In a world where the poetic landscape is constantly evolving, it is important we remember that this is a living testament to poetry’s relevance in our world. I believe that sometimes, we creators can doubt ourselves falling victim to imposter syndrome. I have been guilty of this myself. But poetry has reinvigorated society within the pages of literature, activism, at funerals, presidential inauguration, slam poetry competitions, online journals/magazines, within the bars of hip hop, and more.

Over the last few years, Twitter has greatly helped me get my poetry out there in ways I could never imagine. The Instagram poetry boom over the last 10 years (see Yung Pueblo and Rupi Kaur) is a prime example of how social media can be a tool for contemporary poets. Today we also have TikTok poets as well as poetry readings on the new mobile application Clubhouse. Button Poetry has attempted to fill the void that Def Jam Poetry once held by utilizing their YouTube channel. I believe these are examples of how poetry is and has evolved audience engagement. For many people, poetic introduction begins in nontraditional spaces like these. I am a product of this sort of poetic indoctrination through hip hop music. Before I read Langston Hughes, rappers like Andre 3000 are who got me wanting to read poems.

Through the lyricism of Andre 3000, poetry has shown that it can be cosmic, like some sort of superpower. I try to remember this as much as I can, but I am not perfect. There are poets who have been jailed and killed for speaking the truth to the masses.

When I forget the power of poetry, I return home to hip hop. Rappers like Andre Benjamin remind me that poems are the tender glove we need during despair, and the spiked bat of words that can be wielded against injustice. On his verse in “Life of the Party,” with Kanye West, the wordsmith and alleged G.O.A.T reminds us of this power. Throughout the track, Andre maneuvers between poet, rapper, and storyteller—a combo I deem the ultimate trifecta.

Andre 3000 is simply not playing with the pen. Many of my poems are inspired by his style of hip hop as well as the Def Jam Poetry era, which also featured rappers on “Life of the Party” like Kanye. On top of this, Andre has a seamless ability to take the listener on a path of beautiful storytelling plated with an elite rapper delivery. There is a reason why whenever Andre 3000 does anything he is a trending topic. He as a rapper, is featured on more songs than he is on albums of his own or with Outkast (as of late). Yet somehow, even when a featured artist he often has the best verse on the song.

Sometimes I believe we question our superpower because of accessibility issuesto merits like MFA programs, awards/contests, fellowships, or even publication in general. This is a fault of capitalism, not poetry. The power of poetry is not something that will always be felt deeper than it is monetarily quantified. The power of poetry is inside of Andre 3000. His writing, his music proves how the right words can touch the heart.

The power of poetry begins and is always a member of society. The power of poetry is first experienced as a reader, and then if lucky as a writer whose words are read—even if they only touch one heart. This is something I believe Andre 3000 reminds me of every time. He has no idea, his music, his poetry has touched my heart specifically…but I know.

On “Life of the Party,” Andre 3000 pulls us in with a poetic stream of consciousness. Lines like “I’m starting to believe ain’t no such thing as heavens trumpets,” as a way to describe the pain of losing his mother in particular, but ultimately both his parents. Andre’s verse is in direct communication with Kanye’s mother, Donda West, as a poetic prayer and plea to tell Andre’s mother in heaven that he is depressed, and lost without her. When we lose a relative many of us lose hope, we doubt the trumpets in the heavens.

I lost my uncle during this pandemic back in the spring, and I honestly wish I could hear from him every single day. I wish we could have celebrated my writing more, as he just began to take an interest in it before he passed. On many days, I find myself wondering if my relatives who are now ancestors are at peace and aware of my existence.

We are all suffering right now. The world is literally on fire or underwater, both climate-wise and systemically across the planet. Some of us have not seen family in almost two years. But Andre’s words, his poeticism, his superpower serves tenderness to us all. Art like this literally keeps people going.

I believe poetry to be the grandmother of hip hop. Hip hop influences my poetics, even as I am heavily studying in an MFA program. Whatever influences your poetry is valid. Just never forget your superpower no matter how dark it gets. 



Chris L. Butler (he/him) is an Afro-Dutch poet and essayist from Philadelphia, PA and Houston, TX. He is the 2021 Kurt Brown Diverse Voices Fellow at the Solstice MFA Program, and the Associate Poetry Editor at Bending Genress. Chris is the author of BLERD: '80s BABY, '90s KID (Daily Drunk Press, 2021)

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