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Hip-hop, poetry, activism collide in Not4Prophet reading at Co-op

By Ashley Maher
On March 25, 2014

  • Not4Prophet performs at UConn Co-op. Patrick Gosselin/The Daily Campus

Underground hip-hop "MC" and community activist Not4Prophet performed works from his first published collection of poetry, "Last of the Po' Ricans y Otros Afro-artifacts," yesterday at the UConn Co-op at Storrs Center. Much different in style and performance than most would have anticipated from a poet, Not4Prophet used his rhymes and performance skills to create an exciting reading of his work that proved to be both moving and eye opening.
Born Alano Baez in Puerto Rico, Not4Prophet moved with his family to the United States when he was a baby. They settled in East Harlem, N.Y., where he has lived ever since.
"We were squatters from the time I was five years old," he said.
He said growing up observing the social injustices that occurred in his environment - and the difficulties that those in his community endure - inspired him to use his art as an avenue through which he could channel his political messages for justice and equality. Not4Prophet uses several mediums through which he expresses his artistic talents. Besides writing poetry, Not4Prophet works in music, writing raps and song lyrics and painting wall murals in the city. His poetry was put together into a collection of poems from which he read at the event.
Not4Prophet began his performance with a short introduction about himself and his work before moving into performing his poetry. He chose some poems, which he wanted to read out loud, and let the audience make requests of which poems they wanted to hear read aloud. In total, Not4Prophet read about 15 of his original poems, all of which were well received by the audience.
Some highlights of the collection that he performed for the audience were "Subverses," "The Great Dying" and "Private Property." His poems included a mixture of spoken word as well as sung and rapped sections that created a thrilling presentation of his work.
Not4Prophet said the poem "Subverses" was written during a time in his life when he "wanted to become more politically active."
"[The poem] characterizes political struggle in the streets," he said.
"The Great Dying" was a particular favorite of the audience because it involved both singing and spoken word; the singing portion, the audience was later told, was improvised and not written in the book, showing both his skill and ingenuity as a lyricist. Not4Prophet said "The Great Dying" was inspired by a childhood trip to a New York City museum with his mother, where he learned about the wrongs performed against his mother's ancestors on Puerto Rico. He used the poem to capture the social injustices that have been occurring to his people throughout history, and which are still happening today.
"Private Property," another poem Not4Profit read at the performance, was a piece of poetry that highlighted the social injustices he saw in East Harlem, N.Y. This particular piece was written about the Squatter's Movement, and described the forced displacement of the lower classes from their homes so that the residences could be renovated and put on the market to a new, wealthier demographic.
Through his poetry, Not4Profit sends powerful messages through spoken and sung word. Using this mixture of artistic tactics, he said he hopes to create awareness about the difficulties and social injustices that occur in society, awareness that proves to not only be a true description of harsh realities, but also an inspiring call for change.

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