When Hakim Bellamy took the stage at Pyragraph’s ReLaunch fundraiser on Saturday, it was at the 11th hour of the last day of his two-year gig as Albuquerque’s very first Poet Laureate. In these past two years Hakim did what is typically expected of poet laureates — i.e. share poetry throughout our community and raise awareness of the art form — but I think it’s fair to say he blew those expectations out of the water. Hakim’s performances and presence have been a phenomenon in Albuquerque and beyond, propelled by his wide-ranging talents in music, acting, teaching, community organizing and more.
It’s hard to give the nutshell version of Hakim Bellamy but here goes: He is a regional and national Poetry Slam Champion; published poet, including his recent release Swear; the co-creator of the multimedia hip hop theater production Urban Verbs: Hip-Hop Conservatory & Theater; youth writing facilitator at schools and community organizations in New Mexico and beyond.
Hakim is a force defying containment, so naturally I wanted to know, What’s Your Deal?
1. What’s your act?
I am a poet who gets paid to act, rap, write, speak, speech, sing and poly-sci, but I consider it all poetry…disguised as something people faintly recognize, but really like. Sorta like Baked Kettle Chips.
2. Tell me about your background as an artist/performer.
My mom gave me Kahlil Gibran as my first book of poetry. However, my first literary influences were Common Sense, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Bahamadia, BIG and PAC. They made me want to write and read more…in order to be a better writer. My journalistic background came mainly from reading sports mags and hip hop mags.
My first paying journo job was writing for a Brit mag out of London called M2F (online & print versions) as a US hip hop correspondent…they called any ‘Merican an “expert.” I was only 19.
3. What was the worst gig you ever played? Give me all the juicy bits.
It was in Houston. I don’t wanna talk about it. My therapist makes me talk about it.
4. Who are your favorite performers at the moment?
I am digging Anacron, who just came through ArtBar, and Raashan Ahmad, who was recently here as well. Really digging Akua Naru‘s sound and I just watched Righteous Babe Records poet Buddy Wakefield tear down a poetry set at the Outpost Performance Space. I generally like folks who work up a sweat on stage…key word being “work.”
5. Thanks for playing the Pyragraph fundraiser. What’s the most helpful tip you could share with aspiring performers?
Two words. Interdisciplinary. Collaborations. Working with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, Casa Flamenca and the Ballet Repertory Theater have help mature me as a poet and an artist as much as, if not more than, many of my collaborations with other poets or emcees. Don’t run from the challenge of it. You might learn something you never knew and do something you’ve never done.
Photo courtesy of Hakim Bellamy.