Art should be an inspirational journey that engages the audience and evokes emotion. Art provokes thought and conversation. I first saw Deonte Scott perform at Popcorn & Poetry. It was a showcase of great spoken word performers, and Deonte was front and center bringing the crowd alongside him as he spit knowledge about struggle, race, and hope. It was amazing. Deonte also performed at the Urban Ballet last year which gave a fresh twist to incorporating dance with rap lyrics curated by the legendary Tupac Shakur. He impressed us again with so much emotion, some of us even fighting tears.
Words are the most impactful commodity we have as individuals. They have the power to change the trajectory of our lives. Deonte understands this gift, and has a few gems of wisdom to drop for us in his own words.
Who is Deonte Scott?
I’m from Chicago (Chi-town!) and grew up there, but have been in Houston for about 10 years. I moved to Houston after visiting some friends and saw more opportunity here. I loved it and thought it was a great place to relocate to. I never thought I would leave Chicago, but when I came down here one December and it was 80 degrees outside, I was sold. I currently work in HR in the oil and gas industry. I also have a passion for writing poetry and performing spoken word.
When did you first discover your talent of writing poetry and performing spoken word?
It had to be my freshman year of college in 1997. I saw an episode of Def Poetry and one of my favorite hip hop artists, Common, performed. It was amazing and I wondered if it was something I could do. I pondered on the idea for a few days. While in my dorm room, I grabbed a pen and paper and began writing to see if it could make sense. My first poem was about 8-16 bars and very elementary, simplistic. I wrote more and more and participated in open mic nights reading my poetry off paper.
What is your process for creating a new poem?
The inspiration comes from many different avenues. I find the best time for me is when I am driving. Most of my poems have been written in the car, not all at one time. I get these different thoughts and memorize them so I can jot them down in my phone. Sometimes I am inspired by a certain situation, person, or scenario. I try to put myself in that scenario to make it more realistic and base my poetry off that experience in hopes that I can help someone else.
How do you move past writer’s block?
Writer’s block is tough, man. I have set aside time where I’m going to write for three hours and whatever comes from it comes from it. At the end of those three hours I have six lines. They don’t work together or make sense. I would say do something else that you enjoy to clear your head. Continue to live life, because that is where inspiration flows. It will come naturally, when I force myself it never works. I can be at work in a meeting, thinking of shit. I really admire people who live their passion 100% because the times when you’re most creative, you’re at work. From 5:30am to 3:30pm is when my mind is most creative. By the time I get off work, I have excerpted so much energy, that now I’m working on 40% capacity. It’s tough but you have to find other avenues to release and take your mind off of that.
What would you say you are trying to communicate through your content?
I have poems that are inspirational because of some struggles that I have dealt with personally. I tend to find the blessing in every bad situation. I want to show someone that may have went through the same thing that there is a way out. There is light at the end of the tunnel. As of late, my poetry has went from being more faith-based to concentrating on the current events that have transpired in the last couple years. The increase in killings of African American men has shifted my poetry to show “resistance” and put content out that could give people a voice that didn’t have one. It really depends on the premise of the poetry and can range from inspirational to black power to fight the power to love.
How has the current climate in today’s society influenced your poetry?
Nina Simone said “It is an artist’s duty to reflect the times”. If you are an artist and you’re not reflecting the times that you are living in, then you are doing yourself and your art a disservice. When I wrote The Struggle, that’s the times I was living in. My world revolved around my faith because I had nothing else. Transitioning to my Damage Control album, I felt other things because I finally had a handle on my faith. As a black man, seeing other black men get murdered, I wondered if it could be me. Eight months from now, who knows what I will be writing about? It depends on the mental space I’m in.
What is your favorite piece and why?
My favorite piece is The Struggle because that poem is near and dear to my heart. When I wrote that, I was living that. At the time, I was laid off from work and it was a challenge to do anything. I couldn’t do certain things and I was low on the radar. Every line was reality.
What has been your breakout moment in your career thus far?
That’s easy! When I was selected to be on TV One’s Lexus Verses and Flow: Season 4. I felt that I had arrived. My friend convinced me to perform in a show in 2011, and I had never performed by memorization. That lit a fire to continue to improve. Versus and Flow was a dope concept and like a revamped Def Poetry. I tweeted people from the show and reached out constantly. The show created a website for auditions and from there I auditioned for Season 2-4. I was rejected for Season 2 and 3. I admit I was salty because I felt I had it. I wrote a poem called Run and when you put something out in the universe and God hears you, he will give it to you. I ended up recording my audition the night of the submission deadline. I taped my iPhone to my wall and started recording. Two weeks later I got the call to be on the show. That whole experience let me know I was ready. Check him out HERE.
What is your advice to individuals pursuing their passions and other artists that want to do spoken word?
I would say the best thing that you can do is not try and compare yourself to anyone else. When you try and compare yourself to everyone else, you are not being your authentic self. Your art is YOUR art and someone needs it. When you fully commit to who you are and put that full commitment into your art, then the purpose will be fulfilled. When you compare yourself to other artists and make their style your style, you aren’t fulfilling the talent that has been birthed inside you. Commit to you. Understand your path and journey is not going to be like the next. Their journey may be faster than yours or vice versa. Stay in your lane and continue to push forward.
What is important for an artist to thrive?
Number 1, you have to love it. Money can’t be the driving force. If it’s about the money, you won’t be working. The first year you will have to give more away so people know what your “product” is. Take time to be by yourself to be a creative. Don’t always feel you have to be around people, because it can be a distraction to the creative process. When you have purpose with art, you see art in everything. Like “look at that bird yo, LOOK AT THAT BIRD”. Don’t be afraid to tend to something right away. Sometimes if you let an idea or thought pass you will lose it.
It is an artist’s duty to reflect the times – Nina Simone
What continues to drive you?
I have realized that this is not just a hobby anymore. This is part of my purpose in life. To be a voice for those who don’t have that voice or those that may not have the courage. The biggest compliment that I received while performing is when someone came up to me and said “Dude I went through the exact same thing, you were speaking to my soul”. That’s the best compliment an artist could want because if one person gets it, you’ve done your job. Knowing how powerful that can be gives you more sense of purpose to change the world. Each one teach one. Some people hover in their shell and when they hear you, it gives them a release. That’s what keeps me going. Something funny – I get this feeling before each show where I want to gag (from nerves) and I know that when that feeling does go away, then my purpose is fulfilled.
What would you like people to know about you as an artist?
I want them to know that what I do on stage and what I put out as a writer can be hard. I feel such a responsibility attached to it that everything needs to be perfect. I take so much pride in my content. When you take it as serious as I do, you don’t put bullshit out. When you care about it, that’s what makes you like the greats of our time.
What do you enjoy doing outside of poetry?
Man, I really love to just relax. I like to people watch and find inspiration in the little things. I do like to workout and spend time with my wife. I am very easy-going and am not really the loud turn up type. I like to live an easy life. You stay out of trouble, you live longer. [laughs]