Poem-cees take D.C. hip-hop to the mainstage

The 9:30 Club will welcome D.C. hip-hop act the Poem-cees on stage Saturday to showcase the group’s skills as writers and performers. And as group members exclaim on their mailing list, they are more than ready. Sharing the bill with local acts Infinite Loop and Team Demolition, the Poem-cees plan to launch what member Darrell Perry, a.k.a. Naturalaw, calls “a three-headed hydra attack against the notion that nobody supports D.C. hip-hop.”

The Poem-cees could be called an organic hip-hop group, but really the group simply consists of simply poets, wordsmiths and craftsmen using the English language as a medium. The poets are “dedicated to the elevation of rhyme,” group member Darrell Perry said in an interview with The Hatchet.

Comprised of Perry, who describes himself as a 333-year-old native of backwoods Minnesota, Patrick Washington, a.k.a. Black Picasso, and Rhome Anderson, a.k.a. DJ Stylus, the group tells a story that reads much like a recent history of D.C. hip-hop.

Rising from the ashes of Generation 2000, a touring D.C. spoken-word collective, the Poem-cees artists met and polished their craft in D.C.’s Freestyle Union, an organization where local writers and performers meet to work on their skills and teach writing workshops. In early 1999, Washington and Perry decided to start taking their poetry seriously.

“There’s a certain diligence to this whole writing thing,” Perry said. “I’ve performed solo and with accompaniment, from no amp to a full band.”

After making a new commitment to their craft, Perry and Washington looked for a disc jockey to back them up. They found Anderson.

“They were trying to start this group and I thought they were crazy,” Anderson said. “But I was an unwashed heathen then. They had yet to indoctrinate me.”

Anderson said the rapping duo “indoctrinated” him by writing good material.

Anderson, who has been manning the turntables since high school, said the hobby has quickly taken new direction nationwide.

“Scratching has evolved so fast, the turntables are now considered another instrument in the band,” Anderson said. “I strive to stick to the basics, and add little things to help. I function as a percussionist and try to add another voice.”

But the Poem-cees prefer to play backed by a full band of keyboards, bass and drums.

“The full band is our first priority,” Perry said.

Performing alongside Perry is Patrick Washington, who Perry calls “a classic model of a twisted genius.”

“He’s an intensely emotional poet,” Perry said. “He’s like rain man. He will memorize a two-page poem, carry a catalog of 100 pieces in his brain, but he’ll leave his wallet on the Metro.”

According to Anderson, Patrick Washington (who wasn’t present for the interview) lives on a mixture of garlic and orange juice to keep himself strong.

It’s for those times when it’s 20 degrees outside and he forgets to wear a coat, Anderson said.

The trio debuted in February 1999, but it wasn’t until July that the group started to hit full stride. Last January, members recorded I.O.U. Street (Blacklustre), an eight-song EP that Anderson calls “a bunch of disparate elements that we somehow found a way to make coherent.”

The trio is currently working on a follow-up album called The Steely Brothers.

“It’s about building, elevation, it’s about the processes you go through in living this life,” Perry said.

The Poem-cees aim to open doors for other local acts when they play at the 9:30 Club. Perry gives “big ups to Infinite Loop for sliding the Trojan Horse (through) the door of the 9:30 Club and booking the show.”

He also has a message for anyone who plans to attend the show.

“We’re gonna come in, man, and bleed from song to song, but there’s one more thing: We look forward to playing loud as hell.”

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