Arts & Life, Events

Slam, bam, thank you man

Charlie Scott III discovered his calling while taking a poetry class at the California State University, Long Beach.

“It’s the first day I’m ever reading a poem aloud, and I’m super passionate—I’m giving everything I have to this poem, like it’s the last words I’ll say on this earth,” Scott said.

Soon after reciting the poem, Charlie’s professor, Lisa Dowling, walked to the front of a wide-eyed classroom and declared: “Ladies and gentleman, Charlie is a slam poet.”

After being encouraged by Dowling to watch the film “Slam,” Scott’s passion for spoken word ignited. The film’s premise involves a young African-American man with a talent and drive for poetry who addresses various socioeconomic issues in an inner city area. Poet, actor and singer Saul Williams portrays Raymond Joshua, the main protagonist of the film. Scott describes the introduction to Williams as a “catalyst” for his plunge into spoken word.

Dowling also urged Scott to join CSULB’s newly formed slam poetry club where, for the first time, Scott would understand what it was to engage in competitive spoken word. His first ever performance on stage at an Open Mic night was at the CSULB Student Union – back in 1997.

“It took me into a realm where people were dwelling in the passion full time,” Scott said. “When you’re in this work, there’s a duality of being. There’s Charlie that goes to work every day and then there’s this Superman. Yes, we were competing against each other—but we were rallying for each other’s stories as well.”

After graduating, Scott spent time performing spoken word around Long Beach. Then one day he got the email.

“When they reached out to me, I was completely floored and taken aback,” Scott said. “I got the email, and then I saw [Saul Williams’] name and my name in the same email, and I was like: ‘Wait, this can’t be, it’s spam!’”

Scott had been asked to open for Williams on his MartyrLoserKing world tour alongside musician Rayzak Hassan.

“Once I knew it was for real, it was really happening, once I knew that, I really kneeled and said a prayer,” Scott said. “As poets, we work our lifetime to produce great work and to write from our hearts and from our experiences and from our life lessons and for people to embrace it… for someone I admire as an artist to reach out and say: ‘I would love for you to open for me,’ it speaks volumes.”

Since then, he’s performed for the NAACP, been featured on the season four finale of “One’s Verses and Flow,” performed at the Hollywood Improv with his band Philosophy and Scholars, released two albums and is looking forward releasing a second book of poems.

Though Scott’s introduction to competitive spoken word didn’t occur until his college years, his background in music dates back to his high school years. During his freshman year in high school, Scott was a part of a rap crew—not as a rapper, but as a beatboxer.

One day, during a rap battle, Scott’s members were a rapper short. The spotlight shined on Scott, who was in shock at the prospect of rapping. A friend and fellow group member tasked Scott with writing his rap and when Scott delivered the rap his friend remarked: “Dude, you’re a philosopher.”

Scott was given the name Philosophy and has laid claim to the name—performing under the moniker ever since.

“I strive to spark intellectual conversation,” Scott said. “In my work, what I try to do is give you the facts, whatever they may be. And from these facts, you can make a decision on whatever you want, whatever you feel is true.”

Scott says he highly anticipates his upcoming performance in Long Beach, which is also a homecoming for him.

“I’ve been to different states and performed but Long Beach understands me because we understand each other. It’s a relationship. I feel at home.”

Charlie Scott III aka Philosophy will be performing with and Rayzak Hassan on Dec. 15 at 8:30 p.m. at the Federal Underground in Downtown Long Beach.

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