For those of you too young to remember, the Black Poets Society were a live Hip-Hop band that were the hot thing in Madison in the early ‘90s. They were very influential in the Madison music scene during what is considered the “Golden Age of Hip-Hop.”
“We opened for some pretty impressive national acts back in the day,” Black Poets Society member Theodore Yancey tells Madison365. “The Pharcyde, De La Soul, Buckshot LeFonque, Guru Jazzmatazz, Ben Harper.”
They laid down tracks at the Smart Studios with producers Mike Zirkel and Wendy Schneider, proved to be an energetic and entertaining live act, and left their mark on the Madison music scene.
As they got older, the group split up, moved apart, raised families and continued on with their lives. But last year, the original members of the band held a 20-year reunion event and the show was a big success.
“People were excited to see the group that set the benchmark for Hip-Hop in Madison back in the day,” Yancey says. “That inspired the group to get back together and to re-brand the name.”
When the Black Poets Society first started getting back together they quickly began to send tracks and vocals and music they’ve written back and forth to each other through e-mail. “That’s how we came up with the ideas and inspiration for the LP [Mix Tape for the Next Generation] that will be coming out in July,” Yancey says. “It’s all new material. We’re pretty excited about it.”
Members of Black Poets Society — Lacouir Yancey, Theodore Yancey, Adem Tesfaye, Nathan Greer, David Anderson, Seth Yosef, Yorel Lashley and Rick Flowers — will once again share the stage and bring their own brand of infectious musical vibes at the High Noon Saloon on Friday, July 1, for their Second Annual Reunion Show. The local group Third Dimension, who are well-known around campus, will be the opening act along with DJ Vinyl Richie.
As they’ve gotten older, the band’s musical tastes has evolved and they have grown into a Hip-Hop/Funk/Soul/Blues collective. “We’ve matured as a group,” Yancey says. “And you will definitely see that at the event.”
Their July 1 performance will take people through the journey of Black Poets Society and their evolution from a young live Hip-Hop band to a seasoned soul, blues, and funk movement. Most of the band members are still living in or around Madison. Yosef will be flying back from Austin, Texas, and Tesfaye will be coming from New York City for the event.
“You can expect some great music and some positive vibes. It’s definitely get-up-and-dance music,” Yancey says. “But you can also expect heartfelt messages that hopefully will touch people in different ways.
“You’ll also get a little bit of an introduction of what Black Poets Society is all about. We’re about positive lyrics and music as well as the elements – we have deejay, graffiti, breakdancing – of Hip-Hop at this show,” Yancey adds. “True Hip-Hop heads will remember us from back in the day but hopefully we will gain some new fans with the message and energy that we bring.”
The theme of this year’s concert will be “Positive Change Movement.” With the influx of violent and negative images surrounding the music industry and Hip-Hop music, specifically, Black Poets Society felt that it is important to remind communities that music can inspire positive change.
“There’s a lot of negativity going around surrounding the music industry and Hip-Hop, in general, especially in the Madison area. Some of the places are looking to shut down or are not offering Hip-Hop music any more,” Yancey says. “We wanted to remind the community that the essence of music is positive and spiritual, physical and emotional.”
The band will be handing out “Positive Change” wristbands at the event to anybody who wants to join the movement. “[The wristband] represents effecting a positive change in your own life, someone’s else’s life, your community or society at large,” Yancey says. “We all have lists of things in our lives that we would like to make a positive change in, so the wristband is our reminder that when things get tough, when it seems like everything is going wrong and when doubt tries to control you, that’s when you grab the wristband and snap it!”
The mission of the Black Poets Society is to support cooperative economics not only through their original music, but through performance, art, entrepreneurship, health and fitness, and knowledge that will affect social change in the community for generations to come.
‘We are really focused on the youth in our community and empowering them to look at things in a more positive light,” Yancey says. “One of our long-term goals is to continue to do workshops with youth and empower them through positive music and spoken word.”
These are interesting times for the Black Poets Society, who were once the youngsters on the scene, but now are treated as Hip-Hop elders by today’s youngsters. How does Yancey feel about that?
“We embrace it. We really do … We’re considered the ‘old school’ cats now,” Yancey laughs. “Is it hard being considered the old school cats? As we say in one of our verses in a song called ‘Fly Now,’ ‘cool fool, new news, old school still true … you better learn them old rules before your bluff gets pulled.’
“But I think people of all ages will appreciate our music. We come from the school of where it’s all about the funk and creating that energy in live music and what Hip-Hop originated from – funk, blues, soul music,” Yancey adds. “Those who are true Hip-Hop followers really gravitate towards what we do.”