The Los Angeles-based poet and National Poetry Slam champion is the first spoken-word artist to perform with Cirque du Soleil and has entertained audiences that included Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama. As a songwriter, he has collaborated with singers such as Aloe Blacc, Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez.
In 2018, to celebrate the true meaning of Life is Beautiful, IN-Q put heart to paper and wrote “All Together,” a spoken word poem that serves as a rallying cry to spur positivity and creativity in our community.
“All Together” is something that the world needs desperately right now. We’re more and more compartmentalized. We’re more and more isolated. We only hear what we want to hear, and when we hear something we don’t want to hear, we either attack the person or run in the opposite direction.
I wanted this poem to be some sort of a bridge where it wasn’t taking sides. The poem was acknowledging that we’re all on the same side, ultimately, and that this space of Life is Beautiful—of music festivals and events that bring people into one place and celebrate life—is very important.
When you’re looking at a band playing something onstage and your heart is open and your mind is open and you’re around all of these strangers who you suddenly become a family with, there’s an energetic bond. I wanted the poem to represent that.
I want people to feel inspired to ultimately take responsibility for life being beautiful. There’s no good without bad. There’s no love without hate. There’s no light without dark. They’re all on some sort of circular spectrum. Everything is happening simultaneously in this moment. It’s what we choose to feed, and it’s what we choose to focus on that will grow.
I’m not saying to ignore the things that are not working. I’m saying take them into consideration and then focus on the things that are positive in your life, on what you can change and on what you want to create. That’s an individual thing and also a collective thing. We have to start with ourselves, and if we start with ourselves, then that ripples out onto our friends, onto our families, onto our communities—ultimately, onto our nation and onto the world.
That’s a bold thing to say, but I believe it with every cell in my body. I believe that we create the reality we’re living in. I think that the more responsibility we individually take for that, the more we can take collectively.
My creative process has changed a lot over the years. If I start with something that’s true and something that’s moving to me, and then I give it enough time and space, the rest of the poem will almost write itself. This one only took three sessions.
The poem has something it wants to say and I am the vehicle for that. So for “All Together,” I started with something that was true to me: “If you’re not inspired by life, you’re not paying attention.”
I’ll leave room for the poem to surprise me. I’ll sit down and I’ll get to a place in the poem where I’ll say, “This feels good.” Then, if I don’t know where it’s supposed to go next, I’ll stop and I’ll live a little bit more. Then something will happen and I’ll say, “That’s where the poem is supposed to go.” I don’t hold on so tight that I suffocate the piece of art. I allow it to breathe. I allow it to be alive.
When I’m writing a poem, I’m expressing a part of my soul. My mind guides it, but my soul is the thing that is speaking.
And I have learned not to be afraid of failure. Failure is necessary for success in every possible way. There’s the danger of victimizing ourselves or blaming other people or overdramatizing it, but don’t use those forms. Take the failure and acclimate to it. I spent many years as the quintessential struggling artist. I know what that’s like. There are no guarantees, but you have to follow your bliss. There’s a saying that says, “Follow the path and the path will lead the way.” Basically, follow your enthusiasm and it will tell you where you need to go in life.
I believe that every single person is an artist. Every single person has something that is worth saying, and sharing our stories brings about empathy. That is what the world needs more than anything else right now.
You find your voice from using your voice, not from someone else telling you what your voice will be.
Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid of experience. Get out there. Get messy. It will always be worth it.
Poetry as a genre is having a rebirth. I’m really excited for that because some of the best art experiences I’ve ever had were watching other poets. With the internet, people are able to share their own content without middlemen. There’s an opportunity for this genre right now that it has never had before. I think that it’s going to come into popular culture in a major way in the next three to five years. I’m grateful to be in a position to do my part. I’m most excited about the 8-year-olds out there who will look up and say, “I want to be a poet when I grow up.” Because it’s their voices, from their perspectives, that are going to bring about the biggest change.
I don’t have to know you to believe in you. I believe in you. The world is so much bigger than your insecurities. Right now is an opportunity unlike any other in the history of humanity for you to express your story. Do it. Don’t think about it, be about it.
Change comes slow but it happens fast. Things are changing at such a crazy rate that it’s very difficult for people to quantify in real time. Oftentimes, once things actually change, people accept them so quickly that they don’t remember how long it took to make that change a reality.
You are watching people stepping up, using their voices and taking responsibility for what they believe. By waiting on someone else, you’re going to wait on someone else who will wait on someone else. We’re all here and the time is now. Everyone’s voice is valuable.With the technology and the tools that we have at our fingertips, we can make real change in the world. There are a lot of positive things that are coming out of that and there are a lot of negative repercussions that we’re having to iron out. We’re discovering it all together.