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(The Luminaries)

I'm going to take a giant guess and assume most of us were not up in the Bronx when Clark Kent and Coke La Rock started toasting to fire up the Boogie Down massive over Herc's isolated breakbeats, though many readers do know Zulu Nation, b-boying and the early days when the five elements swept through their cities and towns, the days when hip-hop held the most potential as a unifying force of cross-cultural exchange and positive expression. You didn't forget your parachute pants, right?


Corporate Babylon has done its worst to taint hip-hop and exploit separation, hate, violence and dead-end lifestyles through rap, leaving its true glory and potential for conciousness to the few courageous souls thriving on the underground who will not let the real spirit of hip-hop die.


I'd often wondered why our friend Javis is nicknamed "The Bravest," but after seeing his crew in action Friday Night at the regular Venetian Cosmos event, I understand. It takes a brave person to speak their minds, buck trends, and stand tall as themselves these days and we're fortunate to be surrounded by such people in the real Los Angeles. Javis hosts Venetian Cosmos and this Friday's show at The Venice Contemporary (a constant supporter of independent arts and reliably sick events) saw profits going to Empowerment Works!, a non-profit started to address and improve inter-connected global conditions starting with poverty, climate change, and AIDS.


(Painting by MEAR ONE)

Venetian Cosmos is a regularly occurring positive hip-hop event that recalls the original soul, passion, and possibilities that the culture has to offer us. It is a supportive, loving environment filled with talent, this past night showcasing those of King MEAR ONE, The Luminaries, Mike the Poet, MYKA 9, DJ Tamara, and more. I came in at the tail-end of Javis' own group, The Luminaries' set. Their smooth yet intricate, focused flows make a nice match for the loose, friendly demeanors on stage. The Luminaries are diverse in make-up, and all dynamic in their verbal execution, plus they keep the lyrics positive, uplifting, and challening to the status quo, and never slipping into Prince B. territory. I was sorry to miss the bulk of their set as what little I heard was so tight! Go see the Luminaries.

5168.jpg (Host Jamie Butterfly)

I recently babbled about how exciting it is to watch Mear paint, and tonight was no less so, his strokes moving to the beat as he quickly made another masterpiece. His friend Mike the Poet blew me away even more! Mike is not only a spoken word maniac who kicks knowledge with an ability that mashes Borges' tendency for reference to the destruction of social-conditioning found in a good reasoning with a Five-Percenter or Boboshanti; he is also a Los Angeles historian who leads walking cultural/architectural tours in our beloved city.

8139.jpg(Mike the Poet)

Mike's words erupt in rapid-fire, deadly-devoted wordplay, with hardly a space to breathe, stringing together beloved local authors (name-checking TACO favorites Fante, West, Chinaski, Mike Davis, Luis Rodriguez, and Chandler among others) and South Central heroes in musical, poetic raves using only his voice. The poet is passionate about LA and if KRS can be hip-hop, then Mike, through his vast knowledge and impassioned delivery is definitely Los Angeles! Poetry is alive and well, and this spoken word artist's collection I Am Alive in Los Angeles (with illustrations by Mear) says in 115 pages what thousands of pages in other scripts and rags have failed to encapsulate about our giant mega-lopolis. We look forward to joining Mike on his guided tour of Leimert Park next Sunday.

1707.jpg(Myka 9)

The night came to a shortened stop while the legendary Myka 9 was sing-songing verses very passionately. Myka seemed to be going off the top of his head, making every thought and action work within his rhythmic framework, whether he was honoring Marvin Gaye's missed falsetto, lapsing into light raggamuffin chat, or loosely putting forth abstract, palpable ryhmes of mental elevation and cosmic exploration.


Overall, a night jam-packed with incredible talent that reaffirms hip-hop culture's ability to make us feel, act, and come together to say something, to do something, and to change the things we don't like or have to. We have the power and it is past time to take back what belongs to us from those who will sell us poison. Spending yet another affirming night with the L.A. underground arts community, these things feel possible. As Javis shouted to his exiting guests, "Be the change!"


(MYKA 9, MEAR, & DJ Tamara)


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