One of the amazing things about social media is how it enables the keeping tabs on friends and by reverberation, their friends. Last year one of my childhood best buds, Steve Nishida posted a link to and episode of the PBS show, Tavis Smiley. One of the guests of the show, he said, was a former classmate of ours at West High School in Torrance, California. The last name of the guy sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place the first name. I clicked on the interview and immediately recognized the face. The 20-something years that passed since I last saw him had not had much affect on his face — he seriously hasn’t aged — but had changed his name as well as built up an extraordinary career rooted in words.
I was thrilled when Shihan Van Clief agreed to be a guest on this episode of the podcast — not only because it offered an excuse to catch-up, but also because we’ve never had a poet on the show before which meant the opportunity to gain knowledge from a creative type who’s walking yet another path of craft. We talked about community, the hustle of being an artist, and how being raised by a single father, writing to earn books as a child, and splitting his coming of age time between the multi-cultural lower east side of the late 80’s New York and the predominantly white, beach suburb of Los Angeles in the early 90’s, created a successful wordsmith.
I didn’t know Shihan well when we were teenagers, but am so happy to know him a little better now. You’ll have to indulge us a bit while we spend a bit of time reminiscing, but I promise we spend the majority of time talking about the art and craft of a life of spoken word.
Along with being the 1st and only poet to have a poem named ‘download of the week’ on iTunes; this National Poetry Slam Champion and 4X National Poetry Slam Finalist has been featured on a variety of media outlets including 7 appearances on 6 seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry, NBC, Oxygen Network, Current TV, Nike Battlegrounds, Reebok, Adidas, NBA, CNN, ESPN, Complex and Billboard Magazine, several national commercial spots, 5 National Tours including the Tony Award Winning Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry Jam International Tour and 2 Spoken Word documentaries, SP!T and the sequel to 1997’s cult doc Slam Nation, Slam Planet.
Shihan was also the 1st ‘Poet’ to sign an exclusive Sponsorship deal with Sports Giant, adidas and he is the current voice for The Sprite Street Mix, a radio program broadcasted in over 14 countries in Africa. His abilities to transcend cultural and generational boundaries have made Shihan a much sought after talent.
Produced by: Vickie Howell
Edited & Mixed by: Dave Campbell
Music Provided by: Explosions in the Sky
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