The Mayhem Poets to perform at MSU in MLK event
The group will perform on Jan. 17 at 5 and 8 p.m. and combines elements of hip-hop, theater, comedy and improvisation to shed light on contemporary issues. Mason Granger, a member of the Mayhem Poets, said it all started at Rutgers University when group members Kyle Rapps and Scott Raven formed an open mic group on campus called Verbal Mayhem.
“We basically found ourselves in college not wanting to take the usual 9-to-5 job route,” Raven said.
Granger said his passion for slam poetry began with a class and a trip to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City.
“I only went on the trip because the girl I had a crush on in the class was going. ... I was fully expecting a slow, boring, quiet poetry reading because that’s all I thought was out there,” Granger said.
When Granger saw the slam poetry performance at Nuyorican, he was entranced and began writing his own poetry for Verbal Mayhem the next week.
Raven said he grew up in a family of teachers. His mother was an English sign language teacher, and Raven said that was his first peek into the world of different cultures.
“I got from her the love of language and the love of learning,” Raven said.
He said slam poetry has a stigma to it, as well as traditional poetry which people tend to believe is boring and hoity-toity.
“We’re trying to maintain the integrity with our writing but also making it all come alive with performance ...(we’re) those poetry rock stars that still can have an appreciation for the classics, but giving it that spoonful of sugar,” Raven said.
Granger said each of the group members have different personalities, which allows The Mayhem Poets to reach a wide variety of audience.
“We can roll through the nerdy set, then we can roll through youth detention centers. ... We want all of those groups in the same room having a good time together,” Granger said.
Granger said he wants different cultural groups to be aware of one another, so they can share influences and blend styles.
He said in 2005, when the group first got together, social media sites didn’t exist. The Mayhem Poets recognized that kids were growing up in more isolated circumstances, with no access to slam poetry. They aimed to change that.
“We started the traveling circus of poetry,” Granger said.
He said they want people to not just see their performance and be exposed to the messages, but recognize that anyone can become a poet.
“You don’t have to be born a poet or pop out of the womb writing Shakespeare,” Granger said.
Granger said he started writing poetry simply because it was fun.
“The main thing is that everyone has something to express, and everyone knows that there are ways that you can express yourself. But most people don’t think of poetry as one of those ways,” Granger said.
Raven said it’s all about positive personal expression.
“Poetry can be an accessible means of reaching other people and kind of a gateway into other cultures,” Raven said.