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“Slam Bush” Poetry Slam at Bean Head Cafe

by Krystal Hardy Almost since its birth, people have doubted Hip Hop, blaming it for societal ills and problems in inner city communities, refusing to see the good that the Hip Hop community is doing. This year, many of Hip Hop’s pioneers have stepped up the involvement in the community, especially in the realm of politics. With this being election year, Hip Hop moguls like Russell Simmons and Sean “P.Diddy” Combs have worked to get young people active in politics and registered to vote. They have encouraged them to challenge politicians who have ignored their needs and concerns and fight for their voices to be heard. A number of organizations have formed to show their disdain for Bush and the current administration. Public service announcements and commercials have flooded television and radio airwaves, with spots such as the Break Bush Off campaign, which takes unapologetic, blatant blows at Bush. Other Hip Hop artists are taking a different approach, using the art of MCing and spoken word to express their views on Bush. The national Slam Bush rhyme competition has been making noise across the nation, holding battles in various major cities like Miami, Detroit, St. Louis and even right here in Milwaukee. In fact, the slam in Milwaukee was such a huge event that it held three consecutive nights of competition at Beanhead Cafe (1835 N. Martin Luther King Drive). Local poets and MCs addressed and attacked Bush’s policies, the war in Iraq, the increased poverty and unemployment in the nation’s inner cities, his refusal to meet with the NAACP and his many questionable “working vacations.” In the end, it was Nikki Janzen, an 8th grade MPS teacher and member of the 2004 Midwest champion slam team, “The Milwaukee Noun Hounds,” who took home the Milwaukee title. Spoken word has flourished in the Milwaukee area in the past few years, with several cafes and clubs hosting regular poetry nights and slams.