Mikal Amin "Hired Gun" Lee is a poet, performer, educator, and organizer who began his hip-hop education career as a teaching artist with Urban Art Beat. He currently serves as the Program Director of Urban Word NYC, a non-profit organization dedicated to youth literacy and development through the art of poetry. Mikal has given lectures on gentrification, the global hip-hop community, the African diaspora, and issues concerning social justice at various institutions including Fordham University, Marist College, the United States Institute of Peace, and Centenary College. He has also led youth-oriented workshops on writing and performance in New York City, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Virginia. As a cultural critic, he has spoken on panels at Connecticut College, Yale University, and various education think-tanks across the United States. Since moving to Brooklyn in 2001, Mikal has also co-founded several hip-hop collectives, including Say Word Entertainment, Fresh Roots Music, and ESP. As an educator, he seeks to help young writers find their voices, acknowledge their collective history, and develop the techniques to tell their varied stories in a way that points to universal questions of existence, mortality, and life's ultimate purpose.
PAST HIRED GUN WORKSHOPS INCLUDE:
Walk your Words aka Mind Mechanics
Walk Your Words explores the mechanics of poetic forms and imparts basic literary techniques that can be applied to create what we refer to as "physical poetry." We introduce and experience great performances within various poetic forms, including hip-hop. We then examine the structure of each poem and attempt to determine the poetic devices employed by each of these works’ author so that we may ultimately apply them to the tasks of fine-tuning our existing verse, developing new pieces, and taking our poetry off the page and onto the stage. By engaging in group exercises that employ both student work and poems by established writers, we seek to orient our workshop’s participants toward a vision of poetry as 3-dimensional space, a shift in perspective that enhances their creative flexibility and provides them new possibilities within poetry. Through this basic readjustment of perception, the experience of this workshop postulates an overarching philosophy wherein the poet operates as medium in bringing the written word to life. He Say/She say-Gender, Poetry and the human voice….
He Say/She Say - Gender, Poetry and the Human Voice takes its cue from writers like Audre Lorde, who approach political and academic questions surrounding gender from an artistic perspective. Over the course of this workshop, we compel our students to examine issues of identity through the lens of poetry. Turning our scrutiny toward popular media, art in its manifold forms, and the panorama of current events on both global and local levels, we seek insight into notions of gender and the numerous stereotypes that surround our inherited concepts of the distinction between what society deems masculine and feminine. The Art of Rhyme
The Art of Rhyme seeks to demystify the skill known to hip-hop aficionados as "freestyling," which refers to the act of rapping in a freewheeling, improvised fashion without the use of a pre-written-and-memorized "rhyme," or verse. Through practical exercises and critical analyses, the workshop cultivates a foundation for improvisational "rhyming." Students of any age, background, and skill level will walk away from this course with a newfound or enhanced ability within the larger application of rapping, or "MCing." In fact, this skill also bears with it tangible, demonstrable, and practical applications to such pursuits as public speaking, memorization, and the act of organizing or sorting information. Finally, and in tandem with the aspect of technical instruction, we work to instill participants with knowledge of the history and philosophy from which freestyling emerged. U.B.R. -Uauthorized Biographies of Rap
Through the words of Gil Scott-Heron, Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, and other culture-bearers, students in U.B.R. gain a stronger context for both the history of hip-hop music and contemporary American culture in general. Close readings of various artists alongside the examination of historical events provide insight into the forebears of hip-hop music and the culture surrounding it. Students will emerge from this workshop having created at least one piece of work that focuses on how this recent history affects them, and on the culture that they themselves continue to redefine.
The Current State of Hip Hop
What is hip-hop? Where is hip-hop going? These are the questions we seek to address in The Current State of Hip-Hop, along with a comprehensive history of the politics and technological developments that have accompanied hip-hop into the present digital age of music. This course doubles as a historical retrospective lecture series and an artist-development workshop, wherein participants learn facility with technological tools that are now at the disposal of independent artists, rendering access to the act of creating, documenting, and refining music more universal than it has been at other time in history.