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Marjua Estevez

Tongue Tactics: 9 Afro-Latino Poets Who Get Radical On The Mic

Get free, stay woke.  

In a climate currently riddled with anti-immigrant and anti-black rhetoric, poetry for many serves as a form of self-preservation, a way to make sense of identity and an opportunity to set the stage for experiences constantly being put under erasure. To engage in the celebrations of #BlackHistoryMonth, we present these Afro-Latino poets with exquisite bars about protest, struggle, family, heritage and youth.

READ: Meet The Artists Who Took Over Afro-Latino Festival 2015

Elizabeth Acevedo
Liz is an Afro-Dominicana whose poetry fuses her Dominican upbringing and the tough grit of her native New York City. Her work has afforded her the opportunity to perform internationally, from South Africa to Paris. Expect her manuscript, Blessed Fruit & Other Origin Myths, to be published in September of this year.

Aja Monet
Of Cuban-Jamaican descent, Aja Monet is an internationally established poet, performer, singer, songwriter, educator and human rights advocate. "Education was the village that raised me," she stated. "I care about it because I recognize the difference it makes in my life and the impact it has on fine-tuning my vision.” Last spring, Aja relocated from her native Brooklyn to Miami, FL to open up Smoke Signals Studio alongside her partner umi selah.

John Murillo
Afro-Chicano poet and Up Jump the Boogie author John Murillo is a purveyor of all things cool. He tinkers with formal and free verse, doing the very necessary work of engaging themes of family history and personal identity.

Ariana Brown
“I remember reading books and being so invested in the characters and the story," said Ariana Brown to PBS.org, "and then I would realize, this book is not talking about me. Part of my work is to always go back for little girl Ariana and figure out what it is she needed that she didn’t get.” After years of struggling to find representations of herself, Brown became the Afro-Mexicana role model she needed through her love of language and the art of poetry.

Willie Perdomo
A necessary voice in the literary landscape, Willie Perdomo's work is lyrical flair meets intelligent wit, stringing together themes of Puerto Rico, el barrio, the diaspora and folk music.  

Gabriel Ramirez
This 20 somethings can be found spitting poetics about Dominicanism in venues around New York City. "most dominicans won’t claim black same way they won’t claim self hate," he writes poignantly in "along the massacre river." Expect his work to be found in the forthcoming Afro-Latino Poetry Anthology (Arte Público Press 2016).

Venessa Marco
Venessa is a working student of Cuban-Puerto Rican descent, whose poetry unapologetically screams #StayWoke. "When I think of my culture, of its struggle, of its will to fight and keep on fighting, I think how blessed am I to have come from such lineage of unmeasurable glory," says Venessa to VIBE Viva. "To be both brown and black and alive is a gift. I honor this gift with my voice and of course the voice of mi gente!" 

Mayda Del Valle
Mayda and her tongue tactics bring into conversation "a hybrid identity and experience" that is "Spanish and English, part hip-hop and salsa, part Nas and Sonia Sanchez, part Shakespeare and John Leguizamo." Her work deals with the aesthetics of hip-hop and the urban Latino experience, while exploring "themes of healing, transformation and the recovery of ancestral memory in the modern day diaspora."

Noel Quiñones
Noel is an Afro-Boricua writer with a wicked knack for performance poetry that largely deals with "the spirituality of languages, the meanings of diasporic identity and the ancient and present art of verse." His work has appeared in The Acentos Review, FreezeRay, and Maps for Teeth, as well as on Blavity and LatinTRENDS. He is a working educator, living in the Big Apple.

READ: How Afro-Latino Festival Is Empowering A Rich & Diverse Community

 

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J.Cole, Teyana Taylor And Other Snubs Of The 2019 Grammy Nominations

It's that time of year again when inner circles and strangers on the Internet debate who's up for a gramophone.

On Friday (Dec. 7), the nominees for 2019's Grammy Awards (Feb. 10) were announced to a span of hot takes, early but informed predictions, and a wall of confusion as to why certain artists were overlooked. While some entertainers excitedly received the good news (Cardi B discovered her nods while leaving a courthouse), others were left scratching their heads.

Here's a look at why those who were snubbed by the Recording Academy deserved to be nominated.

READ MORE: Drake, Kendrick Lamar, And Cardi B Lead 2019 Grammys Nominations

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5 Stories From Meek Mill's #CRWN Conversation That Flew Under The Radar

Meek Mill made his return to Elliot Wilson's #CRWN conversation on Sunday (Dec. 2) for an in-depth discussion of Championships, his behind-bars experience and prison reform.

Live from New York City’s Playstation Theatre, the stage was set with two throne-like chairs as Mill and Wilson's fans began to swarm through the packed house. Loaded with fans from Philly, Jersey and NYC alike, the crowd was buzzing in anticipation for Meek’s grand arrival. Introduced by Wilson, the veteran journalist briefed in-house and live-streamed listeners with his relationship with the Philly rapper, discussing the many times the two have linked “from the MMG days to now.”

“It’s just amazing to see how he’s continued to fight this adversity and continued to deliver great music,” says Wilson, engaging in a back and forth conversation with the crowd. “When you put out a title and say you’re going to name your album Championships, you better deliver,” Wilson continues. “And he delivered.”

Appearing on stage sporting a mid-length fur coat and glistening jewels, Meek and Wilson exchange a quick embrace as the live audience jumps to its feet to welcome their champion. Taking his experience to lean into activism, Meek engaged in a 90-minute conversation with the journalist, answers fan-questions and candidly tell his story as he sees fit.

But as tabloid fate would have it, one of the sole stories to come out of the meaningful conversation was his awkward date with then-girlfriend Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z and Beyonce. The memories Meek decided to share like adorable moments with his son, his newfound position in the battle for criminal justice reform and recording Championships fell to the wayside.

But don't fret. Here are some other memorable moments from the interview.

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1. Meek's Best Day in Jail Included a Visit From Kevin Hart

Meek's final day in jail was similar to the others. He woke up, successfully avoided jail food by making his morning oatmeal and knew his day was heading in a good direction when he won five consecutive ping pong games against his daily opponent– who want the smoke?

After heading back to his cell, Meek's day got a whole lot better when Kevin Hart and 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin had pulled up on him by surprise. "They come on the block and I was like, 'Man come in my cell and see how this sh*t look,'" Meek starts. "So Kevin Hart and Mike, they come in the cell and they like 'It's not that bad,' they tryna make me feel good, I'm like 'The hell you mean it's not that bad? I got my boxers hanging up on the f**king string'" the rapper jokingly recalls. After the much-needed hour-long visit, Meek returned to his daily jailhouse activities when he learned that he would be released from jail within hours. What a day.

2. Friends and Family Would Send Him IG Post Printouts Through Mail

When Meek packed his cell to go home, he had over 10,000 photos to sift through since his tribe brought the world of Instagram to him through the mail. "I used to tell everybody like, 'Yo, just send me everything that's going on on Instagram, I wanna see everything that's  going on in life.'"

The rapper separated his photos by importance, keeping the photos of his family in a separate pile with his other pile (filled with pictures of all the IG models and famous ladies) holding a different level of importance to those who stood behind bars with him. "It was valuable cause some guys in there they got 25 years in this s**t, they ain't never see the fake a**es yet and the girls with the new bodies, so you know, they all in my cell like, 'What's up with these pictures?'"

3. He Purposely Steered Away From Lending Tekashi 6ix9ine Advice

While breaking down Championships cut "Respect the Game," Meek spoke on hip-hop's freshman class including Tekashi 6ix9ine, Lil Durk and YoungBoy NBA. "[Tekashi] used to be poppin' so much sh*t on Instagram, I be like 'I don't even wanna say nothing to this young boy, this young boy start sayin' all this crazy sh*t to me on the internet," he joked.

On a more serious note, Meek speaks on the real issue he had with 6ix9ine, sharing his concern for the 22-year-old's habits in starting drama with some of hip-hop's most dangerous faces. "With my music, I wanted to reach all of 'em," he said, explaining how when the music speaks for itself, you don't need to ensue controversy to sell records.

4. His 7-Year-Old Son Already Has a Rapper Name

Give it 10 years and we might see Meek Mill's son on the Billboard charts. Answering a fan question about "Lil Drip," Meek clarifies that Lil Drip is actually his son Papi's, rapper name. "Sometimes I be in the studio I be like 'Yo, I give you $500 if you go in the booth and rap right now and he just go in the booth and lay it.'" Sampling a few adorable bars, Meek reveals that his son consistently shocks him with his material, bringing up some of the most trivial experiences he's shared with Meek.

"He be like, 'Private jet/ Who I met/ Ben Simmons/ That's a bet,'" spits Meek, referring to a previous birthday trip he's taken with Papi.

5. Jay-Z's Verse on "What's Free" Was a Pivotal Moment in Meek's Career

A Jay and Meek collaboration has been a long time coming. In Meek's promotional single "Stay Woke" featuring Miguel, the rapper spits, "When I talked to Em and Hov, they said, "I'm proud of you/ You stood tall back when everyone doubted you"/ My reply is, "I did what I gotta do/ And I need that verse 'fore you retire too."

During the conversation, Meek speaks on "What's Free" with Rick Ross and Jay-Z, remembering the first time he heard Jay's 44 bar verse. "When I got it back I was in the bathroom, I was just standing in the mirror listening to it," he says while bopping his head, fully immersing himself in the moment.

"I represent the path that HOV created," Meek tells Wilson. "I always wanted that Jay-Z feature and he came through this time, shout out to HOV."

Stream the entire conversation here.

READ MORE: Meek Mill Recalls Awkward Double Date With Jay-Z, Beyonce, And Nicki Minaj

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Meek Mill, Ari Lennox, More Included On VIBE Picks 12/6

With a busy year of music coming to an end, there are still some artists who want to make their mark: Meek Mill dropped his hotly-anticipated fourth LP Championships, Ski Mask the Slump God released his long-awaited debut STOKELY, and Dreamville brought heat to the star-studded Creed II soundtrack – and that's just scratching the surface. Check below to see the songs that the VIBE staff is bumping this week.

“The Man Who Has Everything,” Chance The Rapper Christmas music is usually unimpressive to me – the topics come across as contrived and corny, and I’m not inclined to listen to a song for only one month of the year. But Chance The Rapper may change my tune with “The Man Who Has Everything,” one of his two November drops. Over a leisurely soundbed, Chano has things that he’s grateful for, like his family, a home, and material perks like cars, but he isn’t fronting like it’s a worry-free holiday. The song also portrays hopes to eradicate racism with imagery of shredded confederate flags, and gets personal with revelations about missing Noname (who he addresses by her birth name, Fatima) and feeling awkward about arranging a prenuptial agreement with his future wife. “The Man Who Has Everything” captures gratitude and seasonal depression in one swoop, making a song that captures the Christmas spirit honestly. In his recent interview with the Joe Budden Podcast, Chance said that his Christmas album with Jeremih was slept on; I may have to give it a shot. – William E. Ketchum III

“Trauma,” Meek Mill | Championships Meek Mill’s new album Championships has two of the biggest songs of the year, with “What’s Free” going viral because of Jay-Z’s verse and “Going Bad” getting attention because of Meek’s reunion with Drake. But don’t let the star power distract from “Trauma,” one of the most memorable songs from the record. Just like on the similarly-titled “Traumatized” from his 2012 debut Dreams and Nightmares, Meek poignantly recounts the violence and drug addiction that he witnessed in his childhood. But this time, with his new position as the face of prison reform, he illustrates how his Philly streets and his recent legal troubles are tied into a scheme of systemic racism. “In the 13th amendment, it don't say that we kings. They say that we legally slaves if we go to the bing,” he proclaims. Adding a social justice edge to the harrowing street narratives that he has already built a reputation gives Meek Mill a chance to make music that will stand the test of time.  – William E. Ketchum III

“Shea Butter Baby,” Ari Lennox and J. Cole |  Creed II: The Movie Dreamville brought quiet storm vibes to the Creed II soundtrack. The label’s sole songbird Ari Lennox commands the mind with soothing vocals over the Elite and Mike Will Made It-produced track. Her confident narration of black love does wonders for the film’s b-side love story (Adonis and Bianca) while Cole blissfully submits to his own Shea Butter Baby. – Desire Thompson

“Nuketown” Ski Mask the Slump God feat. Juice WRLD | STOKLEY If you ever wondered what screamo rap sounds like in 2018, peep what Ski Mask the Slump God and Juice WRLD pulled off on “Nuketown.” The song is just as explosive as its title thanks to the guys parting the waves of shiny rap to make room for ripping mostpits. But the Florida MC also showcases a quick and edible flow on his debut album while Juice WRLD adds more fuel to the fire. – Desire Thompson

"Good Girl" - Tiffany Gouche feat. Masego Tiffany Gouche's voice is the best kind of blanket. Well-worn with holes and loose threads here and there, it's the fuzzy sort that, without fail, will warm you to the core each time you swaddle in it. Time and time again, Gouche steps to the microphone with proof of all that is right with R&B in 2018. Her seductive new lust song "Good Girl," released to the world just as East Coast temperatures started to dip, does not stray from the sonic track record she has established for herself. After enlisting her for "Queen Tings" on his Lady, Lady debut album, trap-jazz savant Masego has returned the favor by complementing Gouche's cocoa rich vocals with satin soft coos of his own. Trust us, you'll want to slow down for a minute to savor these sounds. – Stacy-Ann Ellis

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