Meet A Poet Akeem Chandler -Prescod
Interview with Karra Price, Cultural Officer in the Literary Arts.
You wear many hats in the creative space; spoken word artist, photographer and songwriter. Tell me in your own words, who is Akeem Chandler-Prescod?
Akeem Chandler-Prescod is a maverick who has made it his ethos to use creative disciplines to articulate value in various sectors. This includes using poetry for education, instruction, documentation and even rehabilitation. He is a man of many talents but really, he only has one which is to inspire.
What was the inspiration behind the name StonedwithCupid?
The inspiration behind the pseudonym "stonedwithcupid" comes from wanting a catch-all name that fully represents the brand. The "stoned" deals with indulgence or immersion into something. The "cupid" touches on infatuation of one's life. I firmly believe it is essential to create based on things you like or have been immersed deep within so you can create from a place of understanding and passion.
Congratulations on your winning entry in the NIFCA Adult Prose and Poetry Challenge. Why did you decide to enter?
I decided to enter to see if my page poetry was as strong as my performance poetry. We often use spoken word and poetry synonymously, when in reality one is writing to be read while the other is writing to be heard. I felt as though the world had heard me but so few have had the pleasure of reading an "Akeem Chandler-Prescod" piece. It just so happens in a tale of irony that this year's NIFCA resulted in an audiobook being created.
What was the inspiration for your submission?
The inspiration behind my submission came through a conversation with M.P Trevor Prescod. He was passionately exclaiming about the Drax Plantation and matters of reparation and as he spoke, I began to visualize some of the phenomena he was describing. The piece is called 'plantautopsy' and begins with strong imagery of the plantation. It then explores the effects of that system and chronicles Barbadian History in precise percussive language.
You also received an Honorable Mention for your entry in the 2022 Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Competition, what was that experience like for you?
The Frank Collymore Literary Endowment was an exploration of anticipation. I had no idea what I had placed or how well I did based on the communication. I always saw that competition as the epitome of poetic prizes and therefore always coveted a spot amongst the selected few. I truly didn't feel like I entered my strongest work, but the process has taught me that what I like and what the masses may like are very different.
Do you see spoken word as a literary art form?
Spoken word is a hybrid art form. It is an umbrella term for all performance poetry, and for poetry to be performed it first must be written. This categorizes within the world of literary arts and then the expression of the written word places it in the world of performing/recording arts and theatre.
What attracted you to performance poetry?
Hip hop. I was a rapper for many years and found that the genre and cultural ecosystems were changing into a more melodic landscape. Rapping is just a mode of vocal delivery. An artist can rap on a rock instrumental, that doesn't make it a hip-hop song. A perfect example of this would be Linkin Park and a more controversial example would be Bashment Soca. Many of those artistes aren't singers and are not quite chanting. Many are rapping in a Bajan accent on top of a Bajan soca riddim with influences of soca present. Once I realized this, I deconstructed my hip-hop songs and turned them into spoken word pieces and found myself where I am today.
What do you think can be done to develop this emerging creative art form in Barbados?
We need to stimulate an appetite for the art form as well as diversify the market offerings. Currently, the island does not have established poetic brands occupying several niches such as female erotica, youth social commentary, bashment, gangster culture, luxury lifestyle and comedic poetic storytelling. Audiences are often met with tales of mental health, misogyny, feminism, and race with sprinkles of dissatisfaction with the political system. We do not have enough high value offerings to attract a larger audience and as a community we are not exposing enough students and younger demographics to the performance of poetry. The artistes need to take themselves seriously before they can be taken seriously, and the private sector and government need to be amenable to taking a risk on poetry.
Who are the local artists that inspire you?
Most of the local artists/artistes that inspire me are not poets. Growing up I was moved by the comedic musings of Trevor Eastmond and Mac Fingall, I felt like their audience control and ability to manipulate energy was top tier. Moving into music, I was a fan of Edwin Yearwood’s voice, as most Bajans are, as well as a big fan of Biggie Irie’s. Most of my core influences came from abroad through individuals like Andre 3000, Lil Wayne, Damien Marley, Mavado, Kendrick Lamar and most recently Westside Boogie. The first poet I heard and enjoyed was a guy called Saul Williams. This was followed by an impromptu story telling piece from AquaTafari at a poetry lime way back in 2016. After that I found people like Sunrok and Adrian Green but by then I had already developed a style and sense of identity.
What do you think can be done to get more males involved in the literary arts?
I think men are more likely to perform than to just write. I believe genres like hip-hop and dancehall are flooded with males largely because it allows them to express their masculine identity in a convincing way. Literary Arts may seem unattractive because there is a removal of the person during the consumption process. I do believe though that a lot of men dabble in writing erotica and romance, and maybe that’s an entry point agencies should explore. Males would need incentives, whether tangible or intangible and cash prizes are always a great avenue to explore. As stated previously though, we need to expose the younger and youngest demographic to the forms and disciplines if we are to have an appetite created.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years, I hope I am making passive income from my writing. The genre has recently been acknowledged by The Grammy’s and I strongly believe my work is good enough to win one. I’d like to be performing at International Festivals regularly, touring, have a best-selling project out and hopefully be assisting younger artists with their craft and actively facilitating their development.