What I’m Listening To | April 2018



Cir L’Bert Jr.

Artist: The Roots

Album: Detroit

Song: It Ain’t Fair

“I grew up on West Thornton St, Akron, in the Channelwood projects. We were a church family yet we were what we used to call “conscious” (now it’s “woke”) so my dad had a red, black, and green patch on his loading gear at work and we didn’t celebrate the 4th of July. Growing up, I was either too square or too socialist in most circles. During that time, pre-Kayne, it was hard being a black kid from the projects in button ups and polos. And being the son of a session musician meant that the dearth of black musicians playing instruments was viewed with shame and sadness in our household. Then I found the Roots. They were like the cavalry. Their existence was a validation after years of arguments with white peers on the decline of black musicality. They were retaliation and through them I discovered J Dilla, Bilal, Erykah Badu, the Soulquarians. It was life changing. So to see them in the Tiny Desk was a welcome surprise. Black Thought is probably our greatest living MC. During this session he fully represents the MC tradition as griot, prophet, and journalist as he takes us into the reality of being black in Amerikkka, Bilal, (an often overlooked 00’s era Neo-Soul singer known for fighting with labels and progressive spiritual views), seems to find his lane with this one, channeling the rage of James Brown, with the cerebral emotion of Prince. Questlove is one of music’s greatest bandleaders. Here he gives a master class on the alchemical process of turning gospel, blues, jazz, and soul, into hip-hop. The session feels like the culmination of their 30 year careers as they perfectly illustrate the experience of an uprising. And for me personally, it emotionally summed up my experience in Ferguson, Missouri during the 2014 unrest, and what this current movement for racial justice has felt like.”


Jason Blakely

Artist: Hootie & The Blowfish

Album: Cracked Rear View

Song: Time

This is my favorite song and means so much to me because it speaks to one of the most important devices in life that we need and depend on, yet have no control over. Other than love, it is the purest gift one could give. I once asked myself while listening to this song, does time have an expiration date? And if so, what is it? As poets, we have the pleasure and responsibility of capturing life’s moments with words and sharing these moments with the world in a way that connects our spirits, that highlights our humanity. Poetry, like life, is a clock at times. Its hands push us away with worry and uncertainty but also brings us in close, welcoming us again with healing, hope and love. This song encourages me to live each day, no matter what obstacles we face and to get the most you can out of each and every day.”


Mariah Pleli

Artist: Macklemore

Album: Gemini

Song: Good Old Days ft. Kesha

“I love this song because it’s just a feel good song about looking back on good memories and seeing how far you have come. It’s really relevant to my life right now.”





(featured photo courtesy of Sierra Allen