Bomani Armah & #Immaletchufinish
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Bomani Armah & #Immaletchufinish

Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C., United States | INDIE

Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C., United States | INDIE
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DC's preminent hip-hop hustler/educator Bomani Armah (listen) of "Read A Book" fame has been working hard to counteract the complaints of every grown-up hip-hop head who doesn't think there are any shows worth patronizing. Tonight's Radio Friendly Recession Rent Party at Artmosphere features Bomani rocking his humorous and astute rhymes with his live funk band, minus all of the annoyances the mature hip-hop head has grown to loathe, including heavy door pressure, much delayed start times and drawn-out and lame opening acts lacking in showmanship. The show's theme isn't just a catchy meme: admission is only $5. - Washington Post.com


by Dickson Mercer
Bomani "D'Mite" Armah grew up among ministers and pastors and preachers, surrounded by gospel music. Back then he
was Darel Hancock.
"I knew more about Richard Smallwood than I did about Run DMC," Armah said during a phone interview.
Now 28, he's not a Christian anymore, but he still loves gospel. As a hip hop artist he uses many of the same techniques.
Born in D.C., raised primarily in Mitchellville, Armah will be among the "Voices of Peace" to take stage at the Baker Park
Band Shell on Sunday.
He says his high-energy and authentic hip hop routine, which features the collective Crushed I.C.E., will engage his
audience with various methods of calls and response, even skits. He's written some new songs specifically for the event.
As a hip hop artist, Armah has tried to separate himself from the word "rap." The address for his website happens to be,
www.notarapper.com.
"It comes off as a diss to how hip hop is," he said. "It's really more a reflection of where I am. My poems have always had
a hip hop feel."
He adds in his official biography: "Tight rope walking the line of poetry and emceeing, gospel and go-go, streetwise and
academic learning, Bomani has sought to achieve the medium between straight headbanger and insightful lyricist."
Page 2
01/16/2007 02:59 PM
The Frederick News-Post : 'Voices of Peace'
Page 2 of 4
file:///Users/Bomani/Documents/BOMANI_TXTDOCS_DOCS/The%20Frederick%20News-Post%20-%20'Voices%20of%20Peace'.webarchive
In other words, "I'm not rapper," he says. "I'm a poet with a hip hop style."
For quite some time, however, unadulterated poetry, followed by spoken-word, played a more dominant role in his
consciousness. Armah was initially struck by hip hop, groups like Tribe Called Quest. Then came the poets: Pablo Neruda, E.
Ethelbert Miller, Yusef Komunyakaa; add to that spoken word poets he has heard at venues like the famous Nuyorican
Poet's Cafe in New York City, and now a variety of venues in D.C., such as Busboys and Poets.
Armah went on to study poetry at the University of Maryland. Shortly after graduation he married Eshe Armah in 2002 and
decided to switch his name; Darel Hancock "didn't reflect who he was as a black man."
He had always wanted to be an entertainment, yet he found the idea impractical. Instead he immersed himself in youth
development.
With the support and encourage of friends and family, however, his true aspirations have begun to jell into a reality. He has
been featured on the album and first single/video from Mello-D & The Rados, titled "Cool Witchu," which aired on BET's "Rap
City" (between 50 Cent and Snoop Dog) and peaked at number three on college radio charts. He has appeared on
numerous radio stations, is the organizer and host of "Arts Under the Stars" at Sankofa Video & Books, and runs a
production company, Park Triangle Productions.
Armah remains steeped in his role as youth counselor for three years. He works with Martha's Table Teen Program; is a
consultant for American University, The National Council of Concerned Black Men, The American Poetry Museum, Activism,
and Sol y Soul; and the current writer in residence for the D.C. Writers Workshop, for which he teaches poetry classes.
"The hardest life to balance is trying to be creative and free and open and raw as an artist, but still be someone who can
get hired to work with youth," he admits.
Regardless, Armah's youth development work and hip hop aspirations remain remarkably intertwined, linked by a vision for
change. What's more, his return to hip hop was partly inspired by his students, who, for lack of better words, have
demonstrated the power of the genre, particularly the effect it has. Armah has seen firsthand how "they can memorize it
and internalize it."
"I'm a wannabe gangster rapper," he said. "I want to be hardcore."
But not from its modern paradigm.
To Armah, hardcore means "fatherhood;" hardcore means "business-owning."
With a style and delivery inspired by Ludacris, among his five songs from his CD, "The Hustle/Shake it Off" are "Grown Ass
Man" and "Read and Book," a rather emphatic and poignant krunk song, perhaps a satire of sorts.
"I think the world is ready for something different, an end to the monotony," he said.
As it happens, when "Cool Witchu" aired on BET's "Rap City," it aired between 50 Cent and Snoop Dog.
"It's about loving your neighbor no matter what the difference is," he said.
You can listen to Armah at www.myspace.com/notarapper.
---
- Frederick News Post


His Punch Line Smarts
Hip-Hop Parodist Bomani Armah Juggles Sense of Humor and Identity
By Kevin Merida
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 22, 2007; C01

Bomani D'mite has style

Bomani Armah (”I’m not a rapper, I’m a poet with a hip-hop style”) hops into a bar chair at the ultracool Artmosphere Cafe in Mount Rainier. It is a Wednesday night, we have the bar to ourselves, we are having a splendid conversation. You may be thinking: Dude, this is such an unextraordinary scene. Except that Armah is simultaneously hosting an open-mike talent show, toggling from bar to stage in five-minute intervals and proving how fluid the mind can be.

He’s fixated, at the bar, on what has happened to him over the past four months, how he somehow became a symbol of the coarsening culture. All because he wrote a crunk song, “Read a Book,” that traveled the Internet, that was discovered by Black Entertainment Television, that was made into a video, that ignited a controversy, that turned Bomani Armah into a person he didn’t recognize, someone accused of “setting my people back 100 years.” Between the irate blog posts and the snippy interviews by the likes of CNN’s Tony Harris, Armah discovered that he had suddenly become somebody.

“I got recognized at the post office,” he says. “I’m not used to that.” Anytime Jesse Jackson calls you out — he accused Armah of “recycling degradation” — you know you’ve arrived.

On this night, no one is calling him out, except to say that he should hurry back to the stage, back to the mike. There is only love for Armah in the cafe. Here, he is free — free from his “Read a Book” troubles. Here, he is focused on art, everybody’s art. Rudeness is not tolerated.

“Most important rule,” he instructs the audience, “cheering for everybody.” Which includes the yodeling senior citizen they call Miss Jane, the guitar-plucking urban cowboy, the University of Maryland doctoral student who raps provocatively about female anatomy.

Back and forth Armah goes, stage to bar, bar to stage. An impressive display of thought juggling. He is 29, with a smile that could soften a hard heart, wire-rimmed glasses and short locks. Whenever kind words come his way — and they keep coming his way here — he puts his hands together and dips his head in a slight bow. “Thank you so much.”

Armah grew up middle class in Mitchellville and now lives in Petworth. He has 17-month-old twins and a five-year marriage. He has been kicking around the D.C. music scene for six years, producing for other local musicians, hosting spoken-word events, trying to break through as an artist out to elevate hip-hop into something more relevant, more meaningful.

As a former English major — he dropped out of the University of Maryland to pursue his music career — Armah has conducted creative writing and audio/video workshops for kids. He has worked as a youth counselor. He has seen firsthand one of the most pernicious effects of the rap game, the warping of black reality into a one-dimensional caricature. Too many in his generation of artists, he says, aspire to be “as grimy and gangster” as they can be, a depiction of black life that filters down to the kids, who become the next inaccurate storytellers.

“As an educator and an artist, it was hurting me both ways,” says Armah, who is hardly the first “conscious” artist to come along advocating a hip-hop makeover. But most artists who feel as he does, Armah adds, “write essays or long esoteric songs” that are indigestible. Armah was determined to do something more jolting. Provocative, but funny.

” ‘Read a Book’ was a joke from the beginning,” he says. “It was more about parodying the state of hip-hop.” And now it has become the thing that defines him. He thought about that for a moment. “Damn, do this many people not get me?”

* * *

Read a book! Read a book! Read a [expletive] book!

Read a book! Read a book! Read a [expletive] book!

So goes the song Bomani Armah recorded more than two years ago, set to a hip-hop version of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. It has a hard-charging feel to it, repetitive lyrics, random cursing and one-word exhortations — what! who! yeah! okay! — all in an attempt to mock the crunk style of the rapper Lil Jon.

Not a sports page, not a magazine

But a book, nigga, a [expletive] book, nigga

Armah didn’t stop at reading. He went on to urge the raising of kids, the drinking of water, the brushing of teeth, the use of deodorant, and other acts of basic self-respect.

Buy some land, buy some land! [Expletive] spinnin’ rims!

Buy some land, buy some land! [Expletive] spinnin’ rims!

Buy some land, buy some land! [Expletive] spinnin’ rims!

Buy some land, buy some land! [Expletive] spinnin’ rims!

“I feel like I’m a sergeant out here in the field, showing how ridiculous the culture is,” Armah says. He began performing his song around the Washington area and it caught on. He made it available for free download on his MySpace page, and the buzz grew. At some point the “Read a Book” MP3 reached the inbox of Reginald Hudlin, president of entertainment for BET, who passed it on to the network’s animation division, which loved it and wanted to create an animated video off the track. Which is where Tyree Dillihay, a Los Angeles-based animation director, comes in.

He took Armah’s lyrics and amped up the parody even more. Rappers always brag about getting shot, right? So Dillihay showed a thug loading his Uzi with a book clip and firing books as bullets at unsuspecting victims.

In another scene, someone brings a diaper-clad child and deposits him with a father who is getting his groove on at a nightclub. The video’s most controversial image, perhaps, is of a gyrating woman wearing pink sweat pants with the word “book” written on her rear end. Dillihay says that image was intended to make fun of women who wear those designer warm-up suits with words such as “juicy” written on their behinds.

The video first aired on BET’s “Rap City” and “The 5ive” in June and made its way onto the network’s popular “106 & Park” show in July. It wasn’t long before a sizzling debate began. What exactly was “Read a Book”? An unusual public service announcement designed to reach young hip-hop fans who don’t read? Another ill-advised programming effort by BET (see “Hot Ghetto Mess”) that was bound to backfire?

“Read a Book” has been viewed more than 1.8 million times on YouTube, according to the site. (Armah says that number is actually more like 3 million because Viacom, which owns the rights to the video, had many of the original posts of it removed.) Dillihay and Armah, who both have been on TV and radio defending “Read a Book,” maintain the divide over their work is mostly generational. “When a 50-year-old woman says, ‘Oh, this is horrible,’ I frankly don’t care. It’s not for you,” says Dillihay, who is 30.

“Read a Book” does have some prominent supporters.

“It’s brilliant satire,” says Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University professor who has written widely about hip-hop. He sees the video as a kind of “carrier pigeon for an edifying message.” He offers a quick jab at the critics. “Here’s the ugly reality: Many of the black leaders and others who criticize this attempt to get black kids to read a book haven’t read many books themselves.”

Perhaps a broader question is: What constitutes acceptable behavior? Comedian Eddie Griffin was surprised to discover his microphone had been turned off in the midst of a routine that had become both vulgar and tasteless to the organizers of the 14th annual Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge, held in Miami in September. Seizing the mike, after a steamed Griffin departed the stage, the magazine’s founder, Earl Graves, explained to the audience that “the man’s going to get paid, but we can’t tolerate this,” according to Richard Prince’s media blog, Journal-isms. Graves was rewarded with a standing ovation.

What Graves did may reflect a growing desire within black communities to police cultural expression. Activists, for instance, have mounted weekend protests at the home of BET President and CEO Debra Lee over the quality of the network’s programming.

“Black identity right now is so precarious,” says Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson, one of the nation’s foremost experts on black urban life. “You’d like to think that we as a people are so strong that we can withstand any kind of puff, so to speak. In a fair world, one would presume to be able to say what you want to say. But it isn’t a fair world, and that’s what I think about.”

If there is hypersensitivity among blacks about their images in the popular culture, its roots can be found in a history of racist portrayals that have helped shape how black life has been viewed by much of the world. The most denigrating depictions of blacks often had the sanction of the nation’s top leaders.

President Woodrow Wilson, for example, hosted a private White House screening of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 epic “The Birth of a Nation,” an explicitly racist film in which blacks were portrayed as buffoons with outsize sex drives. The Ku Klux Klan later used the film as a recruitment tool.

In combating such vile characterizations of themselves, blacks have often focused on “putting the best foot forward,” as Anderson describes it. “Historically, it’s always been there,” he says, “this concern with propriety, presenting yourself well, giving white society no reason to hold you back.”

It’s ironic that some of the “Read a Book” lyrics — “brush yo’ teeth,” “wear deodorant” — hark back to the late-19th-century prescriptions Booker T. Washington offered for the betterment of the race. Personal hygiene — “the gospel of the toothbrush,” he called it — was essential to black self-improvement, Washington thought. But this is 2007, and some find such lyrics and their accompanying video imagery — a tree wilts as a smelly black man walks by — absurd and humiliating.

Is lack of Speed Stick usage a cutting-edge issue in black communities? A concern even worthy of satire? Armah knows he is on shaky ground with some of the lyrics, but says he was trying to stick with the formula: make the song as ridiculous as possible to imitate the ridiculousness of many rap songs. He enlisted teenagers to plug in lyrics that they thought would work — and also be funny — to drive home the point of positive behavior, and they came up with “brush yo’ teeth” and “wear deodorant.”

“He’s been a good guy,” says George Garrow, executive director of Concerned Black Men, which has utilized Armah in programs focusing on abstinence, teen pregnancy prevention and self-expression. “He’s worked with the young people to get them to critically analyze the lyrics in the music, and to get them to understand that the same messages can be communicated with different lyrics.”

* * *

On the Artmosphere Cafe stage, Armah, known as “D’mite” to his fans, performs one of his noncontroversial songs, “Shake It Off.” The audience loves this one. They sing along.

You’ve had a day that was really wack

Shake it off

You’ve got too much pressure on your back

Take it off

You gettin’ love with strings attached

Break it off

It goes shake it off, take it off, break it off

Five minutes later, back at the bar . . .

“I’m obsessed with Googling ‘Bomani Armah Read a Book,’ ” he says.

What will they say about him next? Some have suggested he be excommunicated from the black race.

On the other hand, he has been fielding a lot of inquiries from record labels. He shot a documentary of the Jena 6 protests in Louisiana. He is working on an album, “Radio Friendly,” and preparing for the release early next year of a music video highlighting what it means to be a grown man. Shot in Southeast Washington, it features fathers playing with their sons in front of a 30-foot mural of Martin Luther King Jr. and a slow-motion collage of young black men pulling up their pants — a piece of counter-imagery that may be gaining momentum. Texas rapper Dooney Da’Priest, for instance, is getting notice for his song, “Pull Your Pants Up.”

“Being positive is the new hardcore,” Armah says.

“The whole gangsta bling-bling has not only played out socially,” he continues, “it’s played out artistically.” His message to rappers: “If you don’t have a family-friendly rap you can do in front of your grandmother, please go home and write one.”

Which was part of the point of “Read a Book,” he thought. Except some people didn’t get it, and that still baffles him. The video is no longer airing on BET, having “just timed out,” a spokesman says. Which suits Armah just fine. He’s ready to move on.

“I didn’t want to be the ‘Read a Book’ dude, anyway.”

Sliding out of his bar chair, he scurries back to the stage, back to the mike. Back to his art. - Washington Post


Saturday Night Live
Art of Conversation, the Yabba Pot, Jan. 6

By Jason Torres

The clickity-clack of plates and forks in the background gave the Art of Conversation, a new weekly poetry event by Torchlight Entertainment hosted by E the Poet-Emcee, less of a stereotypical candlelit poetry vibe and more the feeling of an old-school spontaneous cipher in a high-school cafeteria. The lights being turned all the way up played a part, too. If it wasn't deliberate--the lights, the food, no booze--it was still a nifty way to help turn vegetarian food spot the Yabba Pot into a unique, makeshift lounge with a real personal connection with the artists, complete with a Q&A that allowed the crowd to ask anything from "Where are you from originally?" to "Can you explain that double entendre again, please?"

Artists from all over the city entertained a nice-sized crowd of seated and standing listeners with words about love and community. Then there was the more abstract Sir Reigns, who spread out from conspiracy theories about secret societies to human consciousness and Sept. 11 to a 20-minute explanation of his thoughts on religion, government, and quantum physics. Seriously.

The highlight of the night was Bomani Armah. The Washington-born and -bred visitor is known more for his subversive hip-hop single "Read a Book"--a mockery of everything Lil Jon is known for, from the ad libs to the mindless booty-shake call-and-response lyrics, with Armah shouting "Read a book, read a book, read a motherfucking book" over a Beethoven sample wrapped in a thumping drumbeat--than his straight-up unplugged poetry.

He started with the words "Even after all my logic and my theory/ I add a `motherfucker' so you ignorant niggas hear me," a joint that, much like "Read a Book," explores the complexities of trying to bring lyrical enlightenment and integrity to an audience more interested in hearing bullshit about cars and jewelry and murder. His thoughts were carried without any amp or beat, just a spare, recurring finger-snap that bridged the gap between poetry and hip-hop. He vented about politics and family but made sure to add that "motherfucker," not only to make a point about vulgarity and the science behind how popular hip-hop becomes so popular but to show that, even for those looking for more contemplative hip-hop, it's hard to deny how a good beat and a perfectly placed cuss word in the hook is just infectious. It allowed for another cool dialogue afterward, where hip-hop culture, young black people in general, education, the music industry, and personal responsibility were all discussed, capping off an evening that showed much promise of some possibly very cool things to come. That, and the food was damn tasty.
- Art of Conversation


Delay of Fame
image: Tome Is Where the Art Is: Armah’s Lil Jon satire has become a YouTube hit.

Bomani “D’mite” Armah knew his satirical rap “Read a Book” would be a hit when he wrote it. So why did he shelve it for so long?

By Sufiya Abdur-Rahman
Posted: August 29, 2007

Almost immediately, it’s clear that the video for “Read a Book,” Bomani “D’mite” Armah’s chant-style rap, isn’t like Black Entertainment Television’s usual offerings: In it, a group of faceless, pink-spandex-clad cartoon dancers forcefully thrust their ample booties up and down to the beat, with the letters b-o jiggling on one butt cheek and o-k on the other.

“Not a sports page/Not a magazine/But a book, nigga/A fuckin’ book nigga, yeah,” Armah screams, mimicking Lil Jon. He goes on to demand that listeners raise their kids, wear deodorant, and buy property rather than spinning rims.

Armah, a 29-year-old Mitchellville, Md., native now living in Petworth, recorded “Read a Book” three years ago, back when an appearance on a record by the King of Crunk practically guaranteed a hit (and back when Dave Chappelle was spoofing Lil Jon’s famous one-word exclamations: “What!” “Yeah!” “Okaaay!”). At the time, Armah’s friends told him the song would be huge. Though hugeness has taken a while, he wasn’t prepared for how big “Read a Book” has become. To date, it’s been viewed more than 650,000 times on YouTube and has launched a debate between those who tout it as a weapon in the assault on thuggish, misogynistic hip-hop and those who think its message and imagery are racist. And while Armah is pleased his music is finally getting recognized after six years in the business, he’s now worried that becoming popular for a song like “Read a Book” will make people see him as just a gimmicky MC.

The song’s genesis was simple. “I wanted to do a crunk song,” Armah says. “As much as I got thrown off by it when it was really hot, I had to respect the power of it. And so I was like, if you can make it about kicking a nigga’s ass, you can make it about anything.”

So he made a crunk song about reading, personal hygiene, and being responsible. The song exhorts those principles, because Armah—a married father of two—is a principled guy. He couldn’t believably deliver it in his normal smooth baritone, though, so he affected a raspy tone, raised his pitch a notch, and rapped simple lines: “Read a book/Read a book/Read a mu’ fuckin’ book” and “Brush yo’ teeth/Brush yo’ teeth/Brush yo’ goddamn teeth,” set to a drum-assisted version of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.

“My man gave me three rules to making a crunk song,” says Armah, referring to his friend and fellow rapper Marcus Richardson. “One, you got to be repetitive. Two, you got to be aggressive. And three, you have to curse as often as possible,” he says. Some of the teenagers Armah taught creative writing to at the time helped in the studio by throwing in lines like “wear deodorant” and “brush your teeth.” When he actually spelled out “R-E-A-D/ A-B-O/ O-Kaaay” while recording, he says he knew he had a hit.

Still, Armah shelved the finished track and didn’t include it on his singles or EPs because it was so different from the music he normally made. Calling himself “a poet with a hip-hop style,” Armah usually sprinkles his rhymes with conscious-rapper buzzwords like “peace,” “revolution,” and “politricks.” He’s been known to perform onstage barefoot, wearing a dashiki. In 2002, after leaving the University of Maryland’s poetry program, Armah, born Darel Hancock, legally changed his name to Bomani, an Akan name meaning “poet warrior” because, he says, it better reflected who he was as a black man. He started his music career in a hip-hop band called Louda, playing piano and percussion, then shifted to poetry and spoken-word readings before performing and recording as an MC.

Armah’s career didn’t stand still while “Read a Book” sat in the can. He scored a couple of short films that aired on BET’s spinoff channel, BET J, and appeared in “Cool Witchu,” a single by Mello-D & the Rados that aired on BET and MTV2. He also scored an anti-smoking PSA, shot a video for his single “The Hustle,” produced albums for other artists at his studio, Park Triangle Productions, and hosted spoken-word nights at places such as Busboys and Poets and Sankofa Video and Books. It wasn’t until he performed “Read a Book” around the D.C. area that he realized how much live audiences liked it. A little more than a year ago he created a MySpace page (myspace.com/knotarapper) and made the song available for free download. A couple of months later, BET contacted him about using his song for an animated video. The network ended up licensing “Read a Book” for an amount Armah won’t discuss.

The track ended up at BET after reaching the network’s head of entertainment, Reginald Hudlin, who then e-mailed the MP3 to Denys Cowan, senior vice president for BET’s year-and-a-half-old animation division. “What was attached was something saying that BET would never, ever play this song,” Cowan says. Given the network’s track record of airing sexually explicit and what some call morally questionable videos like those for Nelly’s “Tip Drill,” Shawnna’s “Gettin’ Some,” and Young Jeezy’s “Go Getta,” “Read a Book” was an unusual choice. But Cowan found the tune “thoughtful and insightful,” and perfect fodder for animation. “We don’t think just one way,” he says, adding that for BET to promote a song that feels a little like a public service announcement veiled in hip-hop-ese “is not hypocritical at all.” It was also a good fit for Cowan’s plan to introduce animated clips into BET’s regular lineup. “If you animate something, it can evoke an emotional reaction really quickly,” Cowan says.

That’s what Cowan got when he played the song for the animators at Six Point Harness Studios in Los Angeles.

“[Cowan] says, ‘I got this project I want you guys to check out.’ He plays it and after[ward], we pick our mouths up,” says animator Tyree Dillihay, who directed the video. “These are white people. I was the only black dude out of 30, 40 guys there,” he says. “For them to hear it with all the N-bombs, that obviously makes people uncomfortable.”

Dillihay, 30, spent six months creating a visual complement to the lyrics. For the line when Armah shouts, “Raise your kids/Raise your kids/Raise your goddamn kids,” the animators drew a rapper who looks like a muscle-bound Lil Jon shoving a baby toward a man in a club in the midst of smacking his bent-over dance partner on the ass.

“I’m just holding a mirror to it,” Dillihay says. “‘See how stupid this looks?’” The video started airing on BET’s Rap City and The 5ive in June, then debuted on the channel’s popular 106 & Park countdown show in July, and has since been catching on elsewhere. WPGC, WHUR, and Howard Stern have all played it, Armah says. The song hasn’t made it into the Top 10 on 106 & Park, but then it’s had some tough competition, including Ciara and 50 Cent’s “Can’t Leave ’Em Alone,” T-Pain’s “Bartender,” and two versions of Hurricane Chris’ “A Bay Bay.”

Still, being mentioned alongside those artists without any significant radio airplay is an impressive feat. “That’s why I love what Bomani’s doing. He’s using reverse psychology. You can’t just put a song out that says ‘let’s be positive and get together.’ If he did that, that never would’ve been seen on 106 & Park,” says Cedric Muhammad, founder of the Web sites blackelectorate.com and blackcoffeechannel.com. Muhammad recently launched a campaign on the latter site to help vote the video into the countdown.

Cowan says BET was glad to grant the song exposure. “It was always our original intent to highlight different aspects of black culture, different viewpoints,” he says. “I would hope that people would see the humor and the love behind it as opposed to anything else.”

Some didn’t. “I just wanted to say that you are betraying black people with that little dumb video you made that came out on BET…that was messed up and very offensive…you should be ashamed and need to watch your mouth,” someone named Amber e-mailed Armah. Among the more prominent critics is the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who last week released a statement through his Rainbow PUSH Coalition condemning the video: “‘Read a Book’ heaps scorn on positive values and (un) intentionally celebrates ignorance. The narrator is obviously illiterate, unkempt and disrespectful. So who takes his advice seriously?”

Armah treats Jackson’s comments as validation that he’s arrived as a rap star. “It’s huge. You know that anything older people don’t like, the young folks are going to like even more. So I’m cool with it,” he says.

Besides, Armah denies that he was on a quest to do anything besides make a catchy tune. “[It] might seem like I’m preaching to people; I’m preaching to myself. I try to write stuff for myself to encourage me to do the stuff that I need to do,” he says. He admits that he reads, but “not as often as I should.” Raising 14-month-old twin boys, Armah says, means it’s taking him a while to get through Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone.

Meanwhile, “Read a Book” continues to open doors: Armah has been approached by independent artists who want him to produce their albums, his sales on iTunes have shot up, and he’s in the process of organizing a college tour.

“It’s time for change, and songs like this signal change,” Dillihay says. “I don’t want to hear ‘Bartender’ everyday. I don’t want to ‘2 Step’ everyday. There’s a time to drink and party, but there’s also a time to eat. And this is the food.”

But Armah’s main concern is having successes beyond “Read a Book.”

“I don’t want to be a flash in the pan,” he says. “I want to have a career.” To that end, he plans to steadily release new work. He’s making a chopped and screwed remix of “Read a Book” and recording songs like “Talk It Out,” a parody of Unk’s hit, “Walk It Out,” with a conflict-resolution theme. He recently posted a new song, “Tellin ’Em No,” about refusing to compromise his principles, on his MySpace page; he’ll film a video for another song, “Grown Ass Man,” in October and self-release his first full-length album, Radio Friendly, in the fall.

Although reluctant to embrace the praise at first, Armah now believes his crunk satire has started something that hip-hop fans have been waiting for. “I do think now that there is a movement behind it. I’ve always been intimidated by the power of the song, mostly because of me not wanting to be the ‘Read a Book’ dude,” he says. “But the song is bigger than me.”
- Washington City Paper


Discography

2005 Mello-D & the Rados Single and Video “Cool Witchu”

2005 Mello-D & the Rados hip-hop album “Antitainment”

2006 D’mite Maxi Single “The Hustle/Shake it Off”

2007 Grown Man Mixtape

2008 Full Length Album "Radio Friendly"

2010 New Classic Mixtape

Photos

Bio

Bomani Darel Armah, aka D'mite, aka The Hip-Hop Levar Burton, aka Mr. Read a Book, aka The Watermelon Man, aka Darius Lovehall, aka The Black Colin Powell, has even more artistic skills than aliases. As a poet he takes his cues from his favorite writers like Langston Hughes, Yusef Komonyakaa and E. Ethelbert Miller. As a lyricist and songwriter he strives to live up to the legacy of his favorites like Bob Marley, George Clinton, Fela and Frankie Beverly and Maze. Raised in DC and Maryland on the music of gospel greats like Richard Smallwood and John P Kee, as well as local go-go legends like Chuck Brown, Rare Essence and Backyard, Bomani learned about musics intrinsic spiritual power to move people. While discovering his voice he developed his tagline "I'm not a rapper, I'm a poet with a hip-hop style". An apt description for an emcee who took pride in being able to move any crowd, from prisons to pulpits to concert halls, with a full band or simply a cappella.

Bomani had always been into hip-hop, glued to the radio like every kid in the 80's. The emergence of A Tribe Called Quest and the Native Tongues movement turned him into a die hard fan, while the explosion of Outkast and the Dungeon Family turned him on to the endless possibilities of this music. He intertwined the social and political awareness of legends like KRS-1 and Public Enemy, as Dead Prez's "Let's Get Free" radicalized his view of hip-hop during his sophomore year in college. While Bomani was pursuing his formal education as an English major at the University of Maryland, his more important artistic studies happened on DC's historic U Street in the late 90's into the turn of the millennia. He found himself spitting free-verse or rhyme, as well as backing some of DC's best loved voices like Raheem Devaughn,and Deborah Bond, as the drummer for Lauda. By 2005, as a young man and creative writing teacher for organizations throughout the DC Metropolitan area, he began to recognize the need for his own voice to be added to the barrage of messages inundating his students.

Bomani released a self produced maxi-single entitled The Hustle/Shake it Off. The music video for The Hustle debuted to wide acclaim at the San Francisco film festival and has been viewed over 12,000 times on Youtube. That was just the beginning, as he used his biting sarcasm and bits classical piano training to develop one of the most hilarious and impacting critiques of modern culture, Read a Book. This song, that began as a free give away on his Myspace page, exploded across the internet, leading to an animated video deal with BET and a storm of simultaneous praise and hate. While being lauded by the over 4 million people who have viewed in on Youtube and the shocked and awed crowd at 106th & Park, he was attacked mercilessly by CNN, Jesse Jackson and Michael Baisden and others who seemed to be out of touch with the youth Bomani dealt with daily. Undeterred, Bomani released his next single/video Grown Ass Man (viewed over 63,000 times) as well as his "self bootlegged" debut album Radio Friendly. Always looking to improve as an artist as well as reach new ears with his music, he has released two free mixtapes, the New Classic Mixtape featuring DJ RBI in 2010, and Bomani Armah is Darius Lovehall in Love Jones the Date Mixtape in 2011. In 2012 he is striving for new uncharted territory as he releases his first chapbook of poetry and essays with an accompanying album entitled Circumlocution Vol II. Part diary, part inquisitive finger poking into the eye of society, Circumlocution is the latest incarnation of the combination of his multiple talents as he weaves poetry, emceeing and music. Nothing personifies that more than his new band #Immaletchufinish which showcases Bomani as lead vocalist and drummer with the ground stirring soul, funk, rock and hip-hop riding the rhythm of West African jambe drums.

As always, Bomani stays on his Hustle, as a edutainer and consultant for numerous organizations such as Words Beats & Life Inc., as a audio engineer and producer working out of Urban-Intalek Studios, and a film maker at Park Triangle Productions. For more info on this multimedia artist feel free to go to www.notarapper.com.

#Immaletchufinish Is the brain child of poet, educator and hip-hop insurgent Bomani Armah. Best know for his 2007-08 underground classic "Read a Book", Bomani is nationally known for making socially relevant, controversial, yet head nodding music. Their sound flourishes from the crate digging styles of DJ D'Salaam (the bands bass player, engineer and DJ), wading in every style of black music from the last century. The sound is anchored, however, by the undeniable African rhythms laid down by Mahiri Keita-Edwards and Bomani Armah on jembe and drums respectively. James McKinney, Grammy award nominated keyboardist and songwriter, and guitar player Mark "The Professor" Hatche hold down the time bending harmonies while keeping the