Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How We Celebrate

“The thing about Hip-Hop is that it’s from the underground, ideas from the underbelly, from people who have mostly been locked out, who have not been recognized.”

        Russell Simmons

This past Friday marked eleven years of being a public poet for me. I chose to celebrate by driving to Atlanta and getting down at The Art Amok get together for Theresa Davis. Big fun was had, friends.

You know, as fate would have it, there wasn’t a slam, so everybody was free to read or recite whatever they wanted. I decided to do How We Celebrate, which is my poem about breaking (yes, I actually named a new poem! I’ve been struggling with that as of late.). That piece is about celebrating who you are and what makes you come alive. How apt, right?

You can check the poem out here:

When I came back to Chattanooga, I managed to record a reading of the poem. While I was listening back to it, I thought about the sound and timbre of my voice. Even though I’ve been getting up in front of rooms of people for eleven years, it wasn’t until I got into doing radio while I was in college that I started getting accustomed to how I sound.

In the past three or four months, I’ve been hearing a number of different things in my voice. I’ve really been experimenting with tone, melody, etc. and it’s been a lot of fun to stretch out a little bit. I’m not a singer (not by a long shot), but it is COMPLETELY within the realm of possibility that you fine folks out there could be hearing Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian do something that sounds very SIMILAR to singing. We shall see! Well, see and hear, but you get the idea.

Well, that’s all I’ve got right now. Listen to the poem, let me know what you think, and check out some of the music below that’s been in heavy rotation for me as of late.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Killer Mike!!!


I’ve written on here before (and elsewhere) about Killer Mike. Mike has an interesting story, and it’s really been personally inspiring to me. He first broke when he came up under Outkast. His first album went gold largely due to the impact of his single A.D.I.D.A.S. featuring Big Boi. From there, things took an unexpected turn.

Mike recorded an album called Ghetto Extraordinary, but it was never released. His label at the time shelved it, even though a single had gone to radio and was getting spins. Eventually, things soured with the label and after a brief stint with Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon record label, Mike went his own way.

Since then, he’s founded his own company, and has really been cementing his brand. I’m here to tell you that he’s been doing his thing very well. Mike is a great emcee, but what really inspires me about him is his brilliance. He is compelling, deep, open, and mature in his interviews, and I love getting that sense of depth.

I had a moment when I was recently in Atlanta and watching several interviews online where I just realized how similar our approaches are. Mike said that he is a fan of Hip-Hop culture first and foremost. I am a fan first of my endeavors (both within the culture and outside it) as well. We are both students of our crafts and their histories.

Mike recently released R.A.P. Music, his latest album. It’s produced by El-P, the former head of Def Jux. It’s a phenomenal album. I’m encouraging all of you to go out and actually BUY it. If you’re a fan of Hip-Hop and just dope music, you’ll enjoy it. I’ll never lead you wrong.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

MANIFEST Moves into the Summer

The eighteenth installment of Christian J. Collier’s MANIFEST series will offer two of its most rich and intimate performances to kick off the summer. Local singer/songwriter Amber Fults will be sharing the evening of June 9th with My Politic, an acoustic folk band hailing from Boston, MA.

Amber Fults is one of Chattanooga’s most acclaimed singer/songwriters. In addition to boasting one of the Scenic City’s strongest and most soulful voices, she is also one of its most skilled writers and has a number of accomplishments to her name. Recently, she and her band Amber Fults and the Ambivalent Lovers were finalists for the Road to Nightfall Competition. She released her debut album Center of My Heart in September of 2010 and has performed in some of the Southeast’s most renowned venues and festivals.

My Politic is a folk/Americana band that hails from Boston. Their music is reminiscent of artists such as Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes, and Dawes. They have been together since 2003 and recorded their first album A Few Words I Couldn't Find Yesterday when its members were only seventeen. Recently, they have been on tour for their latest album, American Will, which is their fourth release.

Both acts will play at The Camp House (1427 Williams St.) on June 9th. As is customary for MANIFEST, doors will open at 8 PM and the show will get underway at 9. A new twist for this edition of the series is that there is no fixed admission price. Patrons are encouraged to experience the show and contribute what they can or feel is appropriate for the musicians. For further information, Christian J. Collier can be reached at

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Collaborations! Pt. 2

Hey Everybody,

When we last left off, I’d just put the finishing touches on my part for the Collaborations Atlanta show. While I was doing my research though, I realized that I had fallen back in love with Hip-Hop. For some time now, I’ve tried to downplay the influence that the culture has had on me and I haven’t been really inspired by a lot of the material I was hearing from different rappers. However, over the past two months, that has changed. I was seated at my sister’s computer and I realized while watching some interviews from Atlanta’s own Killer Mike just how much influence Hip-Hop culture has had and continues to have, both on myself as well as MANY others. I’d lost sight of that for a while, and I’m ELATED to have reconnected.

So, switching gears slightly, not too long after I got myself together for the show, my sister came home. For the next hour, I laughed and ate with my niece and nephew, and it was such a wonderfully affirming experience. Being around them and in the midst of a house filled with love did wonders for my spirits before I had to leave to go make the DONUTS at The Beam.

Around 4:45, I set out to the venue for the dress rehearsal. When I got there, I had the opportunity to see a number of the people I would be sharing the stage with throughout the course of the night and what they would be doing. I saw dancers, rappers, video artists, etc. I took it all in and, honestly, felt really inspired. Inspired and ready to hit the stage.

Before too long, it was time for the show to begin. Consuela and I were the second act of the second set, so I sat in the audience and watched the first act in its entirety. I love being able to do that because I get to be a fan before I have to transform into a performer. I thoroughly enjoy that kind of duality. Best of both worlds, baby!

When the first half of the program was over, I relocated to the dressing room backstage to mentally prepare. There, I had a nice little conversation with a girl who was stretching out (she was going to be doing a capoeira demonstration later in the night). It was an unexpected gem, and it was cool to actually talk about what we were going to be doing while in the preparation process.

Eventually, it was go time. The host called my name, and I stepped out on the stage. I put my water down, fought with the microphone stand a little bit (broken mic stands are ALWAYS fun), and then it was on. I ran through the breaking poem, and I was completely in my zone. I executed both poems precisely the way I wanted to, and the crowd received them very well. I couldn’t have asked for more.

I have to say that it was INCREDIBLY HOT in the venue. I’m quite sure there was no air conditioning. When I walked off the stage, I was dowsed with sweat. I changed out of my dress shirt and into a wife beater, and then I reverted back to being a spectator.  I sojourned back to the audience to watch the rest of the show and had several people tell me along the way how much they enjoyed my performance.

Maybe twenty minutes or so later, the show was over. I got to talk to a few of the other acts, network, etc. It was big fun. The energy was fantastic. I’m really pleased with how everything turned out, and I’m still taken by what the experience provided me, which is way more than I touched on here. I’ve been telling everyone that I didn’t come back as a better artist per se, but, more importantly, I came back to Chattanooga as a better MAN.

Well folks, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll be back in touch shortly. Until then, be good, have fun, and keep positive energy around you!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Collaborations! Pt. 1


I just got back from Atlanta. The whole experience was amazing. It has also given me A LOT to roll over.

I drove down on Friday for the initial rehearsal. I arrived about twenty minutes before the scheduled run through time, so I checked out the venue and sat in the audience to feel things out. The space was amazing. It’s a very intimate venue, but just has great energy. I soaked that up off the bat.

I finally had the opportunity to meet Jamie Horban, who put the production together, as well as Ms. Consuela, my collaborative partner. Consuela is a photographer (you can check out some of her work below), and, prior to Friday, she and I had only corresponded maybe three times. It was great to be able to put an actual face with the invisible person I’d been swapping e-mails with.

Honestly, the purpose of our meeting on Friday was just to touch base and talk about the technical aspect of our presentation. It’s very necessary, especially when there are at least ten other acts touching stage also as was the case for our show.

Right before we parted for the day, I mentioned that my poem wasn’t five minutes long, so Jamie gave me the option to perform two. As a result, I knew that I had a good bit of homework to do. Consuela photographed b-boys, and if I was going to do two pieces, I wanted them to make sense with the visual. That meant that I had to pick out a good theme AND match it up with another apt poem. All of that had to occur in less than twenty-four hours. So, I did what any professional individual would do. I went to my sister’s house (where I was staying), took a painkiller for my back (it’s a gift from a car accident I was in back in 2010), and crashed out.

The next morning, I got up, and since I had the house to myself, I got to work. I looked at my poem, and then decided that it would be cool to do something that would enlighten people about the other four elements that the Hip-Hop culture was founded on. I watched some really interesting and informative videos, sketched out some ideas, and then it hit me: I have a poem about tagging (or doing graffiti). Why not perform both poems and tie them together with a quote?

Over the course of the next two hours, I read lots and lots of quotes on breaking, tagging, and Hip-Hop culture in general. Eventually, I found one from none other than Russell Simmons (why didn’t I start with Russ?). It was absolutely perfect.  It reads, “The thing about hip-hop is that it's from the underground, ideas from the underbelly, from people who have mostly been locked out, who have not been recognized.”
With all of that out of the way, I started rehearsing the whole thing. I ran through the pieces a few times, made some notes on what to keep, what to dump, etc. and after about twenty minutes, I had a pretty definitive idea of how my performance would go once I was up there in front of the crowd. It was an extremely productive morning/afternoon.
Stay tuned for part TWO!!!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Wrapping Up the Weekend

What a weekend it’s been! I’ve been grinding out my poem for the Collaborations Atlanta show that takes place THIS Saturday night! The piece is about breaking, so I’ve been in full Hip-Hop mode for the past few weeks. I’ve been consuming all things four elements, and it’s really been refreshing. I’ve also come across some outstanding quotes and documentary footage on breaking that have really resonated and inspired me.

In addition to banging out the piece, I’ve really enjoyed the serenity of the past few days. Yesterday, I took part in a book signing event that Mr. Ray Zimmerman (aka Ray-Z) put together. I got rid of a few copies of Ghosts & Echoes (which is always cool), gave away some MANIFEST t-shirts, and just really got to connect with a few people.

An author by the name of Jennifer Crutchfield sat next to me, and we had a blast. Our personalities are very similar, so we laughed, shared some stories, and just had a great time. It was really cool to have been there.

Today, I had lunch with an old friend who recently moved back to town. We ate, and I had the opportunity to show her a few things that have changed on Frazier Ave. since she’d been away. A stop by Winder Binder was made, and she purchased a copy of the chapbook.

We sat in the park for a little bit and I read some of the pieces from the book there in the heat with children running to and fro. As fate would have it, a passing couple ended up liking what I was doing, and made their way up to the bookstore to purchase the book as well. How does it get any better than that?

I’m truly honored by the continued support that I’ve had… particularly recently. As I’ve been working to shift my energy towards more positive people and opportunities, it seems like everything else has been opening up to welcome me. It’s been an amazing and humbling feeling. I’m really thankful. Your Friendly Neighborhood Christian has definitely been enjoying this current stretch of the transformation process.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012



Welcome to the month of May. We're already in the fifth month of 2012. Time's moving much too fast, but what can you do? It's been a little while since I've posted. I've been working on a number of projects (big surprise) and performing (bigger surprise). So, let me jump into what's been going down on my end.

I've been lining everything up for the Collaborations Atlanta show that will be taking place on the 12th of this month. I'm going to be heading down the day before for rehearsal, which should be fun. It will also give me the opportunity to meet the people I've only been corresponding with by e-mail, so I'm really looking forward to that.

There's been a change to the show for me though. The person I was originally going to collaborate with had another engagement, so I'll be working with a photographer. I'm in the process of writing a piece to come a bit closer to the theme of the photographs that she'll be showing. It gives me an opportunity to write about Hip-Hop and celebrate one of the four elements, so we'll see what happens... and, hopefully, we'll see DOPENESS!

Also, on June 28th, I'll be performing at The Hunter Art Museum. I'm not at liberty to say exactly what the performance will entail yet (I still have some things to cement before I can let the cat out of the bag), but it will be big fun, and truly something to see. Stay tuned for more details on that. The MANIFEST banner will be flying high!

Last Thursday night, I had the privilege of performing as a part of my dear friend Shane Morrow's Jazz Appreciation Month ceremony at the BMW dealership in town. I've never been there before, but it was a really cool layout. My job was uber easy. I gave a performance of my Mingus poem (which I STILL need to give a proper title to), and that went well. What I really enjoyed though was getting to hear the singers do their thing and hearing what the recipients of the awards had to say.

You know, I get called a lot of things (some of which are good! j/k), including a Hip-Hop poet every now and again. While I am very much a part of and influenced by Hip-Hop culture, I've always thought of myself as more of a jazz poet. A lot of the ways that I'll arrange the poems I deliver live mirrors horn sounds. Riffs, melodies, rhythms, etc. As a matter of fact, the first time that I performed in front of people was on the birthday of one of my biggest heroes and inspiration's birthday – Mr. Miles Davis.

I've always been a big fan of jazz. I love the juggernauts who pioneered different sounds and brought fresh ideas to the music, and I've always been intrigued by the works of jazz poets such as Yusef Komunyakaa (who is my favorite modern poet), Amiri Baraka (have you ever heard him scat while he reads?), and Bob Kaufman. So, having the chance to sit in a room with people who've devoted significant parts of their lives to the history and culture of jazz really meant a lot to me. I learned a great deal.

Speaking of learning, if you've been following the blog since last July, you know that I've written at length about trying to different parts of my life. I've really learned a lot about slowing down, turning my focus inward, letting go of things I don't have control over, etc. I realize just how fortunate I am to have people that in my life that completely believe in me and my talents. So, if you're reading this and you're a friend, a part of my family, or just a fan of my work, I sincerely appreciate you and your positive energy. It truly means, and has meant, the world to me.