By Josh Gloer
Poems is at a barbecue in Portland, Oregon when his phone rings. He steps away from friends to answer some questions – children’s laughter audible over his powerful drowning voice. It’s July 5th, the day after Americans everywhere celebrate their independence. The emcee spent his holiday weekend at a park with friends, watching fireworks, avoiding crowds.
Next week will be a different story.
Under the moniker Sareem Poems, the artist has announced his latest album, Black and Read All Over. The album doesn’t drop July 26th, but a promotional frenzy starts next week – kicking off with a new MySpace page for the album on Tuesday www.myspace.com/iampoems.
According to Poems, the title, Black and Read All Over, plays off stereotypes.
“It goes across the board with everyone,” Poems said. “It could be Black and Read all over, Brown and read all over. It’s just that people, at first glance, think they know who you are before they even get a chance to hear a word that comes out of your mouth.”
The album is also turning people’s perceptions of the former LA Symphony member’s on their heads. For this endeavor, Poems has united forces with producers Oddisee and Theory Hazit, and stylistically, the album isn’t run-of-the-mill Sharlok Poems.
“The emphasis on this record, for me personally, is giving people a little more up tempo stuff,” Poems said. “The last project was mid tempo, lot of poetry style writing which people know me for. Part of the reason I call this Black and Read All Over is because its not as typical. There’s a lot more guest spots on it. It’s a lot more forward as far as aggressive beats.”
Guest spots include LMNO, Pigeon John, Akil from Jurassic 5, Ragen Fykes and Georgia Anne Muldrow to name a few. According to Poems, the album strays from his typical story-telling depth and focuses on rhymes.
“I focus on being more of an emcee than being just a rapper or a poet. I want to make sure that there’s some substance and there’s some direction to everything that I give. I don’t want to give someone just some aimless music.”
The need to give direction is understandable. The fiery emcee has only met his father once, and his mother recently passed away due to a drug overdose. Avoiding the foster care system he was taken in by his grandmother, and Poems claims as a young man, he himself was searching for something – something he found through religion. Now, a strong Christian, the performer tries to incorporate good messages into his work.
“For a lot of people it’s a weird approach to life because they feel that its very judgmental,” Poems said. “[But] my message is love. I’m not trying to beat anybody over the head with my beliefs. I do my music and if you get something out of it, cool. And if it doesn’t touch you in that way, then cool.”
According to Poems, everyone is searching for something. While he’s found what he’s looking for, he knows not everyone else has.
“For me, at the end of the day, you’re going to hear who I am. That’s my heart. That’s the main thing for me, I’m not trying to water down who I am for anyone, but at the same time, I’m not trying to force feed what I believe or how I live my life down anyone’s throat.”
His music covers issues that he holds personal, from what he calls a sad but “common tale” of parentless children, drugs and even branching out into human trafficking. Poems now tries to help with benefits and events to bring these subjects to light.
“I talk about life issues,” Poems said, later adding that “I think as a Christian and just as a human being… you want to see people happy and enjoy the life that they have, because this is the only thing that we have that we can say is ours. Everything else that we have right now, when we’re gone, it doesn’t matter. This life is the only thing we have that we can say is ours.”
For Poems aficionados, Black and Read All Over, isn’t the only offering this year. Poems has teamed up with Atlanta based producer, Dust to form PND or Poems and Dust. The duo’s first offering Dirty Words (www.myspace.com/panddmusic) will be released sometime late 2009.
For now, Black and Read All Over hits shelves at the end of July.
“Do what you love. Period.” Poems said. “I’m doing what I love. This is what I’m putting all my energy into and everything you hear from me is inspired by life itself in general. You’re not going to hear any false tales from me. What you’re hearing is me.”
Josh Gloer is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Currently he’s a writer on his sixth season of MSNBC’s Lockup: Extended stay. He has also written for MTV, TLC, TruTV, HGTV and Oxygen. Josh has been a journalist for about 12 years, doing celebrity interviews with actors such as Djimoun Hounsou, Dennis Farina and James Marsden; and bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Orgy and sax guru, Carl Grubbs. Josh’s work has appeared in Filter, Car Audio & Electronics, Zink!, Item and many other publications and websites. This fall, his fiction is scheduled to appear in an anthology of LA writers, including Charles Bukowski. www.joshgloer.com