creasy’s most recent release are down in comparison to his previous products. That may be the case, however, it is not due to his lack of lyrical skills, his verbal prowess, or his love and dedication to the Lord. When Lecrae started talking about social issues, police brutality, immigration, and issues that are culturally destroying the fabric of the “American Dream”, his white evangelical fan-base turned on him. He was told to stick to rapping about Jesus. And for those reasons he has lost a ton of support, a ton of white support. How is it you can be a Christian actor, cuss up a storm, get nude on the big screen, and there is minimal chatter and character assassination?

This is the hypocrisy of some white evangelicals. These same evangelicals go to church every week and lift their hands to what they have believed is a white-blue eyed savior, but who indeed is a Jewish man of color who would not be allowed to stay in America as a DACA recipient.

Lecrae is not without controversy. Even I am not sure why he has chosen to do music with certain artists but he is my brother. He has tried to be a Light in Dark spaces. Have any of you witnessed to Chief Keef? Have you repped Jesus in a BET Cypher heard by millions?  Lecrae is my brother in Yeshua. Some Christian rappers have rightfully challenged Lecrae dude to his perceived pride and he has shared how he was called out regarding his thoughtless characterization of Christian rappers having the same sound and how it lead to him issuing an apology. Yet, he is human. As a Black Christian I have to fight battles within my own race regarding the roots of my faith, American imperialism, colonialism, it’s man-made slavery connections and Babylonian rules of Hammurabi. I have to be an apologist and defend my faith externally often in this anti-religious age. The last thing we need is the constant divide within.  If you haven’t listened to his latest album then clearly you will not understand the journey of his life as a man, a black man, an artist, or a Christian.  This album has met me in my dreams, my depression, childhood, my triumphs, my failures, my success, and so much more.  It’s so timely and I appreciate his craft.  If you want it “Come Get Me”!

NF is my dude. Lecrae is my dude. He is a man of God who I met years ago ministering at the House on the west side of Chicago. As a local to Chicago Christian rapper, it is hard for us. We are not accepted by most churches, because after all, God can speak only through a donkey, He can’t speak through hip hop. Every form of art has free reign, liturgical dance, acting, comedy, country, African, reggae, jazz, rock, heavy metal, mime, orchestra’s but when it comes to rap it’s at the bottom of the food chain.

It’s unfortunate that an article titled as such could be twisted and used to divide two brothers, NF and Lecrae. It’s unfortunate that it paints a portrait, as it occurs to me, to say who is the better Christian, the WHITE rapper or the BLACK rapper. You can view the comments in social media yourself and see why Christianity in American is suffering at its own hand, how we are ushering in a cultural phenomenon of post-modernism and separatism.

Maybe whites have simply found a Rapper (who by the way doesn’t call or paint himself as a Christian rapper, which Lecrae has been heavily blasted for), who will simply make them feel good about being white and never having to involve themselves in real authentic issues regarding race and class.  Cleary, no Christian would ever talk about these issues and especially a Black one of influence.  It’s simply not the Jesus thing to do…

“All these feelings of depression and doubt, you have to tell them go away” ~ Lecrae

Find The Endurer’s first single: Soul Restoration Featuring Restore on iTunes: Purchase here.

FireKeeper: A Voice for All Generations

Her name is Loretta Hawkins.  The People of Extraordinary Talent, to which she is a member, and Chicago’s poetry scene know her as FIREKEEPER.  Tonight I have the honor of capturing her event that will surely be a photo experience.

I met Loretta Hawkins 2 years ago when she joined the P.O.E.T family.  Her voice is second to none.  She holds her own weight, embodying the spirit of Harriett Tubman in “These Shoes”.  Her voice, hard, subtle, strong, melodious, and powerful.  She doesn’t have to work at grabbing the attention of any audience, it’s simply a gift that comes with her anointing.  She is a retired teacher but she has never stopped educating.

Tonight, at Gallery Guichard, located 436 E. 47th Street in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville community, she will have a 3 Genres Book Signing.  This is a culminating event for her recent A Taste of Theater Award for her play “Of Quiet Birds”.

Loretta Hawkins is determined to utilize her remaining time on this earth to release books, poetry, plays, and inspire a young generation to embrace their heritage, their ancestry, their melanin, their history and their future.  Chicago’s best kept secret is no more and her work here is not done.  Today we celebrate a legend and I am honored to know that a fire of passion for life brews in all of us and FireKeeper is part of that Great Flame!

The Endurer
Photocred goes to the producer of the flyer for Loretta Hawkins.

Soul Restoration: Fulfilling Your Dream

 

2017-08-02_15-45-27 I’ve worked hard at being imperfect, self-deprecating, low self-esteem, excuses, asking permission to do something for myself, taking care of everyone except me, working hard on the job to a point of fainting instead of asking for help.  When you grow up broken, you begin to self-destruct and the unfortunate damage from that is cataclysmic personally, emotionally, spiritually, and professionally.

It’s not easy to break the cycle and at 46, with a biological parent back in my life after years of separation since childhood, one can easily slip back into an old mindset.  So, in my Christian journey, I’ve embarked on transformational living and surrendering my being to all of The Lord.  Poetry and Hip-Hop have saved and encouraged me in ways unimaginable.  Writing transformed from anger to peace, soothing to therapeutic, stagnate to transformative.  Counseling, professional and personal development seminars and an incredible wife have increased my desire to do more and to do well.  My soul has been restored and repristinated so I present you with my first single release, Soul Restoration available on CD Baby.

With that being said, I am happy to release my first single to the known universe (people on Mars, get your copy).  I had the pleasure of inviting the incredible Alicia “Restore” Spikes of Solace Souls Coalition to lace the background vocals and she far exceeded my expectations.

 

Thank you Restore for blessings us with your voice and thank you to my POET family for accepting me as I am.  PNoble TV for working on the soon coming video.  Dan @ Studio 11 for the engineering work and Tone Jonez of JeeJuh for track production.

Grace & peace unto you all.

The Endurer

Solace Soul Relationship Panel

I was asked to share closing words from a relationship panel I was on with my Solace Soul Poetry family in Chicago:

“1. Is your communication clear enough where there is no doubt what you desire in a relationship? – Your Actions, Your Behaviors, Your consistency.”
“2. What are you willing to give up?”
“3. What are you willing to tolerate?”
“4. Is your communication clear enough where you can understand what your significant other wants?”
“5. Are you happy, settled, or joyous?”
“6. Are you a situational or circumstantial partner?”
“7. What’s a deal breaker that puts you in the category of situational or circumstantial?”
“8. What type of ear do you listen to critical feedback? Defensive – Emotional – Clear”
“9. In every relationship, there is compromise and change. The 8 inches you love could be hit with a severe case of prostate cancer and become impotent. The big breast you love could be hit and stricken with a critical case of cancer, and you may have a wife with a full radical mastectomy.”
“10. If love covers a multitude of sin, how much love do you have for the one you want to spend the rest of your life with?”

The Endurer

 

Taxed to Death, Shot to Death ~ A Tale of One City

Illinois taxes break my back – Cook County taxes break my neck

Chicago taxes break my wallet – Federal taxes break my bank

These murders break my heart, not sure where to start

We are a fragile people, pimped by politicians – Puppeteered by pulpits

Enslaved by an element of social depravity – Trapped by gangs, cornered by guns

Deafened by screams, painted by blood

Entrapped by brutal slave masters that etched their self-destructive will on a people

That refuse to take responsibility for their own house

Because the laws changed and we are arrested for disciplining our children

While slave overseers in blue uniforms unload with merciless execution in broad daylight

How can I hope, believe, dream or conquer if it has been deferred; we are sick

As a people, not black, not white, not Buddhist, not Christian, not Muslim,  but as humanity

We have forgotten what binds us to settle for what holds us bound, it is not a fault of religion, it is a fault of us

We stand by silently, blaming, finger-pointing, shrugging shoulders like it won’t happen to…

Interrupted post from a billion dollar industry of metal that has unleashed unrestrained, uncontrollable, unmerciful, uncompromising damage on society

Home from college, winter-break, not going back, I am staying here, in Chicago, in a coffin, under the earth from which bore and birthed this vessel from the beginning of time

Taxed to death, shot to death, a tale of a city that has so much to celebrate, yet so much to admonish

We are on break from election season, no political phone calls for they don’t need us at this moment

No cries from the people for we don’t need them at this moment

Only cries from the fallen that are not with us for grandma died from a broken heart when realtors bought the taxes she could not pay and they took her home

A tale of a city

And more than bullets, we bleed from silence…

The Legacy, The Icon…Blaq Ice

He is an activist, writer, poet, artist, motivator, coach, entrepreneur, and father.  De’Andre Hawthorne, known as Blaq Ice, has been on the arts scene in Chicago since rapping and entertaining in his early days as a student at Simeon High School located on the south side of Chicago.  He is the founder of the award-winning International Spoken Word group named P.O.E.T (People of Extraordinary Talent).  Founded in 1990, P.O.E.T does various community service projects throughout the city and external of Chicago including chapters in Minneapolis, Detroit, Michigan City, and Las Vegas. P.O.E.T visits battered-women shelters, public schools, hospitals, parades, community rallies, and various other community events as part of their call to heal the world “one word at a time.”  Their membership includes people from all walks of life and religious beliefs.  Their focus on community, mentoring, and social equity drives them.

Under his leadership, many poets and spoken word artist have become published authors, have released music, and gained local notoriety.  The annual A.C.E Tech High School sleep over held on May 14, 2016, was a major success.  But as always with recognition comes trials, ups, and down.  I chopped it up with the P.O.E.T CEO, entrepreneur, and community activist this morning to engage the mind of one of Chicago’s own.

1.  Why is P.O.E.T so important to Chicago and beyond?

As you know, over the years, Chicago has increased in gun violence, so much so that we have as many murders as of May 2016 as there are days in the year so far. What P.O.E.T brings to the table inspires teens to make positive choices and decisions. Not only have are mentorship programs been effective in Chicago, but all across this nation. When you see those whom we have mentored become mentors, at that moment our mission and motto become complete. Our Motto is “Changing The World, One Heart, One Mind, One Word At A Time.”

2.  There seemed a time in 2012-2015 there was a lot of tensions amongst poets and groups with a lot of that social media hostility directed towards you.  How were and are you able to maintain, still be you, and not retaliate?

I war not against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places. There will always be those who hate what they don’t understand.  Jesus had haters so you know I’m not exempt. However, in order to be a leader you have to love those whom you lead more than they hate themselves. I don’t retaliate because as a leader I have to be the example, besides, my city (Chicago) has a problem, so my fight and my war is against the violence on my people by my people.

3.  What do you think is lacking from African-Americans with all the violence in our communities?

My people are destroyed by lack of knowledge. The knowledge of God and our true identity (Israel) has caused so-called African-Americans to carry the label of MADE IN AMERICA. God created us, but America made niggers. So as many young people as we can reach and teach the truth to, it will enable us to help to save the future generations to come.

4.  I have seen you on Fox News often addressing some of the issues with violence.  Why is local community activism a must narrative for African-Americans?

People are tired of talk, that’s why activism is important. The root of the word activism is ACT and actions speak louder than words. Our youth wants to know that they are loved and appreciated. Spending time, sharing what connects us (our stories) with them, allows them to feel comfortable opening up, releasing that buried hurt and pain. Once they release, we can replace the hurt and dirt with positive spirits.

5.  30 years, 19 albums, 4 published volumes of poetry, business owner; what’s next for Blaq Ice?

I love art, entertainment, and poetry.  If my existence on this earth doesn’t help change or save lives, then my living is in vain. Yes, I will release more albums and books, but the entertainment platform allows me to use a bigger stage to reach more people. It’s all about developing programs that will continue to exist beyond our own existence.

We are already seeing other poetry groups follow our lead, doing the very things that P.O.E.T was once criticized about in arts, entertainment, and social activism. We have already inspired others who are recreating what we are doing and have done. I believe the programs I have created such as the P.O.E T, the A.C.T.I.O.N Mentorship program, P.O.E.T RADIO, The TYRONE HAWTHORNE CANCER Scholarship, The P.O.E.T TEEN IDOL, Stand Up, and The Legends of Chicago Hip Hop will continue to exist in some form or fashion even after I’m gone.

Surely Chicago will see more of one of its greatest entertainers.   To reach out to P.O.E.T and learn more about the organization please visit their website.