Inside the Artist’s Studio | Ace Epps: Bootleg Philosopher

by C. Birch  


Photo of studio courtesy of Ace Epps

This month’s Inside the Artist’s Studio goes inside the mind and space of a very different kind of artist. Ace Epps is a spoken word artist. He creates orations that interact with the audience, his voice and each word like a ballet or a masterful painting.

Spoken word is “an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play and intonation and voice inflection.” Spoken word is a blast to listen to. It draws you in, it pulls you along, asks you to travel with it, follow it, and think through the words and phrases. In essence, it is like melodic philosophy.

Born in Cleveland and raised in Akron, Ace calls Akron home.

“I am a born creator,” Ace says. “I make stuff for people to enjoy.”

This fact is seen clearly in all of Ace’s endeavors. Ace is the B.Me representative for Northeast Ohio, creating community through networks and nominating black men who are doing incredible things to represent B.Me nationally. I met Ace at one of his other many creations: the SAC in Cuyahoga Falls, which is a shared workspace where he rents desks and meeting space to social entrepreneurs (“people who give a damn” according to Ace), especially African Americans. There are sleek modern desks and, of course, a turn table. The SAC, Ace jokes, can stand for Start-ups and Co-working Space or Self Advancement Center or maybe Sustaining Akron Communities. This man loves words and is very fluid with them.

“To me, words are nothing but sounds to which we give meaning,” he says, and sound is crucial to Ace’s life of creation. He has struggled with depression a number of times and found that music saved his life.

Ace’s musical preferences have a wide range. From KISS to hip-hop and even grunge, he doesn’t limit himself. A number of years ago, a professor took Ace to his first poetry reading and it changed his ear. Rap, his music of choice at that time, never sounded the same again. Rap, Ace muses, is so literal. He found that poetic symbolism he heard at the poetry reading in rock music, “like Jim Morrison’s ‘Ride the snake,’” Ace says, but if he were to do that in rap, it wouldn’t fit. With spoken word, he can combine these things.

He took this and ran with it. He studied oral discourse through history, and fell in love with the practice of the Romans, the philosophy and the oral tradition found there. Ace calls himself a “bootleg philosopher,” expressing his values and thoughts through his spoken word.

But Ace has not forgotten music. His latest project, “The Opposite of What’s Hot Now,” is “nothing but an experience of words with music,” he says. This will be sold only on vinyl, and he imagines it being played at listening parties. Maybe there will be a listening party around Akron in the near future.

“There are movers and shakers here,” Ace says. “Akron feels like a place you can call home.”

So Where in Akron could you find Ace? Perhaps at the Akron Art Museum right in front of the painting “Linda,” but definitely performing some spoken word events featured on


C. Birch is not an Akron native but has fallen in line with the natives. When not on the search for Akron area artists, Birch is a lover of the outdoors (especially birch trees), people who make things, and ice cream. So, if you make ice cream outside, please contact C. Birch immediately.


(Featured photo of Ace courtesy of Svetla Morrison)