URBAN VERBS is video, audio, visceral performance dialogued in poetic verse as well as spark for community outreach. We are a collaborative of i
ndividual artists across many disciplines including literature, music, audio/sound engineering, film, visual art and theater. We are dedicated educators as well as bloggers, journalists, social scientist, media makers and community organizers. Urban Verbs is an alternative interpretation to the brainless, heartless, materialist, violent, sexist, homophobic, self-involved popular perception of Hip-Hop.
Contact Urban Verbs (Hakim Bellamy, Carlos Contreras, Diles Hazelbaker) at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
URBAN VERBS: The Conceptual Abstract
It all started with an answer. An answer we still haven’t been able to define, but are determined to defend. We asked each other…”How does a Black kid from New Jersey, a Brown kid from the Barrio and a White kid from the Foothills who’ve known each other all of 5 years, come together to create an artistic reality that they all feel like they’ve known their entire lives?” It’s almost as though they grew up on the same block.
The answer is not Hip Hop. Hip Hop is just the common denominator. The song we remember from THAT summer, THAT prom, THAT loss. But “THAT” story…the fact that we all have a different “THAT” story and maybe we all have a different set of songs for our soundtracks…but we ALL have a soundtrack. We all have a picture, portrait or painting. We all have a dance, good or bad at it. We all have a poem, a song, words we said…and words we didn’t. Hip Hop only illuminates these relationships and connections for people from different sides of the wax. But once we connect…we are connected.
So this show is about asking questions of others and of ourselves. Critical reflection and ambitious projections. Like real Hip Hop, the value is in the process not just the product. The lessons that come with facing, challenging, inventing, accepting and re-inventing oneself. Like real Hip-Hop, Urban Verbs is always in growth, maturing the lexicon and definition of what Hip-Hop is, rather then what it isn’t. The show houses a piece of each city that houses the show. The show is a discussion, where we may have the first word, but the audience certainly has the last.
Because when we all peel back our layers flesh by flesh…we are each other. Just with different stories. Hip Hop just exposes our connective tissue. This show acts as a microscopic lens that magnifies this connection and makes it un-ignorable.
To create a progressive narrative around Hip Hop culture and facilitate the practice of EVERYONE telling their story through Hip Hop as a form of love, a form of intelligence and a way of better living.
To increase the respect and acceptance of Hip Hop as a legitimate and visionary art form and worthy of academic inquiry
To be an example of how one can feed their family and live their dream through Hip -Hop that builds rather than Hip-Hop that destroys
To fashion Hip Hop into the tools that bring people together, stops wars, makes babies and raises them!
We all believe in the power that art has to empower, emancipate and change lives as it did ours. We make the time to create art together because we believe what we are creating has such a sense of duty and responsibility to inspire change in people, that NOT doing it is akin to giving up on beauty, positivity and hope for a different kind of Hip-Hop, a different kind of world for ourselves and our children.
URBAN VERBS is an alternative interpretation to the brainless, heartless, materialist, violent, sexist, homophobic, self-involved popular perception of Hip-Hop. And it is urgent that THIS representation of Hip Hop culture, which is actually the lion’s share of those who identify with our generation, be put out there to affirm those who are Hip Hop, those that wear it as who they are and to enlighten those who aren’t and attack it.
We are extremely sympathetic to the wandering attention span of younger audiences (since we all spend large parts of our professional and personal time working with youth in our community). Even as poets, we understand that every person is not built for a 50-minute English Lit course. As educators we know that learners and all other kinds of consumers of information come in varying shapes and sizes. So our technique is multimedia (visual, video, audio & verbal) and “something for everyone”.
We have a belief in the DIY (Do It Yourself) Model of bringing art to the world. None of us have had the luxury of an agent or representation. None of us live in the artistic vortex of New York or Los Angeles, so the hopes of being “discovered” are slim to none. We’ve always promoted our own shows, our own art and ourselves. We are savvy enough to understand that via this model we can own more of our profits and career trajectory while keeping our artistic integrity. This is very important to what Urban Verbs represents, because reclaiming the narrative is hard to do when someone else owns you, your studio time or the rights to your work. These same philosophy and industry lessons are what we teach to the aspiring talent we often work with in our communities. Some of our other guiding philosophies include giving back to our communities which have supported and nurtured us as artists. We philosophically promote the serious consideration of art as a career and a way to better the world and we work help others develop those tools while we attempt to lead by example.
Two members of our collective are old poetry sparring partners of Logan Phillips out of Arizona. He now teaches in Mexico and he and two friends had a bi-lingual, multimedia, performance troupe called Verbobala, which was very influential in inspiring us to incorporate the video aspect of Urban Verbs. A member of our troupe first saw Idris Goodwin, the director of the most recent rendition of Urban Verbs at the Tricklock International Theatre Festival, a few years back touring his one man show in Albuquerque. Idris’s show was both Hip Hop Theatre and a One Man Show that employed poetic verse as much of his dialogue. Urban Verbs lies somewhere between Experimental Theater and Hip Hop Theater and is entirely written in poetic dialogue.
WHAT WE WRITE ABOUT
Our group is a mix of loyal fiance, proud parent, sons who are close to their parents, three males who all have their dads…and actually LIKE them. We are lovers, love losers, love working-it-outers, god-fearers, does-god-existers, dedicated uncles, nonconformists. So we write about the things everyone else writes about…from this unique, sometimes incredibly complex, other times incredibly simple, but always genuine point of view.
This show is as much designed to be in front of young rural and intercity youth as it is for the first generation elder who thinks their grandkids are aloof and losing their culture. We want to put it in front of youth, to serve as a roadmap for how to pursue their art and make it a bridge to their dreams. We want to put it in front of audiences of our parents’ generation to show them why Hip Hop speaks to us in a way that is not as new or as different as they’d like to think. We desire to bring them a show that says, “Though our music and movement is different, we both have OUR music and OUR movements and that is where we are just like our parents.” We believe a show like this, that is designed to bring people together is necessary everywhere people are falling apart.
We have an URBAN performance already on the resume where we arrived in town 2 days prior to the performance to facilitate workshops and additional guest lectures in classes ranging from sociology and race to theater to music and English (St. Lawrence University, Feb. 2010). At present, we have the capacity to custom design curriculum and lesson plans for these environments at schools around the country.
Even though any astute recommendation of how to grow URBAN VERBS fiscal trajectory in 3 years would have us make this move first. And it IS a move we want to make, however, I think our mission driven vision would be to first find grant writers, non-profit partnerships, artist residencies and contractor relationships to bring us to under served communities.
Artistically, it would be very satisfying to reach for the attention of the academy, the critics, the tastemakers of the arts. Seeking awards and accolades and being able to sell the rights are all considerations around the three year mark, acknowledging these things take time to develop. However, Urban Verbs is not designed to be a “one trick pony.” There are plans between the 3 and 5 year mark to develop an institute where we help other aspiring talent develop their career piece of work. We also have plans to develop subsequent pieces of work collaboratively and as independent artists that help further the Urban Verbs mission in visual art, clothing/fashion, film/documentary, new media, music, events, education (with the establishing of the Urban Verbs: Urban Arts Academy) and much more.