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Amir Sulaiman

A spoken word poet, hip-hop MC, and devout Muslim, Amir Sulaiman was first a freestyle rapper before becoming a poet when a young kid and not the other way around, as is the case for many developing rap artists. His writings were significantly influenced by the Black Arts Movement, the literary and artistic extension of the Black Power Movement of the '60s and '70s, and one of its cardinal figures, Amiri Baraka. While pursuing a B.A. in English at North Carolina A&T State University, he cut his teeth doing various spoken word forums on college campuses, coffeehouses, and bookstores. Many of his poems were derived from his own experiences, especially those from growing up as a Muslim. Some were abstract and delicate, touching on love and women, and others were scathing and thought-provoking commentary on racism in America. During his sophomore year at North Carolina A&T, he published these varied writings in his first book of poetry, Words of Love, Life, and Death. After completing his degree program around 2000, he relocated to Atlanta. Very soon after the move, he self-released his first spoken word album, Cornerstore Folklore, in 2001. Three years later, Sulaiman found himself stimulating a national audience on HBO's Def Poetry showcase with his spoken words. In fact, his poetry was also taken notice by the FBI, who waited to question Sulaiman at his mother-in-law's home in San Francisco six days after the 2004 Def Poetry airing. The next day, he found out that his name was placed on a clandestine "no-fly" list that barred him from boarding any airplanes. The situation only galvanized him to step up his artistic endeavors. 2004 and 2006 saw the releases of more biting and critical spoken word efforts, Dead Man Walking and Broad Daylight, respectively. Brooklyn MC/actor Mos Def, who also happened to host the Def Poetry TV program, brought Sulaiman on for his Breed Love Odyseey tour in late 2005 and early 2006. Sulaiman then began putting the pieces together to record Like a Thief in the Night (2007). Featuring appearances from Mos Def, Dead Prez's M-1, and the Last Poets, the LP was a more decidedly hip-hop record and was his first to receive proper distribution.
© Cyril Cordor /TiVo


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