Oakland emcee, poet, and activist Ise Lyfe is proud to announce the release of his debut book, Pistols & Prayers, a collection of prayers, poetry, journal entries, rhymes, and short essays. A powerful collage of thought provoking social commentary, Pistols & Prayers is a compelling glimpse into the author's coming of age as a man, artist, and advocate for social change. I caught up with the artist this week and asked him a few questions about the book:
NB: Michael Eric Dyson once said "Guns are at once the merchandise of manhood and the of its destruction." Can you explain the title of your book--why you used a pistol juxtaposed with prayers?
ISE: One, by the time I started to take my rhyming seriously as a career option, there were less an less venues, stages, and clubs that had a place for emcee's to come out and rock. Literally, club owners were taking stages out of the club and there was just small corner setups for a DJ. It was like being a rap artist was like the corny thing to be, which was a little heart breaking for me, cause when I was growing up it was the ILLEST thing you could be. So what was left? Spoken Word venues! I'm an emcee, but I think when people think of me their mind goes to "poet." But thats because I got on through poetry slams and HBO Def Poetry because that was the more accessible forum and platform for me. So in Spoken Word Culture, if you were up there on the mic rockin' it, we called it "Bustin'"- like a gun. Folks in the audience would make gun gestures with their fingers and yell out "BUP BUP BUP" making gun sounds to let you know that they were feeling you. So my book has elements to it that are spiritual, personal, reflective, vulnerable (Prayers), and at the same time theres another side of the book that is hardcore, Hip-Hop, powerful, controversial, hilarious, (Pistols).
The second reason for the title is to point out an irony. That we live in a time where people are excepting the ridiculous notion of killing in the name of God. Both sides of wars posture God or their spiritual belief as the reason for killing. I hoped that the title would put me in a position to say that...
NB: What inspired you to write Pistols and Prayers?
ISE: I'm a writer, you know? I thought it would be cool to act on that in a traditional form, but bring forth a SUPER non-traditional text. I'm glad to be an author who is also a Hip-Hop artist, not just some rapper who wrote a book. It puts me in a space to rep for Hip-Hop from two differnt spaces.
NB: How did it come about to make it into a play?
ISE: I was approached by my agent to apply to have my next big theater piece commisioned by a foundation in an effort to put my work on the next level. It worked! So when it came time to decide what I was going to put up, I thought it was a dope creative and business opportunity to base a play on my book. Creatively, I think its one of the "coolest" things I've done...