So that was something I’ve never done before. This past week, Iceland and Suriname co-sponsored (along with other partners) a two-day event at the United Nations called the Barbershop Conference, aimed at “changing the discourse among men on gender equality.” I was invited to perform and say a few words.

The concept was that it was a space to engage men (particularly men at the UN) around men’s roles in the struggle; unfortunately, that’s a pretty easy thing to misinterpret, and some of the early coverage presented that as “all the men are going to get together to solve gender inequity.” I’m happy to say that from what I saw, this definitely wasn’t the case. It was more about the importance of meaningful solidarity, and about bringing the conversation into spaces to which men have disproportionate access (while also challenging why that is in the first place).

As for a report-back, it’s really making me think about the different spaces in which the struggle for gender equity manifests. As some of my social justice-minded friends probably expect, the conference (from what I saw of it) was not perfect– it was pretty binary-centric, and while this was the UN, an even more intersectional lens would have been nice; all in all, it was fairly surface-level stuff, and like so many things, I find myself torn between critiquing that for being surface-y and applauding that for being a continuation and validation of the work that so many are doing in their communities on such a public, far-reaching stage.

There was some really good stuff, too. Phumzile Mlambo, Executive Director of UN Women, gave a powerful closing speech on how “achieving gender equality is about disrupting the status quo, not negotiating it,” and it was cool to see that kind of framework reflected at such a high policy-making level. The conference also made me reflect on how much impact more radical voices are having, and how the conversations being had on Twitter and in feminist spaces are definitely bleeding into this larger movement and shaping the larger narrative… sometimes slowly, but surely.

The key will be what happens next, obviously, in terms of concrete change, but it does really seem like the conversation– and the culture(s)– are shifting. I heard lots of mention of the importance of both dismantling/challenging our thinking about masculinity on an individual level, and the importance of challenging systems, structures, and institutional practices that silence, exclude, and harm women and gender-nonconforming people. I think that both/and framework is key. The host/moderator, Al Jazeera’s Femi Oke, also did a great job making sure that people spoke in concrete terms rather than platitudes. Again, we’ll see what happens next. I’m grateful to the Permanent Mission of Iceland to the UN for allowing me to take part.

You can watch the second day’s program here.

I wanted to kick off 2015 with something special. That’s the new video for “You Say Millionaire Like It’s a Good Thing,” one of two new Ganzobean-produced tracks on this new album. Adam J. Dunn made it.

The new album is a mix of some old songs, some new songs, some exclusive remixes and re-recordings, and some live poetry recordings. It also features design work by Rogue Citizen. Since I travel so much to perform but don’t exactly “tour” in the traditional sense, I wanted to be able to sell something that captured the best of what I’ve made, and I think this album does that. If you don’t know much about me or my work, it’s the perfect place to start. If you’ve been following me, there are a few surprises (listen for new verses, lyrical change-ups, and more). Either way, it’s free.

A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry by Guante

Here’s the official press release with a little more info, plus the lyrics to the song in the video:

Since moving to Minneapolis seven years ago, Guante has established himself as one of the sharpest, smartest and most consistently unique voices in the saturated Twin Cities hip hop scene. Now, after six albums, two National Poetry Slam championships, over a million YouTube views, three appearances on Upworthy, and performances at the Soundset Festival, First Ave. Mainroom, Hope Rocks gala, and a hundred other concerts, rallies, benefits, school assemblies and colleges, Guante is looking back in order to look ahead.

A LOVE SONG, A DEATH RATTLE, A BATTLE CRY is the capstone on the first phase of his career. Featuring brand new songs, exclusive remixes, a handful of spoken-word poems and a curated selection of the best songs Guante has made, this mix is the perfect introduction to his distinct blend of progressive politics, gallows humor, and storytelling prowess. Stirring, focused calls to action flow into achingly bittersweet love songs flow into meditations on working class identity and much more, through metaphorical lenses as diverse as superheroes, motherhood, graffiti, zombies and getting struck by lightning (literally). Guest appearances include Chastity Brown, deM atlas, Kristoff Krane, Claire de Lune, and Lydia Liza (not to mention a brief appearance from Haley Bonar).

There isn’t a lot of “conscious” rap this honest and down-to-earth, nor a lot of “alternative” rap this well-crafted and creative, nor a lot of “political” rap this focused and specific. That’s what the title of the project is all about—creating work that functions on all three levels: human, creative, meaningful. Connected to real emotions, a little bit weird, always seeking to build something. A love song, a death rattle, a battle cry.

The mix is available now, for free. It is both the companion piece and opening act for Guante’s book (of the same name), coming soon. For more information, see http://www.guante.info.

YOU SAY MILLIONAIRE LIKE IT’S A GOOD THING

This place is a prison and these people aren’t your friends
Ain’t no postal service when it’s always Sunday in your head
Letters unsent, burnin’ that blunt at both ends
In the break room ready to break
Halfway to broke, halfway to broken down
This job makes you nauseous; you try to hold it down
And they will take every opportunity to comment on your luck
‘cause in this economy you got to be like bottom’s up
even when you know it’s poison, yo: you feelin’ well?
Like a body that’s so hungry it begins to eat itself?
Bootstraps so tight you can’t admit to needin’ help,
on the real, feel like hell and you want it to all stop
Jackass co-workers makin’ small talk
Try to stay focused, you casually glance at your watch
and see that you are halfway, to being halfway
to being halfway done with half of half of your day

Punch that clock ‘til it bleeds
It feels like they’re tryin’ to break us
They tell you to follow your dreams,
but your alarm is going off, wake up

All of my life I been lied to:
just found out my boss makes 500 times what I do
and still wants to cut my hours back
to 39 and three quarters ‘cause 40 gets you a health plan
And I got a feelin’ I’m a need it
Losin’ feelin’ in my knees and my lower back
and I’m going back, trapped like a lower class clown
Hold a rat down, so we kill each other over cheddar
Keep us hungry so we never organize for nothing better
Just make it through the day, make it through the week,
make it through the month,
make a millionaire another couple bucks
What, and like that, the coffee buzz is gone
It’s only 9:30, step by step with the other pawns
One square at a time,
somewhere between the walking dead and the buried alive
You can’t steal what’s already been stolen
You can’t kill what is already dead
So if we got to be zombies, let’s snatch the CEO
and see if there is a brain in his head, until then…

Punch that clock ‘til it bleeds
It feels like they’re tryin’ to break us
They tell you to follow your dreams,
but your alarm is going off, wake up

So if you got a dollar in your pocket, put your hands in the air
Ten dollars in your pocket, put your hands in the air
If it’s a hundred or a thousand that’s fair
But there’s no such thing as an innocent millionaire

If you got a dollar in your pocket, eat a taco
Ten dollars; buy some peanut butter and some bread
If you got a hundred or a thousand you can stock up
But a million may as well be human flesh

If you got a dollar in your pocket, drink some water
If you got ten, have a beer with your lunch
If you got a hundred or a thousand, you can dig your own well
And for a million, you can drink all the blood you can suck

That dollar in your pocket is an insult
Ten dollars in your pocket ain’t enough
The reason that so many of us are have-nots,
is that the haves have way too much
Let’s get ‘em