Sekou Andrews is a poet, writer, producer, and an actor. Before he took part in this week’s Zócalo/Da Poetry Lounge spoken word performance and conversation, “Does Democracy Need Poets?,” at ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles, Andrews chatted in our green room about his voice, his favorite failure, and Destiny 3000.
What does a good poet voice sound like to you?
A lot of times people find their voice at spoken word venues. And they end up imitating the poet that they connected with most. And so I think that it's most powerful when a poet begins to transition from that imitative voice to truly finding their authentic voice, who they are, what they sound like, what makes them different.
Do you have a poet whose voice you grew from or just found inspiration in?
I had that in hip-hop. I watched hip-hop grow and evolve and the different sounds that were a part of it. I went through the consciousness phase and the backpack phase and the gangster phase. You can hear over my albums, my hip-hop voice changing a little bit with the times. I think that is what gave birth to me finding my authentic voice through spoken word poetry.
What is your favorite failure?
My favorite failure has got to be the relationship that ended and broke my heart before I met my wife. I had just quit my job and was on the cusp of releasing my second double CD, filled with love bombs about my girlfriend, who I was preparing to propose to, and she broke up with me. I was devastated. And it suddenly put me in this place of you are creating a path where you are going to have to perform love poems about the person that just broke your heart in order to make your living. But it is through that failure, it is through that heartbreak, that I ended up meeting my wife, the true love of my life.
What did you want to be growing up?
A car designer. All I ever did was try to go to car shows; I was super excited to go with my dad, and look at all the concept cars, and then I would go and design my own cars. I remember one of them was called the Destiny 3000.
Who are five people, alive or dead, that you’d invite to your dream dinner party—and what would you serve?
I'm 100% certain that this answer will evolve throughout the rest of this week, but for now:
Malcolm X, Jesus Christ, Barack Obama, Queen Latifah, and Andre Gibson.
I will serve jambalaya with non-pork sausage because I can very rarely find that, and it is my favorite dish. And there will definitely be some kind of sweets and desserts.
What’s your best low-stakes hot take?
Toilet paper—under or over? There are people that put it over and then there are people that should be banished from the Earth.
How has poetry inspired you to action?
There's a line in one of my spoken word pieces about the power of finding your voice that says: “You are what you say, so don't say what you do, until you do what you are.” That encompasses my relationship with words and actions. When you commit your life to be the voice for something, that is your action. I built my business off of my voice; I feed my family off of my voice; I've defined my entire career off of my voice. It is the way that I spring into action. And yet at the same time, I also have to hold myself responsible when there are times where there is an action that is needed beyond just using that voice.