A Chicago Fire in Houston
Spoken word artist Deonte Scott releases second EP ‘Damage Control’
amid captivating performance
As if the night’s spectators aren’t already on edge anticipating the return of spoken word artist Deonte Scott, the faint sputter of a smoke machine sends forth a small, thick mist from stage left. The cloud of gas follows a montage of surveillance videos and mourning parents who have frequented the news over the past few years–the martyrs and catalysts of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Another sputter is heard throughout the small theater, sending up another billow of smoke. The crowd, perched from the red-cushioned seating, has no idea that, behind the curtain, there is no engineer or stagehand adding to the drama of the already tense moment. Scott is there himself, firmly pressing the vintage fog machine to signal the fury to come from his closing piece entitled “Don’t Trust ‘Em.”
Symbolic of his attitude towards building his own artistic career, Scott is the kind of artist who doesn’t wait for anyone else to pave the path, to press the button. He is the type of creative who sends forth his own smoke, without complaint or apology, to inform the world that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
…He ends with a warning
…he did not kill himself.
And, fire is exactly what Scott spewed from the stage as a final protest for the audience to not only believe in his testimony as a Black man, but to honor the testimonies of countless Black men whose final protest ended, instead, with the smoking of a gun. In a calm fury, Scott reminds the audience about the importance of Black lives and the misrepresentation of those we’ve lost, all the while sporting a long scarf of the American flag. Holding his audience captive, his voice booms and dies, successively, while symbolic red and blue stage lights flash across his face. He ends with a warning–an urban PSA of sorts–stating that if he is ever taken unjustly into custody (i.e. Sandra Bland), “[He] did not kill [himself].”
Our final image of Scott is of him twirling the American flag about his wrist, throwing up his fist in Black Power protest and simultaneously hanging himself.
…He did not meet his biological father
until he was 15 years old…
Scott’s performance is timely, to say the least. Artists from across the nation are paying homage to those who have been murdered and brutally attacked by police officers. For this artist, though, tonight’s performance is more personal. Scott is a native Chicagoan who grew up poor as the youngest of five children in the notoriously dangerous Robert Taylor Homes. Just outside his front door, he not only witnessed the brutality of Black men by police, but the disproportionate percentage of Black on Black crime, which he sees as an unfortunate contradiction to the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Scott is no stranger to the stumbling blocks that befall many Black men in Chicago (He did not meet his biological father until he was 15 years old and flunked out of his first year of college). But, he was able to persevere through the guidance of an older brother, an “overprotective” mom and what he says is, “God’s covering,” all the while watching many of his peers fall into a Chicago funk of sorts.
When asked how his message could influence Black culture in his hometown, he said that he hoped to show them that the “world‘s so much bigger than the five-mile radius of your block[s].” After rebounding from a weak collegiate start where he said that “culture shock” and lack of “discipline” were his greatest pitfalls, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Chicago State University before going on to earn his MBA.
Scott has, in fact, proved that the world is much bigger than the drug-infested neighborhoods where he grew up. Now thriving both professionally and creatively in Houston, Scott remains grounded in his personal truths, triumphs and tragedies in order to create a message through his poetry. He uses each of his experiences, as well as his spiritual connection with God, to create art purposefully, saying, “God’ll talk to you… let the poetry create itself.”
…Scott’s familiarity with the struggle
is what motivates him to invest in himself…
While Scott seems to have found his artistic purpose, he admittedly cringes at remembering his first poetic attempts, which were heavy laden with romanticism and idealized proclamations of love. Once he became serious about the art and inspiration of poetry, Scott claims that he “classically conditioned” himself not to focus on cliché topics, which is why he says that he has strayed so far from romantic poetry in recent years. Though, after a triumphant performance on TV One’s spoken word showcase “Verses & Flow,” a renewed spirit about his inspirations, and his new fiancé, the poet plans to dedicate his next EP to love. What Scott once thought would hold him back and discredit him as a writer, he now believes will liberate and “elevate him as an artist.”
Judging by the undeniable support Scott has received from his many fans and followers, he can afford to take whatever creative risks he’d like. Many fans showed up to the event already touting their favorite Houston poet by wearing “Damage Control” T-shirts – the title of his latest EP. Full of inspiration and plenty of self-reflection, “Damage Control” is an appropriate follow-up to the artist’s first EP, “The Struggle,” where he details his life’s difficulties.
Although he is riding high on his newfound success, Scott’s struggle and humility is still evident, even throughout his own album release party. While most artists would bask in the spotlight and expect a team of people to be at his beck and call, Scott was seen, just moments before curtain call, toting water bottles to attendees. He even politely cut the hired photographer short, uninterested in taking very many personal photographs, despite the fact that he was the man of the hour.
Scott’s familiarity with the struggle is what motivates him to invest in himself, provide complimentary champagne as a “thank you” to his many guests, selflessly promote and share the stage with a bevy of other up-and-coming poets and musicians and, in an admirable philanthropic effort, donate proceeds from his show to the Ronald McDonald House of Houston, where families of sick children receive room and board in close proximity to hospital facilities. Scott won’t claim sainthood, but his faith and humility are evident in all he does.
When asked about his goal as an entertainer, he believes he will have “peaked” when he is able to “use words as a tool and not just entertainment.” Scott may not be as far from the mountaintop as he thinks.