I’ve had the privilege of witnessing one of my favorite poets, Willie Perdomo, mentor roomfuls of young people time and again. What sticks out most vividly in terms of what he imparted was his strong emphasis on using language specific to your experience. Poignant, perhaps, because while these young people in other academic/writing environments were perhaps being indoctrinated with “proper” ways of writing, he was doing precisely the opposite – encouraging the youth to pepper their writing with the slang that they used amongst friends instead of tucking it away in neat little folds, lest they betray to their reader where they’re actually from (gasp). The kind of specificity he encouraged is dope because when it’s (artfully) employed, those who get it, reaaaally get it (and reaaaally fuck w/ it), and those who don’t get it, often – are curious, and prompted to investigate further.
You can put me firmly in the camp of the former w/ Brownsville emcee Ka. About two minutes into this track, Ka says “I don’t speak too much, (my) words more potent / live niggas, say it with me/ herbs? don’t quote it” – and it’s one of the most understated, amazing lines I’ve heard recently. Pretty sure I said “wow” out loud upon first listen. Why? Besides it being the ill #humblebrag and the dope phrasing, I haven’t heard the word “herb” since middle school! So it was definitely an “oh shit, people still say that?!” type moment. I wonder if anyone outside of Brooklyn ever said it, come to think of it.