Slam Poet Releases Spoken Word Album

Slam Poet Releases Spoken Word Album
Courtesy Photo The artwork for Houston Hughes’ “Growing Up, Not Old” is by local artist Joëlle Storet.

Courtesy Photo
The artwork for Houston Hughes’ “Growing Up, Not Old” is by local artist Joëlle Storet.

Houston Hughes is a man about town. If you’ve ever been to Last Saturday, Last Night Fayetteville or an open mic night, you’ve mostly likely seen him emceeing or seen him perform his fiery, often funny slam poetry.

As an ode to the past decade of writing and performing, Hughes has released his first spoken word album featuring productions of some of his best pieces. Self-released on Bandcamp on June 30, the album was something Hughes had hoped to do before turning 30, which he did, the day after releasing his album.

“Growing Up, Not Old” is available for download for name your price at

A few of the tracks feature music from local musicians Randall Shreve, Skyler Greene, Joseph Hitchcock, Shawn James, Jackson Jennings, Michelle Redmond and DM Shepherd. Justin Velte mixed and mastered the album. Even the cover artwork features “The World’s Oldest DJ” by local artist Joëlle Storet.

There’s a good mix of serious, moving pieces interspersed with raunchy content and immaturity. Hughes writes and performs with a passionate intensity, but also effortless cleverness while poking at big picture ideas worth chewing on after listening.

Topics such as mega churches, guns, plastic surgery trends, Michele Duggar, the death penalty and even dick pics are taken on. If you’re looking for a thoughtful, liberal rant on any of those topics, you’ll find solace in Hughes’ work.

Check out our interview with Houston Hughes:

TFW: After listening through the album, I noticed an overall theme to your writing. Do you come from a conservative upbringing?

HUGHES: Yes, absolutely. Everybody’s got a sort of identity that plays through everything they do, whether its their culture, their heritage, their race or gender. For me, it’s the religious background I had. I grew up with a super conservative family. I got sent off to a Christian boarding school, got kicked out of that and then sent to a military Christian boarding school. I ran away from there. It’s just the same old shi…

TFW: Hold on, you ran away from school? How’d that turn out?

HUGHES: Oh yes. I ran away from Chamberlin Hunt Military Academy in Port Gibson, Mississippi. I broke out in the middle of the night. I used battery acid to weaken the bars on the windows so I could get out. I broke out with two other guys I was bunking with. We ran through the town and then stuck to back roads. We walked our way almost all the way to Vicksburg, until one of the guys decided to call his sister to tell her he was okay and she star 69’ed the number. We were in Kroger waiting for our ride to this house we thought would be safe and then the cops showed up. I was in Christian solitary confinement for a time. I was locked in a room with no toilet, just a hole in the floor, no shower and the windows were boarded up. All I got to do was write Bible verses for six hours a day.


Photo by Jeremy Scott Photography | Houston Hughes is host of Last Saturday in Fayetteville, and performs slam poetry regionally.

TFW: When did you get into poetry?

HUGHES: Well, I wrote some really shitty rap when I was in high school. Actually, I’ve always kinda been opposed to poetry, I even almost failed English twice because of the poetry unit and not being willing to do the whole memorization of dead white dudes thing. Then I went to college at Hendrix and I think it was my sophomore year there was this guy who got up to do slam poetry — I was there to do stand up comedy — and I saw him do a couple poems and he was recruiting for a slam poetry group. I was like holy shit, I get to get on stage and yell about whatever I want for four minutes? I’m f——-g in. I got in with that and got on YouTube and binge watched. We started that club and we got enough money to go to college nationals to compete and we came in dead last. I really hate losing, at that point I need to either give up on this or get better at this really f——-g fast. I spent the next two years kind of going to college but mostly working on my performance.

TFW: Tell me about the local involvement for the album and recruiting local talent for the album.

HUGHES: Man, I love the music scene here. I am goddamn in love with it. There are so many musicians around here that I am in love with and would do anything to help them. There has to be more of that around here. There has to be people not just looking out for their own act but for the other acts they enjoy. Randall Shreve and I had done a couple shows together. For the one with his music on it we got to go down into his lair-like studio So I showed him one of the first drafts for that piece, I told him I wanted it to be dark and minor sounding. Nothing was really feeling right, and then Randall showed me a couple loops he’d been working on. The very first one he shows me was the one I was like that’s the f——-g song for this track. He ended up recording a couple versions of that loop and sent it to the producer.

Shawn James and I have worked together a bunch of times. One of the first shows I produced here was called the Big Tent Revival, it was me doing poems on religion and Shawn James and John Henry doing their songs that had religious overtones and doing covers of old spirituals. He had the song, with the sample of “Through the Valley” and one of the lines of that song is “My God and my guns, they comfort me. Cause I know I’ll kill my enemies when they come.” The “In Guns We Trust” poem, the whole piece is about comfort. The whole piece is about this idea that we hold on to these things because they give us a sense of comfort. Even if we examine them critically, we may find out they do more net harm than good, we don’t care about that. We can turn a blind eye to that as long as they give us enough momentary comfort, and they make us feel powerful and not at anyone’s mercy. I asked him if I can sample that and he was kind enough to let me use it.

The Michele Duggar piece with Skylar from Cosmic-American and Joesph Hitchcock from Paper Anthem. That one I knew I wanted to put that one on the album. He specifically chose the Michele Duggar piece to work on. Then I went to Joesph because I thought he might want to do one by himself, but he decided he wanted to do that one for that too. So we got together, I showed them the rhythm of the piece and and within a few hours they were able to hammer something out.

TFW: The Duggar piece I found to be especially moving and disturbing, especially with the music added for dramatic effect.

HUGHES: I wrote that piece before the whole Josh Duggar thing had happened. I wrote it back when it was just them on the reality show, because they have the whole religion thing going on and the subjecation of women. It’s a cult. How do you get out of that? How do you get out of a situation where God tells you you can’t have a say in anything and you have to be there for reproduction and nothing else. The point of the piece is we sit around and make fun of the Duggars, but think about what it would have been like to be this vulnerable young woman. Her story is she had a miscarriage early on and Jim came in to convert her shortly after that. She was in this vulnerable place and really poor and he came with this promise of God and she went into it, became enamored with the religion and the person who brought her into it, which is something you see in cults. You just have to wonder, what if she’s in the situation and one day had this realization it’s all awful, how would she even get out? When I first started writing it, it was a bunch of dick jokes, and I thought that was too easy of a target. Maybe Michele Duggar needs some actual empathy in this situation.

Categories: Galleries