Best Spoken-Word Poet: Sexy metaphors and smart love ballads

Rupert Estanislao

Forget the nine galaxies orbiting around your chocolate mustachioed skin, the fire-and-brimstone narratives about my ancestors who died because of your ancestors, and the dude who likes to rhyme about cunnilingus — thanks, but we’ve heard it all before. Actually, spoken-word poets are sexiest when they’re not trying to showboat — when, in fact, they seem completely unaware of what they’re saying. Which is true of Rupert Estanislao, that baby-faced neo-hoodlum from the East Bay outfits Suicide Kings and Proletariat Bronze. Born in the Philippines and currently living in Oakland, he loops his personal desire for home into his longtime romance with international street punk cultures (incidentally, he also sings in the Vallejo punk band Eskapo). What’s best about Rupert is that he is always straining to say what is unsayable, in a tone and form so angry it’s liable to burn straight through the audience’s brains. On one of his signature numbers, “Empress,” he rasps: I would breathe this poem down her mouth, to mend her broken English … Because all Asian women in this world should be called ‘Empress.’ Now how’s that for a love ballad?

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