Chance The Rapper Mentor Kevin Coval Celebrates Hip-Hop Storytelling In "Molemen Beat Tapes" [Premiere]
Last year Kevin Coval, a Chicago-based poet who also serves as artistic director of Young Chicago Authors (Vic Mensa, Mick Jenkins, Noname, and Chance the Rapper are among the program’s alumni), released a book of poetry titled A People’s History of Chicago.
Made up of 77 poems, the book finds Coval exploring the culture, neighborhoods, politics, and history of the city. From commenting on its Native American beginnings to highlighting the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win in 2016, Coval’s poems are just as entertaining as they are informative, showcasing the multiplicity of this city he knows so well.
Now, Coval has released a video for one of his poems. Titled “Molemen Beat Tapes,” the poem is an ode to the Molemen, a predominantly Latino production team that was the soundtrack for Chicago’s emergent hip-hop scene in the mid-to-late 90s & early 2000s.
“They were organizers as well and put on a really important event, Chicago Rocks, which brought the whole city together in a lot of ways,” Coval said. “It was an era where hip-hop was still so young, you could tell if someone listened by how they stood or dressed or moved onto the bus. And in seeing them you felt less alone.”
An additional homage to the Molemen, a good portion of the video features Gramaphone Records, which many of the group’s members worked at. But the focus of the video is a young man who, interested in the art of hip-hop storytelling, befriends a number of people who share his enthusiasm and passion for the craft.
“Everything I do and will do is cause hip-hop gave me permission,” Coval said. “It was this for thousands in the generation which is now in its fourth for fifth era of young people remixing the worlds around them, and using the materials and stories at hand to be the freshest and largest youth cultural force in the history of the planet rock.”
Inspired by Black Thought, Yasiin Bey, A Tribe Called Quest, and Lauryn Hill, Coval channels his favorite rappers in his poems, telling a variety of stories through his wordplay.
“I try to put on for the the cultures Chicago has made and innovated, from stepping to footwork, the organizers and writers we miss and are in the lineage of Ida. B Wells, Fred Hampton and Rudy Lozano,” Coval said. “The last poem in the book is a love-letter of sorts called ‘Chicago Has My Heart,’ which is about the conflicted nature of being a citizen here.”
The book includes an introduction from Chance, who Coval says has “always been a for real and dedicated young man.”
“I was honored to have him write the intro for the book and am in awe of his talent and dedication to making Chicago more,” Coval said.
Currently, Coval is about to wrap up his annual Louder Than a Bomb slam poetry festival. The event, which features 120 teams from high schools, middle schools, and community organizations competing in slam-style bouts, ends on Sunday, March 18.
Prior to that, Coval will be reading A People’s History of Chicago on Sunday, March 4, at the Apple Store.