Art & Life w/ ANON
Updated: Jun 27, 2019
Hip Hop is revolution. Poetry is revolution. I love to explore the depths of the collective us in my art...Published via VoyageATL
Anon The Griot, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far. I am a wordsmith. I say that less as a title and more as an expression of my truest passion. It starts in Helena, Arkansas at the foot of my grandfather and the old men at the barbershop. And of course, grandma made sure we went to Sunday School, regular service and Vocation Bible School. While I don’t identify with any specific religious practice, I must admit that the lyrical nature of the Bible moved me. The stories dramatic, the parables rich and ripe with nuance. So, blend the blues with the gospel and tall tales being spun by old men and the have the genesis of what would become me.
I discovered Hip Hop rather early: a feat that was not easy in the Mississippi Delta. Around six years old or so, I discovered what I later found to be a joke record, “Da Ha,” by The Rappin Duke. It resonated with me because I watch almost every John Wayne flick with my granddad. First, I learned the lyrics. Then I started inserting my own words. And before I knew it — I was freestyling. Way before I even knew that it was even a craft.
I was so enthralled that every assignment I could do in rap form, I did. I battled kids in the playground. People got to know me from the fact that I could rap. Not bad for a skinny kid in dated hand-me-downs and a penchant for the library and the museum.
Can you give our readers some background on your art? In high school, I had a dream that I was going to be signed to Death Row Records. In the dream, I had to tell them no because I knew my mother wouldn’t let me curse. Instead, I was signed as a ghostwriter for The Lady of Rage. In her album credits, it listed written by Anonymous. So that became my name.
But then, I truly discovered a love for poetry and spoken word. By the time I started performing for real, I had to find a way to encompass all I love under one umbrella. I chose the griot in homage to the griot who tied Kunta Kente’s story with that of the village in “Roots.”
Hip Hop is revolution. Poetry is revolution. I love to explore the depths of the collective us in my art. How do we become who we are? What do the tiny idiosyncrasies say about us as individuals? As people. While I will undoubtedly get extra lyrical and boom-bap, I really like painting those pictures, those small snapshots of our humanity.
My approach is irreverent and questioning. It’s gregarious at times. Other times, I present the minutia, the infinitesimal beauty of being nothing and everything at the same time.
Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists? We are in the middle of an age-old war. Art for art’s sake and arts for commerce sake. On the commercial end, social media has allowed an artist to find ways to reach their audience without having to bow down to corporate pressures and ideals. But, the digital media age ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be. The rise of trolling is insane! If someone can create a buzz and get people talking, they immediately develop a credibility that stokes the flames of fan support. It is definitely a double-edged sword.
The good thing is, the same digital age allows artists who bleed inspiration to find fans that resonate with their messages. Plus, Hip Hop is in its forties. There is a full spectrum of fans who’ve grown up with the art form and they definitely want music that reflects their growth. It’s no longer a young man’s game. Jay Z and Nas have shown us that Hip Hop doesn’t end after 30. And J. Cole shows that drive and grit can take you to the highest heights.
I think Atlanta is probably one of the best cities for music. It’s complex because there is art everywhere. There are so many events to attend, so many galleries to visit and so many shows to enjoy. That can sometimes create malaise when everything is at your finger. But, what’s dope— Atlanta acts like a chain of cousins and we unify as a city against everyone. An up and coming artist actually has a strong chance for collaboration and support from more established artists. That’s dope.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support? I have written two books that can both be found on Amazon. The first is (long title) “Locked Up but not Locked Down: A Guide to Surviving the American Prison System.” It was published by Atlanta’s own Supreme Design Publishing in 2011 and sports a powerful forward by political prisoner and activist, Mumia Abu Jamal.
I self-published a book of poetry entitled, “Poems for a Barfly” in 2018.
I released my first solo project, “A Beautiful Headache” at the tail end of 2016. It can be found on almost all digital streaming platforms including Tidal. Apple Music, Google Play Store, Youtube, and Spotify.
I am also a member of the Morehouse College spawned collective, Divine Suns. Together we have released five albums that can also be found on almost all digital streaming platforms.