Hip-hop artist to become Sheffield’s first poet laureate

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Lord Mayor Magid Magid will appoint hip-hop artist Otis Mensah as Sheffield’s first ever poet laureate at the city’s annual literature festival this week.

Mr Mensah, who was born and raised in Sheffield, has been gaining attention across the UK and internationally.

Otis Mensah with Lord Mayor Magid Magid

Otis Mensah with Lord Mayor Magid Magid

Last year he performed at Glastonbury and has since supported the likes of Wu Tang Clang, Killah Priest, The Sugarhill Gang, Mahalia and Arrested Development.

“When I found out, I was pleasantly surprised to be asked to take on the role,” Mr Mensah said.

“I found it interesting that an aspiring experimental, hip-hop artist could be considered for such a formal position.”

He describes himself as a “young story-teller-rapper-poet with a talent for drawing on the poetic from the everyday happenings in life”.

Otis Mensah with Magid Magid

Otis Mensah with Magid Magid

Mr Mensah said in his new role he hopes to break down stereotypes of what poetry is, and added: “I feel that hip-hop, although as prevalent and present in our culture and society as it is, rarely receives spoken recognition for the impact is has. Magid appointing me as poet laureate, displays an appreciation for hip-hop and the art form of rap as poetry.

“The role of poet laureate is all about breaking down barriers, changing the mould and perception of what it means to be a poet, continuing to share art that harnesses the power in vulnerability and encouraging expression of emotion through art in others.

“I feel the term ‘poetry’ often creates a certain image in people’s minds, painting the picture of snobbery, under the impression that it’s an elitist, white-washed art form but I believe poetry at it’s core is about communicating imperative messages of emotion; a vehicle for expression necessary for our mental health, relationships and progression. Rap is exactly that; a truly poetry.”

The announcement will be officially made on Saturday, October 6 on The Moor where Mr Mensah will be performing as part of the the three-week Off the Shelf Festival, which is organised by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.

Otis Mensah with Lord Mayor Magid Magid

Otis Mensah with Lord Mayor Magid Magid

Mr Mensah will take on the honorary position for two years, during which time he will work on commissions, workshops and events.

Magid said he is confident Mr Mensah will enhance the the creative culture of the city in his new role, and added: “Sheffield has always had a rich history of poetry and what better way to celebrate and support the amazing poetry scene than to appoint a poet laureate.

“Otis represents all that is great about Sheffield, he’s dynamic, skillful and radical, and this certainly shows in his work too. Otis will, without a shadow of a doubt, help advance and enhance the already incredible arts and culture of the city.”

Towards the end of October, Mr Mensah will be releasing a new EP called ‘Colours of it all’ which he describes as a “social commentary, exploring the colourful nature of logical contradictions we face everyday, the paradoxes of our daily lives and its beauty.”

He is also releasing his debut album and first poetry book titled ‘Safe Metamorphosis’ in April 2019.

He said: “As poet laureate, I hope to continue on in sharing music, using introspective expression and the power of vulnerability to combat the social walls we build up that stop us from connecting to one another.

“I feel communication is the key and art has the power to move in ways that other forms of communication can not.”