LB the Poet stops one of his live tracks three times.
He paces the room in thought, microphone held slightly down and away from his face. He looks over his shoulder to the live band, the backing vocalists and the DJ after the third abrupt pause. He asks to stop the music.
“Something’s telling me to just spit this for y’all,” he says.
Slamming his way through a song titled “Made It,” Larry Barron, better known by his stage name of LB the Poet, ends the album release of Transitions with spoken word.
The Winston-Salem based rapper and writer brought his first full-length studio album to the Ramkat on Sunday during a release party and concert.
Transitions followed multiple singles and poetry performances from LB, who sees the two mediums as interchangeable. The songs flow from storytelling to what feels almost like guided meditations with a beat. The easily memorized hooks and catchy beats help LB craft what he calls “feelgood music,” designed to keep listeners playing positive messages to themselves on loop.
“If you can get people repeating lyrics,” he says in an interview, “that’s key.”
Before he begins rapping, he stops to go over the lyrics with the audience. He sounds out a line from a song titled “Bridging the Gap,” hoping to impart some sort of musical mantra, and asking the crowd to sing the chorus with him once they get the hang of it. As he performs, voices from the audience intermingle with his own.
“You can’t tell me I’m not bridging the gap,” he sings. “Every day my dreams, you know I’m living them out.”
Even within the uplifting words, LB addresses somber issues, mixing in mentions of inequality, personal struggles and gun violence. In between songs, LB drags the microphone stand to the front of the stage, resting a hand on it, and speaks directly to the audience.
“It seems like we keep losing the kids,” he says.
He sways through a song called “Nothing was the Same,” the only interruptions coming from occasional snaps of people’s fingers or agreements shouted out.
“In this cold world,” he raps, “something’s gotta change.”
Poetry remains at the core of LB’s performances. He recounted the first onstage reading he gave 10 years ago, with a piece called “The Letter,” a poem about his father.
“I performed it and this big, tough guy came out of the crowd in tears,” he said. “That was my first time understanding how I could touch people with my words.”
Aside from what he calls a “positive affirmation movement,” LB uses his writing in the classroom. Around Winston-Salem he runs Word Academy, a venture to boost the creative-writing skills of children and college students, with programs at Ashley Elementary, Reynolds High School, Parkland High School and Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity.
“I just knew I had something on my spirit that I had to get off,” he said.
“I’m a firm believer that we are all connected in some way, shape or form.”
As the night continues, a screen on one side of the stage turns on, displaying a short film about the making of the music video to LB’s single from the album, Focus. The rapper stands by green lockers next to a classroom door, a few kids greeting him as they walk in. The scene cuts to show LB directing some of his students as they gather shots, and then to LB rapping as the camera crew follows him down the hallway.
“I keep going,” he raps. “I stay focused. ’Cause I’m doing it my way.”
He encourages people in the audience to sing along, pointing out individuals who he catches mouthing his lyrics. When entire lines are too tough for audience members to remember, though, LB made an easy saying.
“Every day is W-I-N-S-D-A-Y,” he says.