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I first met Bonz Malone at Housing Works Bookstore on Crosby Street. I sat at a table in the back, which afforded the best view of the place, both the ground floor and the mezzanine. When Bonz arrived it was as though, and he sat down beside me and composed perfect sentences out of thin air, and made me conscious of the elegance that comes with precision. He also made taking notes utterly delightful. He never spoke so fast as to out run my pen, and more often than not, I could sit quietly, reposed with pen in hand and pd in palm and listen, really listen, as the words fell from his tongue and his lips and splashed on the page.

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And so it was, the inevitable needs no plan, as I put fingertip to keyboard to send this note, and it took form in words because it be like that. Words, these words, they never stop, they are but are like limitless flows from the fountain of thought. And so it is that I asked questions and Bonz Malone replied, much to my delight.

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Miss Rosen: I have quietly admired your way with words for so long I can’t even remember, but I feel like Ricky Powell is the dude who put me on. He has a photo of you that has a certain je ne sais quoi, and when I first heard your name, I thought to myself, “I better go find out.” And so I did, and thus, my admiration grew. I wonder if you might speak about when you first realized you had a way with words, both in the spoken and written worlds, and how that became a source of power, pride, and .. pleasure ..

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BONZ MALONE: Growing up in New York City, you unconsciously pick up a unique swagger that can only be appreciated by someone else who has it or someone who wants to copy it. At home, my mother (An English major from Cambridge) trained me in the King’s English. Whenever I made a mistake in pronunciation or I misused a word, I was quickly corrected and had to look it up. She never told me what anything meant. But in the streets, I paid attention to the way others expressed themselves and it was very different. It was relaxed, abrupt, more general and less deliberate than a scholar of Oxford or Cambridge would ever care for. So I knew not to give anybody grammatical lessons or I’d be picking up teeth. I did notice that there were a selected few “Street Guys” who were very charismatic and had the knack for making people either laugh at everything they said or they made people piss on themselves with their life-threatening statements. Either way, I was diggin’ the way these guys communicated and quietly studied their poetic parlance. I thought that it would help me get “connected” and make me seem more cool and it did, but it took many years. It wasn’t until I began writing graffiti that I started to understand the power that words really had. As a Christian, I had been taught to tell the truth and I believed that nothing was more liberating or more powerful than walking the path of the righteous man. As a criminal, however, nothing was more important in the streets as loyalty, courage and honor. These are part of a code and when they become intrinsic, you become real, which is the street equivalent to True. When I realized that I could both “Keep it real and be True to the game” that’s when I started writing what I thought, but in the way that others spoke. So then I became influential to both by unifying these principles.

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I’ve been enjoying your posts on FB for the distinctive mix of brilliance and audacity. Please talk about how the word is a vehicle for awakening the mind, heart, and spirit?

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During the 80’s and 90’s, I saw the spotlight shift from hip-hop the culture to rap, its selfish, yet talented sibling. The glamour of guns and violence was fueled by drug sales and record labels were their laundry mats. At night I was on the streets or in the train yards lookin for the “White Whale”, but during business hours, I was either Script Consultant for the movie “Juice” at Island Records/Island Films or at The Source, introducing the Notorious B.I.G. as “The King of New York.” That piece is significant because I created that title as the name of the cover story on him. No one called him that until I wrote that article, in fact, the title (which is coveted by rappers that aren’t even from NYC to this day) didn’t even exist! If I could do that and even now, 90% of his fans don’t even know it, then I most certainly know that writing can do all three of those things you’ve described. If Jehovah God (Yahweh) himself uses written communication to enlighten us and instruct us on how to benefit ourselves, there can’t be a better example of its power. After Biggie’s demise I began taking on social issues. I figured, I had already given hip-hop an alphabet being “The Father of Phonetic Spelling” just to get people who were illiterate in my neighborhood to read; now I was gonna drug the public with phat pieces of sweet gum, which was basically, MC’ing on a white sheet of paper to my own rhythm and makin’ niggaz dance to the “other beat”. The only difference this time was that I was committed to making them aware of their power through social change and not about glorifying rappers.

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I am curious about the way in which people respond to your work. Like, for example, this interview is my form of response #moremoremore .. I trust there have been many deeply felt personal moments of on all emotional fronts, be it joy, sadness, anger, and surprise among others. Why do you think words have the power to evoke such powerful responses from those who read them? What does it feel like to receive such strong feedback to your work and how does this feed your creative process?

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BONZ MALONE: I’ve had every kind of response I can think of. Just the other day I was in Dunkin’ Doughnut at 1am and a guy walked in recognized me and told me about an article I wrote years ago at Vibe in which I interviewed a Shi Yang Ming, a Shaolin Warrior Monk about the use of the Swastika as a symbol of peace. It blew his mind completely. He had never known that it was a peace sign and that Hitler reversed the image, thus making it a negative the way the Yin/Yan symbol demonstrates the two. We talked for hours. It was very humbling as it has always been such to see and hear the deep emotion that a reader expresses after being affected by your work, especially if it’s positive. I’ve learned, however, not to interfere with their interpretation. If it is something that leaves a positive outlook, then it’s all good. It’s important to say things that after years of understanding, we now have the courage to say. Never would I want to let my society tell me what to buy, what to do, what to think. You have to embrace power in order to use it and many are still afraid of theirs. The pen is only mightier than the sword when it’s in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. Being a dope writer is only sexy to an intellectual. Being a great student of life and a better thinker and connector of principles to applicable situations is by far, more needed, yet both will inevitably make your words necessary should you have the courage to write with authority. It’s not the letters or the reactions from an audience or even the prestigious awards that can be won that you need to give you validation because most great writers don’t have those things, but all great writers know that their work is dope before it has even been proof read or they’ve clicked the spelling and grammar keys on their computer, if you have a computer. What if you don’t have a computer? Auto-Correct doesn’t make you an intelligent writer. Reading and meditating on the rhythm that the writer writes to and understanding it, even if you don’t agree with the reasoning, is making you better. Facebook has made me a better forecaster of trends and more knowledgeable about when to put the word out and to what degree of audacity. Twitter edits my thoughts, which sharpens my words into concise and powerful blasts, so when people come up to me and talk about my past work or my page or a cop recognizes me in a restaurant and asks me for my autograph, I feel the same way I did every time I walked into a subway car looking for my tag and saw my name up there and I remember who showed me how to speak, act and write like that. The ones who validated themselves and I just want the blessing to be able to do it forever.

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I remember you said something to the effect that you would rather wait ten years to produce work that would last 100 years, rather than to satiate yourself with instant gratification. Where does that patience and discipline come from?

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BONZ MALONE: 50% is conceit and the other 50% is procrastination. Writing is performing brain surgery on yourself! It is a reclusive form of art that’s lonely and that can lead to alcoholism and depression. Many writers hate writing. What they love is haven written something of worth and of interest. Edison failed for years before he stole God’s idea. Einstein meditated for ten years before he wrote the theory of relativity. That is truly amazing when you consider that although, he possessed considerable wisdom, he was smart enough to take the time needed to look at things from every possible aspect. If you are committed and honest and have the patience to perfect something, it could mean the difference in people’s lives! I believe that because I’ve seen proof of it in my own work. The things that I’ve written, both privately and professionally, have neither been outdated or undone. As a graffiti writer, I used Flo-Master because it had a dark, shiny pigmentation that made my name look good when I wrote over other niggaz. Plus, it was permanent and that is the whole point of doin’ dope shit when you’re alive is to leave a permanent mark on people’s minds and on history itself. As an Actor, Writer and Producer, I get paid every time my work appears in almost any form for the rest of my life. Even after I die, my name will still be making money, so I better earn that shit.

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RADIKAL magazine *2002 Rock Steady Crew feature. — with R.I.P Frosty Freeze, Capital Q Unique, David Nelson, FeverOne Rock Steady, POPMASTER FABEL, Julio Cesar Umaña Rodriguez, Mitchell Graham, Bonz Malone, Rock Steady Crew, Brina AlienNess Martinez, Cookie Wear and Marc Lemberger. Photo courtesy Jorge "Fabel" Pabon.

RADIKAL magazine *2002 Rock Steady Crew feature. — with R.I.P Frosty Freeze, Capital Q Unique, David Nelson, FeverOne Rock Steady, POPMASTER FABEL, Julio Cesar Umaña Rodriguez, Mitchell Graham, Bonz Malone, Rock Steady Crew, Brina AlienNess Martinez, Cookie Wear and Marc Lemberger. Photo courtesy Jorge “Fabel” Pabon.

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