ReadNex Poetry Squad
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ReadNex Poetry Squad

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Spoken Word Hip Hop




""A Tree Grows In A Place Called Home""

Video Link -

"ReadNex Poetry Squad Be Dif'Rent"

Are The ReadNex Poetry Squad rappers? Are they spoken-word artists? Since the NYC natives don’t seem too keen on being placed into any sort of box, how about we just compromise and say they “Be Different”? The group’s first Booth feature finds beatsmith Charlie Graham serving up a sizzling blend of synths and vocoded backing vocals as Decora, FreeFlowin, Jarabe Del Sol, Latin Translator and DJ H20 inform listeners that they’re miles away from the norm, and they like it. In fact, they dig nonconformity so much that they’re inviting you to join them; whether you’re “the Chinese-Dominican immigrant with cinnamon-colored hair” or “the black kid in the mosh-pit with the mohawk,” all you’ve got to do is do you. It’s hard to argue with the Squad’s message of inclusiveness, and even harder to knock their pen game. But enough from me – what do you think, Booth readers? If you’re feeling this left-of-center jam, many more lyrically-driven bangers can be found on ReadNex’ Day Before Sound LP, released October 1, and available now in stores and online.


"Dare to " Be Dif'Rent""

This is for the Black kid in the mosh pit with the mohawk"... Tired of people judging you and telling who the fuck you should be? Poets/MCs/activists ReadNex Poetry Squad aren't having it either and are telling you to "Be Dif'Rent" in their inspiring new video. When asked about what moved them to write this song, they told us: "In our society (...), image is everything but what they don't tell you is that it's all perception. To be Dif'Rent is often perceived as a bad thing. And because we are told it's bad we often shy away from it and follow the norm. To Be Dif'Rent means to embrace yourself for who you are and be comfortable within your own skin."
Definitely sounds like a plan. The group is all about making a difference and speaking out on social, race, gender issues. The video features some of the youth they have worked with over the years in their Hip Hop and Poetry Saved My Life workshop. Check it out!
- Lou Constant-Desportes
- Afro Punk

"Word is Bond"

Word is bond

By Steve Jansen
Poetry has a lump in its throat, and nobody really seems to care.

Case in point: According to Nielsen BookScan, a data-collecting agency for the book-publishing industry, only one out of approximately 10,000 books sold boasts a poet’s byline.

It’s true that there are heaps of factors working against poetry—lack of exposure, too many angsty teens and 20-somethings trying to imitate Charles Bukowski—but what it really boils down to is quality. For example, the oversaturated open-mic scene, one of the only non-academic forums for the literary art, is basically a not-so-poor man’s version of karaoke.

If you think we’re full of you-know-what, name three popular contemporary poets who are really killing it these days.

Uh, huh.

In order to revive something that’s become an avant-garde form of expression, maybe more folks can copycat the word slinging perpetuated by The ReadNex Poetry Squad. The Albany, New York ensemble—comprised of poets Decora, Free Flowin, Cuttz, and Latin Translator as well as DJ H20—brings it with a knock-you-upside-your-head style that includes impassioned wordplay and hip-hop/electro beats.

Perhaps more importantly, ReadNex doesn’t give poetry and spoken word a bad rap (double entendre intended). This, in itself, is the type of throat-clearing the recited word needs.

Formed in 2001 while attending Orange County Community College (State University of New York), the four daddy-os and one mommy-o of ReadNex tackle social issues from an underground-hip-hop-tinged angle. They certainly aren’t blazing any new trails originally mapped by The Last Poets—the 1969-formed, Harlem-based group that was doing the politically-charged hip-hop thing decades before the term was in vogue—but ReadNex is most definitely bringing some interesting perspectives to the spoken-word-meets-hip-hop game.

Take the lyrics from “Ms Education of Bling” on the group’s Social ISsUe (2006). Spouted by Free Flowin’, the group’s lone female emcee, her matter-of-fact flows over DJ H20’s scratched tracks go a little something like this (and trust us, these lyrics sound way better coming from her mouth than they do in newspaper/pixel-print):

“These fallen angels who should be our heroes except/We’re stuck in a generation where nobody knows our history/And where people believe that only hip-hop martyrs who came from the ghetto/Are our only heroes.”

Some of those ghetto on-a-pedestal martyrs, according to Free Flowin’? The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, and Eazy-E.

Instead, the lyrical poet coaxes folks to turn Marcus Garvey (the famed Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanist) and Eldridge Cleaver (the Black Panther Party member and Soul on Ice author who, later in life, actually flipped and became a conservative Republican) into contemporary deities as she issues statements such as, “How many of us can’t recite Dr. King’s speech but quote Snoop/As if our new profession was to teach?"

Sound a little doomsday-esque preachy? Maybe, but she does have a pretty solid argument, especially on how to turn around so-called out-of-touch peeps. Namely, through education, a spot in which ReadNex has really focused its efforts.

Instead of forever chasing the major-label dream—ReadNex has released several albums, including the brand-new Day Before Sound, on its independently run Debefore Records—the crew posts up in cities across the country and abroad to bring the knowledge to the noggin. The spots include far-reaching places, such as Whitesburg, Kentucky (population 1,600), where the ensemble holds interactive workshops with raise-your-fist-to-this titles such as “Hip-Hop and Poetry Saved My Life.” These empowerment-centric courses feature the multiracial collective gabbing about how poetry and hip-hop can be applied in a non-gangbanging-and-hustling context.

In addition to the tutelage, the troupe also usually performs gigs during its residencies. (As of press time, ReadNex management hadn’t confirmed with the Anchorage Press whether or not they’re posting up in a live performance setting, so check out for potential showtimes).

If they do and you hear it, you might actually stop feeling like dude over at the Chuurch of Apathy, a grumpy man’s website who, in so many words, sums up many folks’ kill-us-now view of modern poetry.

“My daughter (who thinks she's a vampire of some kind), is nurturing the notion of someday becoming a vampire that makes her living writing poetry,” writes Mr. Apathy in a blog entry entitled My Daughter’s Poetry is Shitty. “Personally, I don't think she should quit her job at Burger King, but I'll let you be the judge as you peruse these gems I plucked from the hardrive [sic] of the family computer.”

(To see these, uh, literary diamonds in the rough, log onto Or better yet, screw all that and check out ReadNex, who actually know where it’s at.)

The ReadNex Poetry Squad performs a weeklong workshop from Sunday, November 14 through Saturday, November 20, at the Grandview Inn & Suites, Wasilla.

- Anchorage Press

"Go with the flow"

Go with the flow

By Heather A. Resz

WASILLA — It’s the kind of catchy hook that tunnels into the brain and stays for days.

“I be different. You be different. We be different. Just be different. I be different. You be different. We be different. Just be different.”

That’s the message ReadNex Poetry Squad — a troupe of hip-hop poets from New York City — will deliver to hundreds of Mat-Su Borough students and faculty this week. They kicked off their Alaska visit at Burchell High School Monday afternoon. Burchell staff Paul Morley, John Brown, Jim Wanser and Diane Demoski were so impressed by a workshop the troupe did at the Twenty-first Century Learning Center conference in Washington, D.C., they used some of the school’s Twenty-first Century grant funding to bring the group to Alaska, Morley said. The troupe also will work with Mat-Su Central and Valley Pathways, he said.

“We were just really taken with them,” Morley said.

A public preformance is at Burchell Friday from 2 to 4 p.m.

ReadNex (pronounced rednecks) Poetry Squad members are poets and MCs Decora, Freeflowin, Cuttz, Latin Translator and DJ H2O. Freeflowin said the group has been on tour for 10 months. In their 10 years together, she said the troupe has visited hundreds of high schools and worked with thousands of people.

“We’re educators, activists and recording artists,” she said. “We teach workshops in schools about how to use hip hop and spoken word poetry as a vehicle to enhance the learning experience for youth.”

And Morley said that’s exactly why they booked the group.

“Slam poetry has become a powerful and fun way for our kids to apply their literacy skills here at Burchell,” he wrote in an e-mail.

ReadNex kicked off the workshop at Burchell with a demo of their DJ and MC skills, and featured their new video “I’m Dif ’Rent.”

The video closes with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “When we lose our right to be different. We lose the privlege to be free.”

Asked to summarize, a Burchell student said, “Be yourself anywhere you are.”

“Everybody here is talented. Don’t believe the hype,” Cuttz said. “You all have a name. You all have skills and abilities. Believe in your talents skills and abilities.”

The recording artists talked with students about their own experiences being different and how they turned their own unique styles, rhythms and beats into careers.

“We have the ability to create — just like God. Understand your power,” Decora said.

They also taught students a new word, ashé. When the troupe said ashé, students shouted it back in call and response fashion.

The poets said the word comes from the Yoruba ethnic group in West Africa and refers to the energy of creation.

Burchell junior Emily Stevenson, 16, goes by Bubbles. She grew up in Southeast Alaska and moved to Southcentral later in her school career.

“I came here and everybody loved everybody and it was nice,” she said. “This is what makes Burchell Burchell — the celebration of people’s differences.”

Stevenson said that’s important because more than 100 of her classmates at the high school are homeless. “For a lot of kids, Burchell is there home and it’s their family.”

As for ReadNex, she said, “We don’t know what it is they are teaching us. But whatever it is, it’s good.”

Burchell student Richard Fetuu, 19, writes poety and spits rhythms. For him, he said music and beats are a way to make people understand.

It’s an avenue to express his feelings, Fetuu said.

“The thing that they are teaching is great,” he said.

Burchell student Charlie Peterson, 19, spent the whole workshop watching while he made a video on his phone to share with friends later.

“What you went through in the past can help you in the future,” he said. “I think they are trying to teach us to use what we learn today to help make good choices.”

Peterson said he’s different and he doesn’t mind. Sometimes he displays his individuality by wearing a tie to school. “I just want to be different.”

For Burchell student Cody Downard, 18, the workshop was a surprise. “It made me feel part of something. That you can be a part of something.”

He’s one of the homeless students at his school.

The trouble started for him when he was 8 and his parents divorced. A short time later his father died and his mom ended up in jail, he said. Downard ended up in foster care in California. Then on the only unsupervised visit he had with his mom, she kidnapped him and they flew to Alaska, he said.

His mom has been homeless for about 10 years, he said. And that’s what he thought the future held for him until he went through the Military Youth Academy, Downard said. “I never saw myself graduating high school. I just thought I’d grow up to be nothing, like my mom.”

These days he lives with a friend and is preparing to graduate from high school and go to college at the Art Institute of San Diego.

Downard said the ReadNex workshop showed him a new way to tell his story.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from or what language you speak. Be yourself. Don’t waste time trying to be someone else. Just focus on what you need.”

For more information about ReadNex, visit or

Contact Heather A. Resz at or 352-2268.
- Frontiersman

"Words to Live By"

There’s a dude in the corner of the room playing the piano. And doing it well. He’s putting down some soft and beautiful tinkling, like maybe he has a few Bill Evans or George Shearing records at home. It’s late in the afternoon and he’s making the place feel more like cocktail time at the Rainbow Room than happy hour at Kingston’s Keegan Ales, which is what it is, actually. Probably not what you’d expect from a mike-rocking hip-hop MC.

“I can fake it okay, I guess,” says a grinning Jarabe Del Sol, who, with his co-MCs Decora, Freeflowin, and Latin Translator and turntablist DJ H20, makes up Hudson Valley words-and-music crew ReadNex Poetry Squad. Further confounding expectations, perhaps, is the fact that Del Sol is actually a multi-instrumentalist: “I play guitar, too, but I’m more of a drummer,” adds the rapper known as Cuttz El Colombiano on the group’s early releases. “I was playing the drums before I could speak English.” For ReadNex, however, defying the general public’s perception of what it means to be a hip-hop band—and what hip-hop itself means—is par for the course. Heroically so.

Right from the group’s 2001 inception, when the members met as students at Middletown’s Orange County Community College during a campus open-mike night, ReadNex has been as much about effecting positive social change as it has been about music. The band is an out-and-out activist machine, for whose members art and progressive work are simply inseparable. Besides releasing three albums on the band’s own DeBefore label; playing on HBO Latino and at hallowed venues the Apollo Theater and the Nuyorican Poets Cafe; touring the US, Canada, Europe, and Brazil; and performing regionally as a group and as individuals at spoken-word gigs, ReadNex maintains a packed itinerary of educational and public advocacy efforts. Along with steady appearances at benefit and awareness-raising events—the group was en route to a climate-control-themed affair at the time of its Chronogram interview, after having played a state education conference in Hew Hampshire the night before—examples of the outreach actions the outfit regularly organizes include food and clothing drives, inner-city farmers’ markets, youth-mentoring programs, and student-empowerment workshops. But because the media only likes to occasionally play up the odd cause-boosting but less-than-sincere photo op by splashy money men like P. Diddy or his swaggering gangsta peers, for many ReadNex’s steady regimen of altruistic endeavors will likely be another expectation-shattering revelation.

“Mahatma Ghandi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’” quotes Decora, who, like his band mates, is a perpetual font of wisdom-bearing axioms. “There are four elements that make up hip-hop culture: rapping, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti writing. We’ve added a fifth, ambiguous element, which is more personal and can be anything you want it to be. Not that you can’t do more than one thing, but for some people that extra element might be spoken word or poetry; for others it could be comedy. And for some it might be the kind of social change activities that we do.”

But with all this talk about ReadNex’s extracurricular doings, there’s the danger of taking the focus off its music—do so at your own risk, however. At a Kingston performance shortly after the release of the group’s second album, Social IssUes (DeBefore Records; reviewed in the December 2006 issue of Chronogram), the group was devastating, the four MCs stalking the stage and discharging their words with angry abandon while DJ H2O threw up a dense storm of sounds and beats behind them. Integral to the band’s studio sound has been its behind-the-scenes sixth member, producer Charlie “Fox” Graham, who’s been on board almost since the beginning. “I would see them play at the open mikes back in 2001 and their energy was just amazing,” Graham recalls. “We ended up doing a demo and then the first album [2004’s F.O.S.S.L., also DeBefore], and things just kept going. As far as I know they’re one of the first groups to apply such eclectic styles to the music. Especially on [new album] Day before Sound (DeBefore), which has rock, Latin, reggae, folk, and world music, along with hip-hop, house, and spoken word.
With its alchemical, psychedelic blend, Day before Sound holds such provocative tracks as Del Sol’s eerily prescient—in light of the Gulf oil spill—ecology commentary “Deaf Ears Can’t Be Environmentally Sound” and Freeflowin’s flamenco guitar-laced lover letter to the music that freed her mind and allowed everything else to follow, “When Life Gives You Capital-ism Choose Hip-Hop.” But it’s with the record’s power-packed closer, “Be Dif’Rent,” that the band has waxed a new anthem for young outsiders, one that aims to let them know they’re not alone and that it’s okay to be, yes, different. Over a loud and relentlessly throbbing electro-pulse, the MCs trade rhymes sure to resonate with any disaffected or inner-city kid who hears them: “This is for the Chinese-Dominican with the cinnamon-colored hair / This is for the Puerto Rican on the weekend lookin’ to express his poetry through guitar / This is for the black kid in the moshpit with the Mohawk / the white kid in the rhyme circle with the ’frohawk / This is for the IED-ADD’s / on the way to GED / Low test scores and didn’t take your SAT / Yellow, purple, black, or brown / growin’ up with no cops around / Gun clappin’ was the sound / that put you to sleep.” The group recently completed a video for the song, to be released this month.

Day before Sound features guest artists from the underground hip-hop world—Red Clay’s Baron and R&B duo Indigo Brown—but there’s another, likely unexpected contributor, a musician whose family lineage links ReadNex straight to a protest music legend: Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, who appears on the intriguingly titled “America Bolivariana: The Reflection of Self-Revolution.” “The ReadNex [members] are totally fearless when it comes to music,” says Rodriguez-Seeger, the grandson of Pete Seeger. “They sat in with my band at the Clearwater Festival once, and Decora and Jarabe rhymed in English and Spanish over the music. I’d never done anything like that before, and it was really incredible. We definitely did the most exciting version of ‘This Land Is Your Land’ I’ve ever played.”
Bringing the noise—and the message—from sea to shining sea has opened not only the ears, eyes, and minds of their audiences, but also those of the MCs and DJ themselves. In 2008 the unit embarked on its Frontlines Tour, a mammoth, self-funded expedition (another anachronism for a genre whose mainstream stars won’t hit the road unless it’s in a corporate-sponsored sleeper bus) that took the group to 40 cities and towns across the US. “We visited these tiny places like Whitesburg, Kentucky [pop. 1500], where they really hadn’t had hip-hop before. And they were crazy for it. After the show we ended up jamming at someone’s house. H20 was spinning while people were playing mandolins and fiddles—some were even drinking moonshine,” says Latin Translator, today sipping ginger ale, like his bandmates. “Wherever we go on tour, besides doing the performance we try to also hold one of our workshops and also talk to the people to learn about the issues they’re facing locally,” explains Decora. “So in places like Kentucky and Virginia we got to know more about the lives of the coal miners and their families, about how black lung is still a huge problem. And about oxycoton addiction in rural areas, how mountaintop-removal mining has been destroying the environment there. We try to take what we discover and pass it along at the next places we go to: ‘Learn, Educate, Repeat’ is one of our main mantras.”
- Chronogram Magazine

"Alice Lovelace Interviews the ReadNex Poetry Squad"

"Poetry is all that moves the body, mind and soul. When driving through a windy road and the sun hits just right on a cloud that hovers over a green mountain... one sees poetry. When one sees a child that is surrounded by destruction and said child rises against that struggle in adulthood... one sees poetry. And when a poet speaks of his or her experiences in a way that the microphone no longer needs an amplifier because of his or her passionate cries... then one is in the presence of poetry." - In Motion Magazine

"CD Review: ReadNex Poetry Squad"

"Not jaded or faded, the ReadNex members’ collective styles kick strictly a positive message of healing, unity, forgiveness, and love." - Chronogram

"ReadNex Poetry Squad: Mix Poetry and the Rhythm of Hip Hop"

"Playwright Bertolt Brecht (known in his day for brazenly throwing politics onstage) had said, “art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” Taking his words to the heart, ReadNex is set on shaking and waking up their audience through their art." -


Day Before Sound
Social ISsUe
Debefore Records "Singles"
France Underground Mixtape"Useless, Cold World"



ReadNex Reborn

In the midst of social disparity and issues that continue to permeate the culture, the ReadNex Poetry Squad have issued open invitations to all to step outside the prescribed lifestyle matrix and embark on a journey toward progress and greater consciousness with a focus on youth.

This unwavering desire to facilitate social change has culminated in their metamorphic rebirth embodied in their new album, � Day Before Sound,� set for release in early 2010.

Embracing the eternal tradition of conveying knowledge orally, audiences nationally and around the globe have been captivated and moved by the anti�apathetic stance of the group comprised of four spoken word poets/emcees and one D.J. Through the art of writing and the power of music, esteemed lyrical scholars Decora, FreeFlowin, Jarabe Del Sol, Latin Translator and DJ H20 continue to uplift urban communities with their universal message and sound influenced by Hip-Hop, Soul, Latin and Caribbean music.

As artists, educators and activists, they seek to alleviate ignorance by tackling various issues including but certainly not limited to race, gender, politics, history, social injustice, gentrification, poverty and segregation. Their evolution into which they are today has been fueled by their experiences as their enlightening and empowering commentary is framed by politics, history and current events.

The title of their new album �Day Before Sound� refers to the moment of clarity that is achieved upon the realization that human beings are all connected and a part of the same frequency, thus becoming a unified sound. Amid increasingly condensed communities that continue to be systematically divided, imagine a time and place where unity exists among all peoples�regardless of political views, gender, religion, sexual orientation, skin color, hair texture, ethnicity and organic composition. This is the destination of �The Day Before Sound.� Readnex Poetry Squad

Moved by the innocence and fearlessness of youth, the ReadNex Poetry Squad gives youth leverage through their nationally recognized Hip Hop and Spoken Word Poetry Youth Empowerment Workshop that started in Newburgh, NY in 2004. This program is designed to build confidence, give an in depth understanding of poetry and use Hip-Hop as a positive medium for self�expression and public outreach.

In 2009, the group continued their acclaimed youth programming and spent time reflecting on their seven week Front Lines Tour that hit 40 cities in the Summer of 2008. The expedition was test of faith in their art willingness and the willingness to complete a self sustained tour. They were also the Featured Artist of the World Social forum in Brazil in January 2009. In April 2009, the ReadNex Poetry Squad hosted the second annual Hip Hop Seasons, a week-long festival in the Hudson Valley, NY.

Launched in 2008, Hip Hop Seasons showcases positive images of Hip Hop that helped cultivate the native Hudson Valley social justice band and featured a triple threat of break dancing, dj-ing and beat battles. The festival included a benefit concert with John Forte and Saul Williams for the Children of the Night Scholarship, an All Women�s Hip Hop Panel and Graffiti Art Showing in the Ann Street Art Gallery.

As the dawn of 2010 approaches, the impact of the ReadNex Poetry Squad continues to be boundless as they deliver each and every potent line with an attitude of social responsibility. Motivating in their own right, they are inspired by all the pioneers and supporters who have made the impossible possible. Through their new album, they are reborn and �Day Before Sound� signifies the continuation of learning, growth and spiritual elevation.