Over the years, the spoken-word organization Sacrificial Poets has produced some of the area's most talented wordsmiths. When those linguists inevitably pursued rap careers, though, the results have varied. The ambition of cofounder Kane Smego's Soul Train Robbers soared higher than its music, for instance, while eccentric lyricist Danny Kaplan enriches his rap repertoire through the University of Wisconsin's pioneering hip-hop program.
Except Kaplan, perhaps no Sac Po veteran works better as an emcee than G Yamazawa. On his sharp eponymous EP, the National Poetry Slam champion chucks some of spoken word's emotive heft without abandoning its rich lyricism. Most of the muscle here comes from producer Ben Trill, while Yamazawa gets sophisticated over each beat without sounding too didactic. On "Dining Room," he honors the lessons of hard work and sacrifice he learned by helping his family run its sushi restaurant: "That's why immigrants be cookin' that food," he raps. "It's the only way they communicate with you."
During the Rhye-sampling "Echo," he delivers his version of one of poetry's most common devices, the metaphor, to reintroduce himself as a system of rap reverb, an echo of earlier legacies and histories. "This poetry taught me that the best rappers just really know how to listen," he says. During this introductory mission statement, G Yamazawa proves he isn't far off that path.