Chinaka Hodge's talent seems to have no limit. She's written an experimental play starring Daveed Diggs, the Oakland-born rapper recently nominated for a Tony for his role in Hamilton. She's a hot-as-hell guest MC. She's written a screenplay that earned her a fellowship at the Sundance Institute. She's made an impact as an educator with Youth Speaks, the influential poetry nonprofit that impacts kids' lives across the Bay Area. She's teamed with the director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale, Creed) on a new drama series about young people affected by institutionalization. And she has a sense of humor: check out her acting role as a gun-toting criminal with an elderly lover in the Harold and Maude-gone-amok video for Atmosphere's "Kanye West."
On top of this already stacked resumé, Hodge is a well-received poet. Her second poetry collection, Dated Emcees, comes out in June on the City Lights imprint Sister Spit. Hodge grew up in Oakland, under the influence of hip-hop and nineties East Bay culture. In fact, she's a founding member of collaborative hip-hop ensemble The Getback, along with Daveed Diggs and others. In this new collection of 25 poems, she examines her own life through the lens of hip-hop, modeling the book's length on a classic double album.
The collection's title poem is a scathing critique of "washed-up" rappers "otherwise known as old dudes rocking old fits" and hitting on teenage girls. Hodge's narrator goes to a party in New York, where she's propositioned by a man "round greying in a shirt that came with the pants / and a pair of gazelles actually older than my father." He hands her his coke-white business card, and, as it turns out, the old guy is Positive K: You might remember him from the 1992 song "I Got a Man." You can guess how the young lady responds to his groupie treatment of a woman two decades his junior.
The poem sets the reader up for the rest of the collection's excellent mix of humor, tragedy, and sly cultural and political allusions.