The Slam Poet: ‘If you don’t believe in you, why should your audience?’

Solomon illustration

Solomon Ogunmefun-Brooker is a 24-year-old poet, rapper and musician and 2016 National Poetry Slam Champion. He’s soon to release his debut solo EP ‘The Writing is Real’ and has been chosen to take part in BBC 1Xtra and Roundhouse London’s Words First campaign. Here’s his story.

I can’t say I’m one of those people who always knew what they wanted to do.

I’ve always enjoyed creative expression, but it took a bit of time before I found my space. I’ve been rapping for about 4 years properly and got into spoken word around a year or so back.

Nervousness is normal.

I’ve been on stages pretty regularly for the last 7 years now and it’s very rare for me to not be nervous before a performance. It’s just part of the territory.

To get onstage you need confidence in yourself and what you’re doing first and foremost. Without that you’re going to have a tough time engaging an audience. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should they believe in you, you know?

You have to believe you deserve it.

Own the stage you’re on because you are there for a reason. Any space I step onto I make mine. Leave my mark for sure.

But you’re also there for the people watching you, not just yourself. Remember that.

You need eye contact first and foremost.

Everyone in the room needs to feel like they’re being paid attention to.

To hold attention you need to be varied. If you’re delivering work of a similar subject matter in a similar fashion to what you just performed, I’m going to switch off. Let me see the full scope of what you can do as a performer.

I don’t shy away from being at odds with the pack.

Ultimately, honesty is the most effective way of getting through to people. Honesty resonates like nothing else. You can’t deny the truth.

I try my hardest to fully embrace me.

My quirks, my weirdness. I don’t shy away from being at odds with the pack. People connect to personalities and if you can let yours come through in your performance then all the better. Your perspective is the only thing that really makes you unique, so run with that.

I try to make sure I’m heard, but things can get lost. It’s like missing a page or a chapter in a book. What you’re reading might not make sense or lose context.

My body is the supporting cast for my words.

The body is wasted if it’s not being used to illuminate the story in some way. It’s more engaging if the language of the body can provide contrast to the language of the tongue.

I’m constantly watching and listening for sources of inspiration.

I used to be hung up on making sure that everyone ‘got it’. As I’ve matured I’ve realised that that isn’t my role. All I can do is offer myself honestly and my performance will either stick or it won’t.

There can be a temptation to dumb it down or feed things to your audience, but they’re not stupid. They’ll feel it.

Like any art-form, lyricism takes a lot of work.

I’m constantly watching and listening for sources of inspiration in all forms. Music, film, theatre, literature. And, most importantly, writing.

I try to avoid thinking about any outside influences before the art reaches a certain stage. It can end up taking the work somewhere that isn’t true to the initial idea. Once the idea is formed enough, I start to consider it from a listener’s perspective and tweak things for performance purposes.

I don’t get concerned with outside opinions before my own though. That’s a dangerous game.

My best advice? Listen and respond. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk.

Write as much as you can. When you feel comfortable enough – which might never happen – get out there and perform. I say you might never feel comfortable ‘cos you have to take a leap.

I know people that have been writing for ages but have let fear hold them back from performing. But whether it goes great or terribly, performing is a valuable teacher.

About the project

The Everyday Engagement project is a series of interviews exploring the ways people communicate and connect in day-to-day life.

We want to learn about the instinctive skills and insights used in different professions, especially from people who deal with a spectrum of human emotion.

If you’ve got a story to share please get in contact.

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