At the Bar with TJ Medel

Timothy "TJ" Medel is a spoken word artist whose wit and humorous daring has caught the eyes of several fans on YouTube as well as the Blasian Narrative.  It was an immeasurable pleasure to complete this interview with him on July 25, 2011.

I first learned about you when one of our authors on the Narrative posted the "Chocolate" performance which garnered a lot of immediate attention. I then spent forever tracking down your name. So, once and for all, I think it's time people got to know...who is this great TJ Medel?

I'm originally from New Jersey but now I reside in Bryant, Arkansas. I'm 23 now and my ethnicity is full Filipino. I'm currently in college at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock and I'm working on my Bachelor's in Fine Arts.

How in the universe did you wind up in Arkansas??? Does it at least have a decent spoken word scene?

My family moved out to Arkansas when I graduated high school. I spent one year at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York. After that, I decided to join my family because I had missed them and I didn't think that acting school was for me. Arkansas' spoken word scene is very limited. In the whole state, I'm aware of only around 5 venues that promote spoken word. I'm in a spoken word group called Foreign Tongues that is trying to grow it.

How did you get involved with spoken word? Who are your influences? What is it you hope to achieve with your art?

My best friend actually introduced me to it and from there the rest was history. She and I would go around to venues all over New Jersey until we were discovered by some of the best Spoken Word artists in New Jersey. I'm honored to actually say that Def Poet Big Mike, Def Poet Gemineye, Def Poet Flowmentalz, D the Skitzophrenic, Rasheed Adero, and Myra Mcdonald are a few of the names that have influenced my origin. All I hope to do with my art is change the world, in every sense of the world. I'm not trying to save it, just change it by entertaining. If someone needs a laugh then i'm there. If someone needs to know what they feel like in words, I'm there. My art heals me and in turn i give back by healing others no matter what the subject.

So far, I've seen two performances of yours. "Arcade" appears to be extremely popular. It's so clever and in-depth. How did you compose "Arcade" and how long did it take you?

"Arcade" took 1 hour to write after my first spoken word experience. Def Poet Uncle Shappy did a geek poem and it was the first time I had ever heard a poem be funny. From there I went home and wrote "Arcade" in one sitting. Not only is it my signature piece, I call it my purest one because of how it came about. There are close to no edits in the poem and it is the best representation of who I am.


I'm really intrigued by your creative process. I can't believe "Arcade" - in all its wondrous complexity and cleverness - took you just an hour to write. Can you tell me more about your method?

Pure. I'm an avid gamer. I love playing video games. It's been in my blood every since I was little. It only seem natural to write about what I know very well. My method is very simple: write what you know and let it flow. I try to make sure that about 90 percent of my poems are true in some way, shape, or form. Now the performance aspect is something that I have to thank my mentors for. They really showed me that I could really perform the poem to it's full potential and it never fails to make me breathless by the end. Everything you see in that poem is ME. I could even go so far as to say that that poem has my soul in it.

Over on the Narrative, fans want to know what happened after the "Chocolate" performance. Were you approached? Did you get any phone numbers?

The funny thing about that is that EVERY TIME I perform "Dippin' in the Chocolate", I always get approached. If you listen closely my number is in the poem and I normally get called later. One woman I was dating was very cool with it but every time I would perform it, her face was just priceless. Now coming up with it wasn't easy; it was a journey.  At one point in time I had a serious case of jungle fever and I definitely needed to write about it.


How long did the "Chocolate" piece take you to write? And tell us a little more about this woman who struck you down with the "fever".

"Dippin in the Chocolate" took a year to write. It started as a writing exercise at the 2008 Southern Fried Poetry Slam. I had a very rough draft at first but it was all there. Then when I got home I tried writing it in so many versions. Finally, the song "Slow Jamz" by Twista came on and it was a wrap. It totally tapped into my creative juices and completed the piece for good. That piece along with another poem, "Question", would help me win the 2009 Southern Fried Individual Poetry Slam. It seemed right that where it started is where it would win.

Now, it wasn't a woman that struck me since it was more so WOMEN. At Southern Fried, I'm usually one of the few poets there of Asian decent and being surrounded by beautiful black women for 5 days can definitely take a toll on you. Hence, the piece "Dippin in the Chocolate".

For those of us who are clueless, what goes into organizing a spoken word show? I read that you've help set these up before.

Organization and a lot of preparation. Not to mention a lot of practice. It helps if you have a very strong and rich artistic scene. One big challenge that I'm still trying to master is hosting. It takes so much work to get that one part down and to be honest I just love performing at shows.

What are your currently working on? What would you suggest fans do to support spoken word projects?

A lot. Every day I try to write and hope to come across the next piece that I can use that I feel is worthy to perform. Even though I feel that everything should be performed, I was an actor before I was a poet. So I feel that all my work should be ready for the stage.

The best suggestion I have for fans is to GO OUT AND LISTEN AT OPEN MICS!!! Support your local venues by participating or becoming an audience member. Not to mention that they always have product in some way shape or form. We are all starving artists and it just helps to know that someone appreciates your work.

When and where is your next performance?

I never know where I will perform next. It's always up in the air. The unfortunate part about me is that I don't promote myself to go on the road at all so most of my performances are local unless it's for competition. One thing that I know for sure is that I'm auditioning for the musical "Once Upon A Mattress" at my college. But I'm never opposed to anyone trying to book me :D

What are your hopes for your future in spoken word? What goals have you set for yourself?

I would like to go on tour when I get the time. Right now college is my main focus. Although I'm not opposed to any offers out of state, it's just hard to schedule shows around college courses. Especially, when your major takes a good amount of your time. I also would like to go to every Poetry Regional in the US to see what other sounds are there. I take pride in being a Spoken Word artist and it has helped me a lot but my goal is my degree. I just need to graduate college first and that my focus. Once that's done, the sky's the limit.

TJ, bro...it's been great having you here at the bar.

Once again, thank you very much!!!

Comments

  1. He offered to do it by hologram.

    *sigh* I like the quirky ones.

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  2. Your investigative skills are top notch. He sounds like a true artist.

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  3. @ modest-goddess

    *shrugs* We make a good team. Would never have gotten this without you.

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  4. The funny thing about that is that EVERY TIME I perform "Dippin' in the Chocolate", I always get approached.

    Called it!

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  5. Ok so I watched the video. Baby-boy is too funny! I loved it.

    And yes you can get an ASIAN!

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  6. I'm convinced that everyone used to blow on their Nintendo cartridges to make the games work.

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  7. Great interview. He's a wonderfully quirky individual and ya gotta give him props.

    @Modest-Goddess...HELL FREAKIN' YEA! Atari and Sega too!

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  8. He's very clever, intelligent, creative and interesting. Can't beat that combo. I laughed my ass off @ his confirmation of the theory over @ the Narrative that he was getting some digits.

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  9. Dude put his own digits in the poem. That's a braaaaaaave man.

    Clever too.

    I'm amused that even while he was taken, he still performed this poem...with his digits in it. Playa!

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  10. Hahaha. I was in "Once Upon a Mattress" in highschool. I love that musical.

    I enjoyed this interview. I like quirky (i.e. weird) artsy people because I'm one of them. Lol.

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  11. I am watching this in China and YouTube is blocked so takes ages to upload so all my neighbors could here was I wanna go dipping in chocolate super load ten times whilst I waited for it all to upload. Was awesome made me smile and proud to be a sweet as chocolate black woman xxx

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  12. P.s I have to show my Japanese husband this he will love it xx

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