As part of Grinnell’s celebration of Asian Pacific Islander American month, performance poet and rapper John Vietnam will perform at 9 p.m. Friday, May 4th in Bob’s Underground Café. Originally from Chicago, IL, Vietnam currently attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The roots of the event began in another Midwest liberal arts college.
“Earlier this semester, AAA, which is Asian American Association, went to a conference at Oberlin and John Vietnam performed there for them and they really liked it and got in contact with him,” SGA Concerts Chair Pooj Padmaraj ’13 said.
The venue, though not typical for a Friday night concert, holds a certain advantage.
“It is a conscious decision to have it in Bob’s because he does a question and answer session after his set and that doesn’t really work in Gardner,” Padmaraj said.
Vietnam defines his art as “expression, therapy, and resistance rooted in hip-hop culture.” Often, this manifests itself in socially conscious lyrics akin to Blue Scholars and Immortal Technique intertwined with comments on self, self-worth and rapping about being good at rapping.
“Remember: four bags of chips were a dollar?/Now we conscious of the monsters that put colors on our collars/Separating classes on economic status and later we can wonder whose salary the fattest/What’s it matter, man?/That’s ain’t how it’s supposed to be/And I don’t want live for the dream they sold to me,” Vietnam raps on “Can’t Be Friends.”
Vietnam’s beat selection and cadence varies more than his subject matter as he opts to rap over boom-bap heavy original productions and the staggering, sample heavy instrumental for Rich Boy’s “Drop.” His blunt voice fits nicely inside whatever pace he uses and Vietnam often demonstrates an impressive ability for multisyllabic and internal rhymes:
“Prospectors of the prosperous/ profit from our common sense/ we’re consequently products of who proctor us this doctrine/ hope is resurrected when this microphone revitalized/ the 99 will occupy despite the guy they idolize,” he raps on “Who the Bullet Hit.”
In addition to rapping, Vietnam also performs slam poetry and breaks. His show will likely showcase at least two of these three talents. Concerts is bringing in roughly half the speakers they would for a Gardner show as not to overwhelm attendees but still give his instrumentals plenty of presence.
You can download Vietnam’s mixtape and check out some of his videos, including his “Day in the Life,” which features his rapping, poetry and dancing in various Chicago locations, on his youtube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/user/johnvietnam13