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Sage Salvo: Honest, Vulnerable, and Reflective

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One of my favorite dreamers is @CourtneyMcSwain. She inspires me to DREAM! And one of my dreams is to share stories in front of a TEDTalks audience. Maybe from one of my mission trips. Maybe of some of my favorite photos through the years. Who knows.

So when I heard that Sage Salvo (@SageSalvo) was going to present his ART (his marriage of poetry & hip-hop) before a TEDtalks audience, I was instantly intrigued, envious, excited and pumped. And get this, he’ll be the FIRST African American to do so.

I was able to check out his performance last week in DC as he gave the community a preview of what he’d be sharing with the international TEDtalks audience. He also gave away a pair of tickets to the show. Too bad I didn’t win them. (maybe he has a heart and will give me some.

Anyway, you can check out his background here:

After reading about him, I wanted to know more! Check out some of our convo below!

Brother Sage, what’s in your cassette deck!? Well, you know what I mean.

It changes, but I’ve been heavy in Alternative. One of my favs is Vanessa Carlton. Her work is brilliant. And Love, of course, is the universal music. It also allows you to be honest, vulnerable, and reflective. The lack of love equity in hip hop is why I go through periods where I really aint feeling hip hop. Like right now, I don’t have a heavily rotated hip hop artist.

 Tell me about your book “Words Liive: Hip-Hop as a Forty Year Neo-Romantic Literary Period.”

I like the concept of ‘presenting words live in concert, like live in the moment’ It best reflects what we’re doing from a literature standpoint. Now, at the top level we’ve posited our analysis of hip hop lyrics as a Neo-Romantic period because of hip hop and the Romantic period’s sameness in social context. The Romantic Period is lead by William Wordsworth and is rooted in ‘The Age of Revolutions’. This period is the late 1700’s through the late 1800’s and even the early 1900’s if you consider the bleed over in America. The poets and creative writers of this era were functioning out of an elevated self awareness, a newly emboldened purpose to bring poetry to the street level by making it more tangible than cerebral, and a reaction to failed social contexts particularly in Europe. Hip hop’s birth, in the early 1970’s mirrors this context. NYC was bankrupt, replete with dissolved social programs, it was a failed state.

Platinum-selling artist Drake tweeted last week that he just received his High School diploma. You’re a PhD candidate, yet when many people think about ‘Hip Hop,’ formal education doesn’t come to mind. What are your thoughts on this?

This is a great question because on the surface it seems deep education doesn’t have a home in hip hop artistry. Sometimes the two even seem at odds. But, a more careful examination reveals deep very deep intellect of the street kind and the academic brand. For instance, Will Smith, remember him from the ‘Parents just don’t understand’ moment, scored a perfect score on his SAT verbal. 2 Chainz has a Masters degree and now Questlove is a professor at NYU.

How’s it feel to be the First American Hip-Hop Artist on a Ted Talk stage? What does this mean for Hip Hop?

The TEDtalk is going to be huge. When it goes viral I think the larger discussion will finally begin and we’ll be discussing the literary genius of hip-hop artists on a pop culture scale. This is definitely one of the goals. For too long the linguistic artistry of hip-hop has been relegated to ‘child’s play’ with words and completely elided in the conversation of ingenious literary content. So this is really a big moment for Hip Hop. I’m hoping it’ll be an important inflection point for the culture. I’m blessed to be included in the discussion.

Tell me about ‘Words Liive’…

For me, Words Liive, is a potentially revolutionary moment. Think for a moment, if educators on a mass scale, realized they can teach anything using student’s immediate context. That there is actual literary and philosophical genius in hip hop is a paramount shift of perspective and allows us to explore our history of literature, language, and philosophy through and connected to hip hop. So all of a sudden, T.S. Eliot is discernible, William Wordsworth becomes familiar, and Mary Wollstonecraft becomes relevant. I just think this gives us all a better ability to connect ideas.

Of course, give me your top five hip hop artists are all time

My evaluation method of hip hop artists is based on, a) Lyrical ability, b) artistic/creative depth, and c) a combination of passion, sincerity, and purpose. So from this my list goes:

1. Nas 2. Rakim 3. Tupac 4. Common 5. Jay Z

I always have to explain that Biggie would be on this list had his life been longer and that Jay is lower on my list than most because I think he doesn’t take enough creative risks. Along that vein of thought, Lil Wayne and Kanye are closing in on that 5th spot!

Finish this sentence: My message is…

My message is essentially wisdom then wealth, creativity and health. This has been my personal path and I think many artists, past and present, would be greatly benefited by ordering their artistic lives around these themes.

Today, I’m thankful to meet a FIRST.. thankful for Dreamers… and thankful for music in love. God bless.


About gjames432

Just me and just pictures and stories and stories and pictures.


3 thoughts on “Sage Salvo: Honest, Vulnerable, and Reflective

  1. Quick story!

    It took me a few days to post this because I was disgusted that anyone would put Jay Z at number 5. LIke really dude? #really And anyone who thinks NAS takes more creative risk than Jay Z is off their rocker. Plus, Rakim had what… 3 worthy albums? Same as Biggie. I don’t really rank Biggie that high myself, but I’m not sure Rakim should be always ranked so high. #sigh

    But, I would make concessions because of his C evaluation criteria. It’s funny that Sage doesn’t rank Andre 3000 in his top five. He seems to exemplify much of what Sage is looking for.

    Good list none the less.


    Posted by gjames432 | October 23, 2012, 10:53 am
  2. I understand that this blog was meant to showcase Sage, but it’s a reminder of how much you’re growing, and CMU is expanding.
    I don’t know who he is, but I’ll look him up.
    Nice work here, and you make us all proud 🙂

    Posted by Sharon D (@SharonfromNC) | October 23, 2012, 11:26 am

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