Charleston poet laureate Marcus Amaker fell in love with hip-hop and Tribe Called Quest in 1991, which makes his collaboration with one of the members’ moms, celebrated Trinidadian poet Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, a dream come true. The new poem will debut on Sat. Oct. 20 at an event entitled Poetry Festival: Spoken Words, as part of Amaker’s upcoming Free Verse poetry festival.
So, how did Amaker’s collaboration with Boyce-Taylor come about? “I met Cheryl in Greenville, when she and I were co-headliners of a poetry show at the Peace Center,” he says. “In my personal view, she is the mother of hip-hop. Why? Because my first love of hip-hop was A Tribe Called Quest. Before Tribe, I was listening to hair metal. Rock. Soul. Tribe’s The Low End Theory is still one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.
“Anyway, I immediately went up to her and expressed my love of Tribe, thanking her for infusing a love of words to Phife,” Amaker continues. “She is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and one of the best poets I’ve ever heard. I was really impressed with her poems and her stage presence.”
After the gig, Amaker asked her to come to Charleston. She said yes.
“We connected online and started talking on the phone,” he says. “She is completing a book of poems about her son and came up with the idea for us to do a collaborative poem. I said yes … and that’s how it started.”
Amaker will be adding a few stanzas to something that Boyce-Taylor has already written. “It’s a poem about hip-hop, Phife, Tribe, and the Native Tongue era,” he says. “I can’t wait to share it with you all.”
The evening, happening at Memminger Auditorium, will also feature award-winning New York slam poet Mike Rosen and Jacksonville, Fla. poet Tyquan Morton. Following the reading, there will be an afterparty hosted by IllVibeTheTribe in the Memminger courtyard with visual artist Kolpeace and more.