Spoken Word New York is all about connecting the people to the art. We, here, want the art lovers to know what’s going on for them to get out and take part in, and to know what’s going on in the minds of some of their favorite NYC artists. We all have views. Even artists have feelings about the same things we art-lovers have feelings about. And sometimes, the artist shares the same view as the art-lover. Lately, the term “Hip-Hop” has been coming up quite often in discussion throughout social media. And being performed at the open mic’s throughout NYC. You see more Hip-Hop artists at the Spoken Word, Poetry open mics, now, more than ever. So. I began to wonder: Is Hip-Hop Spoken Word? And to find out, I went to none other than one of the most talented, highly acclaimed, and internationally-known Hip-Hop/Spoken Word Poets (that I know personally), Hip-Hop, Spoken Word Poet, NeNe Ali, to get the straight facts about Hip-Hop (the real Hip-Hop) and its relationship with Spoken Word.
In this two-part interview, you’ll get to know more about Spoken Word Poet, Hip-Hop Artist, NeNe Ali – her thoughts on today’s Hip-Hop – the true definition of Spoken Word – and how Hip-Hop and Artists of all kind can do more to better what’s going on in America.
Get to know Hip-Hop, Spoken Word Poet, NeNe Ali and her thoughts on Hip-Hop and Spoken Word!
SWNY: Is “NeNe Ali” your given name? If not, why did you choose that name to represent you as an artist?
NeNe Ali: “Nene is a nickname given to me by my dad. As far back as I could remember I wanted to box. So NeNe Ali kind of came from Laila Ali, who at that time was kicking butts and taking names. I would always sit under my dad—he really enjoys the sport of boxing. We were like 2 crackheads; he would put on an artist like WU Tang Clan, mute the TV (because the matches were in Spanish), sit and eat a large pizza pie and watch boxing.”
There was a commercial that Laila Ali had where she was boxing her father. I think it was for Adidas. No matter where I was in my house, I ran to see that commercial. I can remember taking a bath, hearing that commercial, jumping out of the tub with my Birthday suit on, almost slipping and breaking my neck to see that commercial, only to have my dad tell me in a stern voice, “Girl, if you don’t get your butt back in that tub!” That’s where NeNe Ali came from: me wanting to be at the top of my A game. Be it Spoken Word, Hip Hop, or just bringing awareness, I won’t buckle!
SWNY: What exactly do you do? What made you want to become an artist?
NA: Honestly anyone who knows NeNe Ali knows I began as a spoken word artist. What makes me so different is that I have and had the ability to transfer my spoken word as an MC. So when you hear my work it’s highly lyrical, a lot like the late 80’s when MC’s were relevant.