When Charleston’s soulful funk group The Real Good News played Tobin’s Market earlier this year with a lineup of local musicians, rapper Mike L!ve asked local poet and emcee Learical to get up on stage and do his thing — but he said “No.” Why not? He didn’t say at the time.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to turn this into something, this moment that I passed up on,’” said Learical, aka Christian Morant. What resulted is his new single, “Collateral,” which chronicles not only the local rappers who inspire him, but also the mental grappling that comes with putting yourself out there as an artist.
When writing the song, Morant said he was channeling not only the disappointment he felt at the time, but also the encouragement he’s received from those he looks up to. He invited his fellow Noisy Boys musician, bassist Mike Cashwell, to pull everything together on the keyboard and contribute bass and guitar.
The self-examining lyrics maintain the cadence of a poem: “Cuz you’d rather look cool than actually do / What it takes to be great and everything to prove / You belong in this game when you’re just a ruse / A fake, a fraud ‘til they all applaud.”
“Collateral” represents a combination of the musician holding himself accountable to his faults and paying homage to the scene he said has supported him. The song signals a departure from darker material he’s written in the past. “I’ve moved head spaces. Not to say I’m afraid to touch on those feelings, but I’m letting them go,” he said.
Lately he’s been collaborating with local singer-songwriter Anna Crosby as her videographer. She has given him the chance lately to recite poetry at some shows. “I’ve been more confident since and know where to put my energy,” he said. They’ve been performing at open mic nights at Chico Feo and Elliotborough mini bar regularly this year. Recently she asked him to write a piece for a song of hers, which he called “What Have I Learned About Love” and read for the first time on video call with Charleston poet laureate Marcus Amaker.
What he envisions going forward is doing both spoken word and songs at shows. At one of his most recent performances he read a letter he wrote to his dad, then brought out Noisy Boys bandmate Josh Davidson to perform some songs. “I want to bring it all together,” he said.
The hybrid art Learical puts out is what he calls “evocative therapy” and without the open arms of the art scene in Charleston, it would not be possible. “People are actually listening and it’s genuine. I didn’t feel that growing up for the longest time. It’s good to finally find that in a community.”