Fantastic Voyage: One-on-one with Motown Poet Urban Legin’d Obasaki

Our series on the ten poets you should know continues; next is the Detriot-raised poet Urban Legin’d Obasaki. “The name Obasaki is a blend of Japanese and Yoruba cultures. Oba is the Yoruba word for King, and Saki is the Japanese word for destination. The two together translate to King’s Destination,” he said.

PrideIndex became familiar with his outstanding work this past summer when he competed in Black Alphabet and The Esteem Awards’ poetry slam and placed third.

After a few hiccups, we finally secured a late Sunday evening interview. Here’s what he shared about the first time he competed in slam, whom his poetry speaks to, and more.

PrideIndex: I am talking with Mr. Urban Legin’d Obasaki. How are you today, sir?

Urban Legend Obasaki: I’m doing pretty good.

PI: Tell me about your journey. Did you attend school for writing or any of the arts? If so, where?

ULO: I’m a product of the Detroit Public School System (DPS). I did not specifically go to school for writing or arts. My love of writing came from my teachers throughout my school career. At different intervals, I was always pushed to write. I always needed clarification. I always questioned why they were pushing me to write so much. At various points in my school career, I didn’t believe I was a good writer. But my teachers were always telling me that I should pursue writing. I never stopped learning, and the teachers always encouraged me. Ultimately, I took a second look at what I had been doing and realized I wanted to pursue it. It wasn’t like I had a profound epiphany. It was just that my teacher’s words of encouragement finally hit me over several years. I was working a regular job and began wondering what I was doing with my life. I was wondering if that job was what I wanted to be doing. I just remembered what all my teachers and professors had been saying and thought, what if that’s it? Then, I decided to give it a shot.

PI: Tell me about the name Obasaki; do you have some Asian or maybe Japanese influence in choosing that name?

ULO: The name Obasaki is a blend of Japanese and Yoruba cultures. Oba is the Yoruba word for King, and Saki is the Japanese word for destination. The two together translate to King’s Destination.

PI: I take it that you’re a very spiritual person.

ULO: Yes. Well, the name was given to me a while ago and is stuck. I’ve been performing under the name ever since.

PI: Tell me about the first time you competed in a slam, and when was that?

ULO: It was 2021 when I first completed a slam, but I didn’t have the best outcome. I had been writing for a while, and people told me I should compete. I decided to give it a shot, and I did not win. It was a local slam, The Half-A-Stack Poetry Slam, run by Joel Fluent Greene in Detroit, Michigan. He had several local poets and spoken word artists I had never heard of, and it was just my first foray into the slam arena. Honestly, I did pretty decent. There were only three rounds, and I made it to the second round. Though I didn’t make it to the final round, the experience pushed me to keep writing and getting better at performing my work. That’s what I’ve continued to do.

PI: Now, tell me about the first time you competed and actually placed or won.

ULO: Honestly, I first placed at the Chicago slam with Black Alphabet and PrideIndex. No, hold on. That is not entirely true. There have been other more minor local slams. I forgot about the Oakland University Slam that I did. I also did other smaller regional competitions, which were weekly events, but I still needed to do something on a major stage. Yours was the first major slam I had placed and won a prize.

PI: Wow. So, we were the first major slam you placed and received a cash prize! Okay. So why did you become a poet?

ULO: Honestly, because I love writing. I like giving insightful messages. I enjoy being introspective, reflective, and observant of my surroundings. I find poetry to be a very good way to channel my thoughts, emotions, and ideas. I use it as a conduit to inform or bring something new to people they might not otherwise know. I don’t claim to be the most enlightened person, but I bring a unique perspective to poetry.

PI: Who does your poetry speak to?

ULO: My work speaks to those who dig deep into words. I can’t say that my works speak to those who only see or hear things on a surface level. My work and words speak to people who enjoy art that resonates with them.

PI: Name three people who have had the most influence over your artistic style.

ULO: I have a friend; his name is Chris Townsend. We write, coordinate, and curate shows together. Chris is the person who helps me sharpen my pen, so to speak. It’s an iron sharpens iron thing. He’s really good. I can’t say that there’s a top three of people who have influenced my style. I just find inspiration in anyone who is a good writer or performer. I’m always learning from and absorbing whatever experience or advice I can glean from them to become a better writer. I could spend the whole day naming people who have influenced me, many of whom are in my community. So many have imparted their words of wisdom to point me in the right direction on the path to being a better writer.

PI: You had an English accent in your first spoken word performance piece with us, and then it disappeared. How did you develop an accent?

ULO: {Speaking with a British accent} I like language. I love dialects. I love colloquialisms. I love communication in general. I have a thing about accents, whether British, Australian, Irish, Scottish, Nigerian, Jamaican, or any accent that I could feasibly do. I will try any of them. I love hearing about how people use English and their own languages. I tried an English accent for that particular piece to get the right idea or feeling across. It might help sell the idea that I was trying to convey. I had hoped it worked. When I try an accent, it’s not always as I would like it to be. Sometimes, my accent may waver. It may not be accurate at all times.

PI: What do you like to do to unwind when you’re not slamming?

ULO: Eat. I love to eat. If you point me in the direction of a restaurant that you think is fire, I will try it out. I’ve been to Chicago several times and have always been satisfied with the food. I’m well known for being a foodie.

PI: Chicago does have a good number of great restaurants. The offerings and the food are definitely on point. When you’re not in foodie heaven, what do you find yourself working on right now?

ULO: I am currently in a spoken word competition called the Motown Mic: Spoken Word Competition in Detroit. I am one of the finalists, and the grand finale will take place on September 22 at The Cube, at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I’m also trying to complete an anthology of different books of poetry. I’m curating shows out this way and have some upcoming slams I plan to compete in. I’ll be doing some traveling and trying to stay busy. I’m continuing to push myself to get out, perform, and do more to become a better writer.

PI: Are you published? If so, where?

ULO: I currently have a book on Amazon called “Don’t Believe Your Lying Eyes.” It’s a book that I co-wrote with two other writers. One writer, N. L. Thomas, has a Ph.D. The other, G. T. Laird, has a master’s in clinical psychology. The book is about narcissism and narcissistic abuse in relationships. It’s more a novel than it is a textbook. It’s meant to inform people, through storytelling, about the dangers of narcissistic relationships. It serves as a support mechanism to help people who might not understand that they are in a narcissistic or abusive relationship with a narcissist find or identify themselves and try to find a way out.

PI: If Mr. Urban Legin’d Obasaki were not a poet, what would he be?

ULO: If I weren’t doing poetry, I would be an actor, director, or writer. It’s likely something or anything else dealing with storytelling.

PI: If you could have dinner with any poet or writer, living or deceased, at any point in time, who would you choose and why?

ULO: There are a ton of cliché answers. I’m going to keep it real. I have already spoken to or eaten with the poets or writers I respect. I have a lot of hometown pride, and the artists I’ve met in my city have given me so much wisdom and knowledge that I will always value and appreciate. I really do appreciate all that they’ve shown or imparted upon me. They have helped me on a regular basis. I’m always meeting poets and spoken word artists from many different walks of life. For example, when I came out to Chicago and met Goddess Warrior, I talked with her, and I appreciated and cherished her words. Brooke Gerbers, the winner of your slam, was also important to me. We talked and exchanged information. Anyone I’ve met has been one of those people that I would be down to have dinner with.

PI: Is there anything else you would like to share with us? Any more upcoming events?

ULO: I’m currently in the process of curating an event for some time in October, but it’s still in the early phases of development. I’ll post more about it on my social media in the upcoming weeks once things are finalized. Aside from that, the Motown Mic: Spoken Word Competition in Detroit, Michigan, on September 22 at The Cube is still there. There is a slam in November that I just got confirmation on. Fingers crossed that I do well in that one. I’ll post about everything I’m doing on my Instagram as soon as possible. I plan to put more trophies up there and more pitches with the other artists I’ve met and enjoyed hearing about their work. I’m pushing, man.

PI: I found something that you should have mentioned. I just happened to Google your name and came across you in a series called Poet’s Pitch, season one, episode two. Tell me a little bit about that.

ULO: Poet’s Pitch is a series on YouTube that delves into the work of a poet or spoken word artist. It peels back the layers to find the deeper meaning or nuances of the writing of a particular artist. Um, I was in the first season of the series. I know the creator of the series, Kiesance. She was supposed to be doing season two, but I wonder if she has finished it yet. That’s one of the YouTube series that I was a part of. Another is called True Colors, a poet series by Wave Culture Media based in Detroit. They highlight different spoken word artists in the city. They’re in their fourth season. I was in season three, episode three. Both shows highlight Detroit spoken word artists, but they are always looking for other artists who want to come through and show their talent and skill. They are not necessarily Detroit-specific. They are just based in the City of Detroit. Local artists typically get first dibs unless someone from another city reaches out.

PI: Thank you for that information. What does the future hold for you?

ULO: Overall, I’m not completely certain, but I am hopeful for the future. Consistency and progression is what I would say. I want to keep writing and getting my message out. I need and want to be heard collaborating with other artists and individuals. I want to come in first. I want to do and win slams. I hope to get all of my stuff public. I want to get my work published. I want to see how far I can push my pen and where it takes me by the end of it. Again, I am very optimistic as to what the future holds.

PI: Let’s make sure that we document which social media platforms you are on. How can we find you?

ULO: My main and only social media right now is Instagram. You can find me at @ul_obasaki. I can be found at the website tcreaderslounge.net. I host many books I’ve read, and you can also find my book there. We host first-time authors on the site to increase awareness of their books. If anybody wants regarding their book, they can shoot me an email at tcreaderslounge@gmail.com, or send me a DM on Instagram.

Urban Legin’d Obasaki will be competing in the following slams.

Motown MIC: The Spoken Word Competition returns LIVE, September 22, 2023, at The Cube! Click here to purchase your tickets.

The Protect Her Invitational Poetry Slam supporting SASHA Center.

This is a traditional invitational SLAM which includes three cash prizes. Giveaways and an OPEN MIC before the competition! Curated by Omari Barksdale, LaShaun phoenix Moore, and Joel Greene!

This is a FREE public community engagement event.

THE ALL-CITY POETRY SLAM 2023: THE SEMIFINALS!

12 Incredible Poets Will Compete for $500! and the chance and the chance to battle Detroit’s BEST for $1,500 and the title of ALL CITY SLAM CHAMPION! Sunday, Oct 8 @ The Detroit Public Center click here to purchase tickets.

The Unmasking Verse By Verse

For more details regarding Urban’s appearance at Temple of Passion at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland on November 4 check Instagram @ul_obasaki.

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 1: Don’t Underestimate her Poetic Prowess Brooke Gerbers

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 2: Her Storie: An interview of spoken words’ leading lady Storie Devereaux

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 3: Sunshine of my life, A conversation with Sunshine Lombre

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 4: Introducing the Millennial Poet named B.

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 6: Just call her Dark N-Lovely, An interview of Chicago Poet Tarnynon Onumonu

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 7: Talking LOVE with activist & poet Michelle Antoinette Nelson

10 Poets you should get to know – Part 8: Poetry In Motion: An interview of Goddess Warrior

Coming Soon: 10 Poets you should get to know – Part 9: Ebony Stewart

Coming Soon: 10 Poets you should get to know – Part 10: Vision