Interview and photos by Rebecca “B FRESH” McDonald of B FRESH Photography and Media
Last February, I took a journey to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN to meet up with a phenomenal crew of people I met during my travels in New York. The ReadNex Poetry Squad kept in contact with me, and before departing for the Twin Cities, they gave me a ring, asking about places they could book shows, perform etc. We decided to take the opportunity and shoot, so I recently pulled out these photos and sat down with them to catch up on life, touring, their new album and music video release and what is in the stars for 2011.
B FRESH: Can you describe to readers who the Readnex Poetry Squad are?
The ReadNex Poetry Squad: We are a group of 5 artists, emcees, poets, community leaders, activists, educators, a singer, a couple of break dancers, a comedian, and idealists that believe that positive change is possible through love, education and voice.
BF: How did you all meet and start working together?
RNPS: We all met by accident at Orange County Community College (now known as SUNY Orange). A few of us met at a college club we formed called REACH. The club’s mission was to reach out to our community. Be it in the form of food drives, educational events, cultural trips, open mics, etc. At some of the open mics we vibed with each other and appreciated each others talents. Four members of the group formed out of this collective exchange of words ands vibes. DJ H20 joined the group a few years later. He’d been attending open mics and the college with us as well.
BF: How would you describe your work, what you do, and your musical sound?
RNPS: Our music sounds like serenity mixed in with the revolutionary battle cries of a child that demands justice, love and mental stimulation. We use Hip Hop & Spoken Word Poetry to empower, to motivate, and to edu-tain as many ears that our beats and voices can reach. The music sounds like what it should sound like for each individual that listens. Poetry stems from the Greek word Poeses. Thus we create and our listeners decide the rest.
BF: You have your new album out in stores now, and a music video dropping. What does this all mean for you as poets, and the direction you are moving in? What make you all different than the rest out there?
RNPS: We are and will always be Poets. We are lovers of music, good music, and have been privileged to find artistic ways to incorporate our loves and make something tangible for the world to hear and see. The music video was definitely something we always wanted to do and we are so grateful to have done it. What makes us different… to sum it up we LOVE. We love each other, the art form, the people and everything else. We are driven by love and that’s just it.
BF: How do you balance all of the things you do as activists/artists?
RNPS: We both love and are passionate about the work we do. Somehow all gets figured out from that love.
BF: What inspires you to create together? What are some highlights of collaborating together? And how do you address creative differences and obstacles in your process of creating?
RNPS: Something one of us might have learned during our travels or research. The emotion on the face of a child or the laughter that child’s spirit emanates. The green of the trees, the anger caused by injustice or the joy and vibing out with each other. This all serves as inspiration.
For our single “Be’ Dif’Rent” we all built upon the concept in our own way. The beat was made, someone’s verse was written, that verse inspired someone else’s and so on. Then when the track was almost done one of us heard and thought “I wanna get on this” and wrote the final verse for it. It was a collaborative effort that kept being built upon again and again as we inspired each other.
We’ve worked with each other for almost 10 years. We trust each other. We believe in each other and genuinely care about each others thoughts, words and moves. When a “creative difference” arises we work with each other, find common ground and try to combine ideas as much as possible. A creative difference is merely an opportunity to create.
BF: You have been traveling extensively recently. Are there any places that are unforgettable, or that you would never want to return to? Tell us some tour stories!
RNPS: We each have our own individual favorites or least favorites. Latin’s favorite is San Antonio and hearing a ten year old explain (after a brief workshop we facilitated) why Hillary Rodham Clinton was an excellent Senator. For Decora it was the love we received from the people of Detroit during the US Social Forum. For DJ H20 it was the energy of the crowd at Trinity College during a performance of ours and Free loved the vibe of Chicago while walking in search of sneaker shops. Jarabe del Sol loved being in the desert of New Mexico during Dooda Desert Rock and enjoying both the land and the indigenous love. Least favorites there aren’t many really. We’ve become very skilled in adapting and finding the good in all of our experiences.
BF: What can’t you live without on tour?
RNPS: Latin needs high protein food on a regular basis (one of the 3 vegetarians on the road). He gets…unhappy to say the least, otherwise. DJ H2O needs his toiletry bag. That man needs to be clean. Jarabe needs a space to meditate. Free needs a brief retreat every few days from all the male energy. And Decora needs enough sleep.
BF: What are your plans for the rest of 2010? Any new projects? What should we expect from The ReadNex Poetry Squad?
RNPS: Ok so we usually like to keep suspense going….but here we go….more videos, more music and the sky is the limit as we prepare for 2011 and a European Tour for the summer.
BF: What piece of advice do you have for up-and-coming artists/activists/poets?
RNPS: Never give up! Regardless of what anyone tells you (at times that negative voice in your head) always keep reaching towards your dreams. “The day we stop running after our dreams is the day our dreams stop running after us”-Latin
BF: If you could change anything in this world, what would it be?
RNPS: Love. We need more love. We need to love our fellow human. Our neighboring creatures. Love the land that we’re eternally connected to no matter how much or how long we may fly through the clouds. Love each other and love all that is. “All we need is love”-The Beatles.
BF: Anything else you would like to say?
RNPS: We’d like to thank all that read our words. All that took the time to learn about something “Dif’Rent and all that have been by us over the years. Peace, Paz, Salaam and Learn, Educate, Repeat!
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