Tuesday, May 17, 2011

From Rapper to Poet to Hip Hop Head: The Sagas of Treasure Williams

DJ Needles and Treasure Williams Rocking the Party
Years ago when MC Hammer was a major force in the world of rap, he and his growing crew made a stop in Mississippi while on tour. A young aspiring emcee who would soon become known as as "One Effect" somehow managed to get backstage at Hammer's concert and got him to listen for just a few minutes.

With members of 3-5-7 standing on each side of him, Hammer sat and listened as One Effect and her partner who would become known as "One Cause" spit rhymes and hit coordinated dance moves--like all credible duos of the day. 

Whey they were done, Hammer was impressed. Really impressed. He signed the duo from Mississippi. That's how Treasure Williams got her rap deal.

There's a much longer story to tell about Treasure's history in rap and touring with Hammer. But for now, I just wanted to mention that history in passing as a continuation of my series about the intersections of rap and poetry, which were raised (yet again) on a national level when Common was invited to participate in the White House poetry event featuring figures such as Rita Rove and Billy Collins.

[Related content: Blogging about Black Verse--2011]

These days, folks know Treasure as a poet. And those who know her as a poet know that she is a talented performed with a tremendous stage presence. Few us, perhaps, were aware that Treasure's ability to move a poetry audience relates to her past abilities to move the crowd at rap concerts.

Rapper-Poet-Hip Hop Head, Treasure Williams bringing it.

This past Sunday, May 15, I attended a party organized by Treasure, featuring music by the outstanding DJ Needles aka Nodzilla. Oooohhhh, what a party.

Treasure somehow amassed this wildly diverse and inclusive get-together, including 4 and 5 year olds, elders over 70, and folks all in between. Small business owners. Photographers. teachers. Professors. Poets. Tech specialists. All kinds of food, music, and conversations.

As a formidable and experienced dj, Needles holds things down on the ones and twos, which is to say he really stretches out. He displayed excellent fluency on the cutting edges of various new musics, and he also showed how conversant he was in multiple "old schools."

Dj Needles' knowledge of rap history were most apparent during the last hour or two of the party as Treasure assumed her role as lead Hip Hop Head, taking over the dance floor and shouting out request for various songs.

"Where's that Wu? I want that Wu Tang," shouted Treasure.

Moments later, Needles gave us Wu.

Treasure wanted Rakim, Tribe, Black Sheep. Needles provided. And added some.

I've written about Treasure's powerful live poetry performances in East St. Louis and in St. Louis. After seeing her dancing and rapping at the party though, I realize that as far out as those readings were, Treasure was ultimately holding back.

Or better yet, poetry readings, at least as they are typically configured, for artists who possess more energetic, interactive, and multi-dimensional performance styles can be somewhat restrictive. 

Of course, even the recent past is prologue. Over a year ago for her poetry reading in East St. Louis, Treasure had DJ Needles spinning as a cool way of setting the mood. In retrospect, both Treasure and Needles were fairly laid-back, just bidding their time at that event...waiting to put on a show like they did on Sunday.

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