Poetry served as the first of several forms of expression presented by students from Howard University (HU) during the inaugural event of The Flow that kicked off homecoming festivities at the historic Black university in Northwest.
Celebrated HU graduate Omar Tyree, New York Times bestselling author, NAACP Image Award recipient and Phyllis Wheatley Literary Prize winner, unveiled “The Howard University FLOW,” featuring poetry and hip-hop and soul music on the stage of Cramton Auditorium on Monday, Oct. 17.
Talent featured during The FLOW included HU students, chosen during auditions led by Tyree in partnership with two other alums, Walter “Rap” Pearson, founder of the nonprofit College Bound Parenting and Amos Drummond, founder of Tenable Music Urban, a music publishing and distribution firm.
In addition to dancers, also chosen during the auditions, and HU alum and comedian Rallo Boykins, who served as the co-host with Tyree, the stars of the show included (stage names): Jordan Curls, Tressure Kay, Ty with the Beannie, Jus Josh, OMG Banko, Jaziyyahh, Prxphecy and Vibe Enthusiast.
Tyree said he wanted to begin with poetry because of the power that words have on listeners.
“It’s no mic, no beats – just you and the words. I like poetry but you’ve got to be able to rock the crowd with your words,” he said, pointing to The Last Poets and Tehut#9, poets of the past and a current poet, born in Jamaica who now lives in Brooklyn, respectively, as examples of stellar wordsmiths.
The HU FLOW continued with soul music, performed by several bands and then hip-hop entertainers.
“Hip-hop has taken over the world but when it’s part of a show I produce, I insist that the rappers come with clean lyrics,” Tyree said. “We’ve done The FLOW several times but this is the first time we’ve brought it to Howard.”
“I’ve wanted to get involved in music for many years and finally decided that I could really get a foothold in the business by promoting a live show with young people – youth doing their own stuff, their own songs – seeing who can hold their own in front of a live audience,” he said.
Tyree said he’s been motivated by having the opportunity to discover new talent and set them on the road to future stardom.
“My business partners and I were committed to making sure the music is hot and the acts are the very best. Then, we put them in front of an audience while also sharing the event on other mediums to gain more viewers. Hopefully, we can become hit makers like what’s happened on shows like American Idol,” said Tyree, who first tried out the idea locally at Busboys and Poets at Tacoma Station before approaching Howard University.
“We knew we had outgrown the venue but we didn’t want to market the event for just a few hundred people because we would have had to spend thousands of dollars and lose money because the site couldn’t accommodate the size for the audience we needed. So, we combined our funds without sponsors and presented it at Howard this year. Next year, we hope it will be bigger and better.”
“We want people to come to future versions of The FLOW and enjoy the music, the lyrics and the words. And we have a ‘keep it clean policy’ so that anyone can come regardless of their age. I want to help young people get back to pure music with a hot beat and a hot concept. That’s why we focus on the flow with real, authentic, lyrical skills and hot beats,” Tyree said.
You can see the Howard University FLOW event on YouTube, Hot Lava Entertainment TV and Facebook.