This week on the spotlight, I’m pleased to chat with artist, Khari B. Discopoet Khari B. is a spoken word musician and educator working internationally as both a performer and instructor in the literary arts. With a reputation for delivering powerful performances with intense instrumental accompaniment, Khari B.'s energetic nature is inextricably tied to growing up in Chicago's House music scene and being the son of two educators, one being acclaimed woodwindist, Mwata Bowden. His inspirational and mentally rousing work has been requested across the globe, staking out a place in the hearts of audiences and appealing to a diversity of fans spanning multiple ages and ethnicities. He’s the producer and lead voice on two albums, appeared on numerous others and has taught literary arts and performance across the country. Presently he is the Chairman of the nearly 50 year old renowned music organization, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and Artist-In-Residence at Purdue University. His latest single, Apocalyptic Conversation, the first in a trilogy, was recently released on April 21, 2017. I recently had a chance to talk with Khari about his art, his craft and his love of House music and House Culture.
Black Widow: You are a man of many talents. How would you describe yourself as an artist?
Discopoet: I’m a spoken word musician. That kinda covers all the bases.
Black Widow: How would you describe your music?
Discopoet: Good! LOL… You know Dizzy & Miles once said; there are only two types of music, good and bad. I make good music. Good Music is music that has thought and soul.
Black Widow: What makes house music?
Discopoet: House music was designed for dance. House music was meant to touch the spirit and open something up in the dancers. It’s simplified soul with the spirit of disco and funk with electronic elements. And now, you are really seeing the technology and creativity of it all.
Black Widow: Are you talking about the evolution of house music?
Discopoet: Yes. When you think about it, house music came from a lack of resources. Music and music programs were cut from schools. There were a lack of instruments or people couldn’t afford it, so this music was created from not having. We didn’t have trumpets and drums, so we got drum machines and equipment that created that sound. It was cheaper than buying instruments and more accessible than music lessons. It’s like hip hop quite honestly. Hip hop and House are siblings, born of the same parents. That Lack…We had no instruments but we wanted to dance, so we created these genres. We are born from two places (New York and Chicago) so our interpretation was different but these genres were born from not having or not having access.
Black Widow: What have you found to be the differences between writing songs and writing poetry?
Discopoet: Most songs are poems in a sense but not all poems are songs. I have more freedom in writing poetry because the landscape is vast. With song writing, it’s more concise. I have to consider all the musical elements. That’s challenging. I’m still learning composing and song writing; I have to see where the words fit as it applies to the music.
Black Widow: What’s your process when writing house music?
Discopoet: I hear music, not genre. I’m really not concerned with that. I just write and see where it’s going musically. It’s a really organic process. Topics just come to me. I’m inspired by life and by what I feel. The biggest challenge is to get it down. I’m balancing creating my art with handling my business. I usually can get a few words down and come back to it. If I have a few lines down, I can read it later and pick right back up and finish. If I don’t have a few lines down, I’ll lose it and when that happens…it sucks. I don’t write linearly, I don’t write with pen & paper, I use my computer. It helps organize my words better.
Black Widow: What do you mean it’s a challenge to get it down?
Discopoet: Artists/Creatives spend more time handling business nowadays. You have to. I mean the Business outweighs the art to a certain degree. You can write the greatest piece of art that’s going to change the world but if the business isn’t in order, it’s not going anywhere; no one will see it and it won’t make you any money.
Black Widow: Yes, as artists we have to know as much about the business as anyone else.
Discopoet: You have to for your own protection. There are some good people out there but they’re some not so good people and if you don’t handle your business, you will be taken advantage of. If you notice, the artists get looked at last. We write, create and preform but everyone else is getting money and shine off of the work the artist creates. Your partnerships/collaborations have to be strong. You have to be on point with your marketing, promotion, contracts, Ascap/BMI and publishing. It sucks because artists really just want to create. They don’t want to deal with all the business and that’s how they get taken advantage of. Artists have to make time to learn the business to protect themselves, to protect their work, their art…and that takes more time and leaves less time to just create. It’s the nature of the business.
Black Widow: Let’s talk about your latest release, Apocalyptic Conversations! How did this project come about?
Discopoet: Well two years ago, I had these songs and I put together a DJ wish list of sorts. I was reaching out but people weren’t following up, so I was just in limbo. I went out one night, randomly to a spot in Wicker Park and Fathom was spinning. She offered me a ride home and we just started talking casually about music and such. I told her about the songs I had and she said she wanted to do it. I sent her a scratch vocal and it really started from there.
Black Widow: What was the process like?
Discopoet: It was dope. I had a song and she created the track around it, then she had a track and I built a song around that. We realized quickly that both tracks were related and it felt theatrical, like the acts to a play. We decided to add different layers to the tracks and brought in Sean Wallace for more musicality. He’s a dope composer and musician and we all love live music. It brings that soul to it. Adding Maggie Brown gave it that spirit. That mother earth spirit.
You know I gotta say it was really dope to have Fathom taking the lead. I really enjoyed that female energy at the head of this project. It was different and really great. This trilogy... it’s about Self, Culture, the earth; it’s about claiming your power and taking responsibility. I want my song to inspire people to action.
Black Widow: So this first track, Apocalyptic Conversations?
Discopoet: Yes, Fathom came up with that name. I love it. It just fit. It’s my Global Warming Warning to the people to take charge of the earth. It’s House, its dance music but it has bigger energy and a bigger weight.
Black Widow: And what about the “2nd” in the trilogy? When are you looking to drop that one?
Discopoet: It’s scheduled for a summer release. It’s more profane. (laughter) It’s a declaration of who you are. It’s about taking responsibility for us. It’s a funkadelic writing style with a house sensibility! It’s dope! I can’t tell ya too much about the third one, just know it’s some heat! (Laughter)
Black Widow: What do you think are the keys for a successful collaboration of creatives?
Discopoet: It’s about people who listen to one another. It’s all done in the spirit of community. We can disagree (and we do) but it’s always respectful. We listen to one another’s ideas and suggestions. We know one person can’t have the best way to do certain things all the time. We hash it out because we each have a common goal and that’s to make something special.
Black Widow: You talk a lot about the Chicago House Scene and Culture. What do you love about being a Chicago Artist?
Discopoet: I feel fortunate to come from a city that raised me on originality. I have that untainted influence of House Music.
Black Widow: Untainted?
Discopoet: Yea, you know it was when you wanted to be different. You loved being yourself. We put faces to this culture. It was in our music, our style of dress. We were the ones people were emulating. Other cities were looking at what we were doing and wanted to do that. We were the city they looked to when it came to breaking music. It’s similar to the poetry scene in that in the beginning it was insulated so we were able to grow up in it without outside influences.
Discopoet: You know this city has a dirty political landscape and stuff like that and our communities are fractured but they are still strong. We have always found the good even in the bad. I swear the reason we all put up with these horrific winters is because summer in Chicago is the best place in the US. It’s just nothing like it. Being from Chicago creates depth in its artists because you are shaped by so many cultural influences. These different cultural communities shape us; theatre, music, art, and dance, all of those cultural communities. All of that influence comes thru in our art…in our music.
Black Widow: So what’s next for the Discopoet?
Discopoet: Well, the 2nd single in the trilogy will be out soon, I have my monthly event, Afrofuturistic which is every 4th Friday of the month, I’m hosting the Chicago House Dance Party at Millennium Park this weekend (May 27th), The Prince Party in June, the Debauchery Ball this July and my book “Haikus for Justice” is scheduled for release real soon.
Black Widow: Sounds like you have a busy summer ahead! It was great speaking with you! Thanks so much!
Check out the Discopoet at the following:
Facebook : @therealdiscopoetry
You can find the track, Apocalyptic Conversations on Traxsource.com
Until next time,
See ya on a Dance Floor!