I laugh at myself (as artists often do) almost every time I practice my newfound art of DJing. I laugh because I never thought at age 33 this is what I’d be geeking out over, but also I laugh because as a poet at heart, my DJ flow is an extension of my poetry. Whether I am spinning hoops, weaving words or mixing tracks, I find poetry and laughter in each art form. As a DJ, the poetry flows from my own consciousness as well as from blending other people’s cherished words together (more often than not, the words accompanied by music in the background) to put together a unique and experimental set. Call it hip hop, call it vocals, or poetry, whatever; I have fallen in love with the art of blending the sounds of other people’s words in a way that takes the listener on a new and mystical journey, and it totally cheeses me out. And now here I am BLOGGING about my LOVE of DJing WORDS as a POET… the irony layers upon layers of “WHAT THE FUCK IS SHE DOING” seems to spin me around saying boldly that in this wild world of art, I have, and will again, come full cipher.
“How did I get here?” I often ask myself that question. At first glance it might appear that my white girl entitlement woke up one day and thought “hey, I think I’ll be a rapper”. On a deep level, where one must look honestly at ones privileges and entitlement, I can admit that there is an element of truth to that; however in all honesty the evolution of MissConception has really has been so much more. Allow me to spin a tale of truth, take you back to my youth, and share why I dare be so bold as to tread instead on this blazen path of creativity. See, I was born wanting to defy any and every stereotype imaginable, but I wasn’t always so brave. When I look back, there are a few crucial moments in my life when I distinctly remember thinking “I am going to be an artist, blow some minds, and have a fuck-ton fun doing it”. I didn’t realize it was going to be so hard, despite everyone’s warnings. (Sometimes when you’re not even trying things come easiest, and then you start working at it and the challenges show face).
Safe to say, I pretty much came out of the womb dancing. My grandmother Carol used to tell me about how she would take me to brunch on top of the Alameda hotel and I would sing and dance and put on a show for all the guests with the piano player on deck. I choreographed and performed my own dance in 2nd grade for a talent show. I wanted to be Aretha Franklin at age 10. (My parents put me in singing lessons when they heard that.) I remember my whole childhood full of adults telling me I shouldn’t sing because I was, plainly, annoying. Nobody used that word, but I could tell they didn’t want to hear it. I often wanted to put on shows that nobody wanted to watch. Time and again I participated in ecstatic plays where nobody cared to hear me out. Entire lifecycles I role played out in my head, alone. Though my parents did offer dance lessons and school play auditions, which I readily appreciated, I couldn’t help but feeling stifled in hindsight. I wanted to bring joy, but I was told to hush, like many children. “Don’t be so silly,” they warned. I distantly remember a time in 5th or 6th grade when even though I knew deep down in my heart that I was an “artist” of mystical meanderings, that the power of the universe was within me and I had all the knowledge I needed to make the world a better place, admist along all of that confusion, I decided I would put it all away, as to not bother anybody. The sadness in not feeling welcome to be ones self, I know it well.
Yes, I put it all away alright; through high school in dance team I opted to be in the back row every time. I didn’t try out for parts that had singing auditions, which were almost every part. I didn’t want to call attention, for fear that I would be told I wasn’t good enough. All of those things we are told as women, as children, as adults that we “aren’t pretty enough, aren’t smart enough, didn’t make the cut” echoed through my head constantly. After all, wouldn’t we rather do nothing at all than fail? “If you don’t do anything you can’t fail,” I thought. (All this coming from a straight A student…). I never really felt like I fit in, or had a purpose, and it was very confusing for a child who was asked constantly “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Until I found the misfits…
I signed up for a poetry writing class at KU, mostly to avoid British Literature, and I remember my classmates seeing my love of creativity and word-smithing, encouraging me to go to poetry readings and let my words be heard. I didn’t believe them at first; THEY thought I was worth OTHER people’s time?? As I began going to readings and putting myself out there slowly people started asking me to do it more. The local jam band asked me to come sit in and flow during their Monday night jam sessions. I started calling poetry circles in the park, where strangers would come to just hear words exchanged in the moonlight. People BOOKED me! I started attending secret midnight readings, hosting events and finding serious poetry slams, with jazz bands and professional poets encouraging me to “work harder to find the right word,” which is what a professor taught me once. An endless cycle, nonetheless, I was hooked.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t poetry that dragged me surely out of my sh-ell (sheltered-hell), but rather, it was a hoop. I was in college and my friends started learning how to hula hoop, this oldschool-made-new fitness craze; but these girls were learning tricks, dancing and meditating with the hoops. Dancing, having always been a vertical expression of a horizontal desire (said Rita Dove), became an immersive experience. I had always been a lover of play and movement, so I followed right along in stride with the other hoopers, learning how to work with one, two, and up to six hula hoops at a time. I didn’t realize it at the time, but later I would light them up, and set them on fire!
“The irony spins in hoops yearning to endear our ears to truth” – Stella Dreamwalker
It was using these plastic rings with a “give-no-fuck” attitude that gave me the courage to really bless the mic the way a mic should be blessed. Well, the hoops, and many poets and artist that I encountered who each inspired me to the stars and back. A little bit of self-confidence was the ignition I needed. Fueled with my words of love, I combusted and in 2009 I made a decision to start taking myself seriously, as an artist.
Over the years, I’ve casted many nets and caught a lot of fish, some very lucky minnows and some sharks. I knew carving out a niche as an artist was going to be difficult. It was going to be full of disappointment, misunderstandings and with plenty of people telling me I couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t be successful. I knew I was fishing in waters deeper than I had fished before. I also knew that there was no other option for me but to try. I was a guppy who wanted to move mountains with art. So first learned to walk on lands and then I learned to fly… and then, mountain hunting I went.
I remember the night it dawned on me that if I was going to do this, which is when I started diving deeper into hip-hop. I realized I had been embodying many of the elements of this loved art form without even knowing it… DoJing and emceeing, art (graffiti/stenciling), bboy dancing, and the consciousness of it, all touched my heart; the pain and the sadness right along with the badass gladness. “My Main MissConception” was the first spoken word performance piece I wrote and my roommate deemed me the name MissConception. #miccheck
Special thanks to Alex Chase for recording and mastering my first track.
Since I was little I had always loved rhyming. Shell Silverstein and Dr Seuss were heavy influences as a child , and in middle school I memorized all the words to a Jurassic 5 song and then the rap at the end of TLC’s Waterfalls. I was obsessed with cadence and delivery. After flaming hoops unleashed my inner confidence, I took to the stage saying the thing that nobody at least nobody who lied like me) wanted to say. Passion and truth flowed naturally like water from my lips. Largely, I wasn’t the most popular act in town, especially in the thick of the spoken word and rap scenes, despite my emphasis on social inequality, the environment and gender equality. I wanted to change the world, and again it seemed nobody wanted to listen. Eventually a local producer, DWILL, offered to make beats for me and record my first album. In 2008 he helped me to debut my dream, Self Titled: MissConception; I was ecstatic. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be making a hip-hop album. He believed in me, and that is sometimes still hard to believe.
Since then, I’ve performed on hundreds of stages, hosted showcases, self-produced several more albums (Ostentation, Saraswati, Saratonin, Serendipty EP, and my new release coming in 2020 titled: Saramony); I’ve worked with some very talented producers, and I even had the opportunity to release my first chap-book of poetry in 2016 entitled: Class Action (because who really wants to go to law school anyone when you can be a poet). #poppoetry #12poetsin12months. (I still have a very limited amount of 2nd edition signed copies left #classaction)
Yes, it all looks so pretty on a website, and yes I have wanted to give up over and over. The truth is for an artist, it is a constant internal battle of your mind as to whether or not to keep going or give up, and an external battle with everyone else. Almost every day I doubt myself. And almost every day I have someone reach out to me telling me that my words changed their life. “Have you considered getting an agent?” is the most grateful and yet painful question; lord I wish I could find an agent who would understand this hot mess of an artist. But just knowing that so many people now believe in me; what a blessing. On the other side of the same token, I receive more messages than I’d care to admit that my work is trash, founded in ignorance, and I have no business as a white woman in hip-hop, or that I’m chasing a dream that no longer serves me or my lifestyle. One thing these hoops and ciphers have taught me is that each of us has our own fires to burn and our own lessons to learn.
I learned long ago to not chase the dream. Follow it. Show up for it. Be ready for it when it comes knocking, but don’t chase it. Desparation is a heavy stench. The thing I keep coming back to as an artist is that it doesn’t matter who likes or doesn’t like my art. The art is made FOR ME, by me, because of me, and through me. It’s there if you want, take it or leave it. You don’t have to understand it to appreciate it. Sometimes the parts of creativity that we MISunderstand are actually the POINT of making the art. The more healthy discussions that spark from these dreams come alive the more fuel for the art.
More often than not I wake up lyrics in my head from a dream and scribble them down before I forget. I am not necessarily a writer, dare I say that I am a channel? I always tell people that although I may write down the songs, they don’t exactly come from me, they come through me. I didn’t plan for this. I didn’t ask for this. I just simply cannot help myself; and thus another misconception was born.
Album Artwork painting done by Wieteke Waterborg, 2008
Ceremony | Saramony Release Day January 1, 2020
– A projection of desire and reflection of the fire –
In preparing for my new album release, Saramony | Ceremony in 2020, I collaborated with a group out of the Twin Cities called the Gypse Freq Circus for one track; several of the tracks were written by a producer named Eisenhauer, and a few parodies in the mix that just fell out as well. (Parodies are my favorite!) Recorded and mastered by Jonathan Larson of the Tenderloin Studios in San Francisco, this is some of my darkest and most conscious work yet dare I say? It is set to release on January 1, 2020. #2020vision
I’ve always said that there are two rules of ‘Show Business’: 1. Shock Value – and 2. Always leave them wanting more. Say the thing that they don’t expect you to say and then leave them hanging on the edge of their seat baby so they come to your next show. These 8 tracks I am hoping will tug on your heart strings just enough to help me fuel the next round of creativity, whatever that may be. I’m always paying attention and ready when the universe calls.
Another professor once taught me that “Poetry is the art of paying attention” and he could not be more right. Paying attention in a century where attention-spans are the length of twitter tweets is a nearly impossible feat. It’s asking a lot of people these days to cut through the clutter and really give your mind to one train of thought for more than five or ten minutes. How about, just one song even? Listening may or may not save your life per say, but it’s CERTAINLY saving mine. Here is a sneak peak of the title track off my new album, entitled: Gypsy Freq Circus
Being an artist and performing original work to an audience that appreciates said art is truly the greatest give in the world; the highest of highs abound. It has become my mental health lifeline. Booking an artist is somewhat akin to saving their life in a sense… it’s our purpose, striving art. It’s what we live for.
“Art is why I get up in the morning,” said Ani Difranco, “but my definition ends there you know it doesn’t seem fair that I’m living for something I can barely define…and there you are right there in the meantime”. Art is the process of defining what there is to get up in the morning for. Whether it pisses you off or inspires you, at least it’s doing something!
❤ Thanks for the love during the last decade ❤
If I’ve realized anything about the beauty of performance art, it’s that it’s an incredibly hard sell, almost especially so when your tool-kit is full of a variety of tricks; often people don’t know what to do with me as an artist. I’ve been told, “I’m too spiritual for the hip-hop heads and too hip-hop for the yoga teachers.” I don’t write my own “music”, I write the words. I take other people’s music and words that flow through and mash em up often serenditiously. When they ask about my work style I tell people, “If you put Ani Difranco and Jurassic 5 together, you get one hell of a MissConception”. And I suppose I’d have it no other way; after all, my name is MissConception; the element of mystery and elusivity is part of the practice. You’re supposed to interpret art, not be told what it is. “Just what is she trying to do?” Truth is the magic is in the mystery.
In closing, I just want to say a seriously great big thank you to anybody and everybody who has ever supported MissConception, myself, or any other artist that inspires you on any level. Thank you for also sharing your art with me. Special thank you to my dear friend and editor, Stella Dreamwalker, for believing in me and writing with me along the way. I will be forever grateful for your love, and I will continue to offer my creativity and love to any and all who wish to share. The only way out is in-word, and we are all in this wordy world together, spinning circles. Let’s keep rockin’ into the twenties!