Wizard of Skill RIP

31/7/14

If you were a regular on the London Spoken Word scene, odds are you would have ended up in the presence of a young man who went by the moniker, The Wizard of Skill. Away from the mic he seemed a friendly, quiet and shy man. In front of the mic he would suddenly spring to life, fusing hip-hop and poetry in his own way, not ashamed at writing in big, hooky choruses and repeating them so that they echoed in the minds of his audiences after he left the stage. His delivery was always fun and upbeat, a definite oldschool sensibility, his lyrics often skirting around the usual hip hop tropes of dissing rival emcees and expressing his appreciation of female physical attributes. But there was also an undeniably sensitive side that he wasn’t afraid to express, often musing on his ideal woman and how he would be to her if he found her. He also engaged the subject of the internet and social media long before they became constants in spoken word.

His work always communicated a sense of fun and while he dealt with some weighty subjects in his lyrics, his floor spots often had the feel of a catchy pop song – albeit more daisy age De La Soul than the commercialised music he often railed against. In music there are great single artists and great album artists, the Wizard of Skill struck me as the former as far as spoken word is concerned. If he was on the list at Unplugged I knew that I could always rely on him to jump start the atmosphere if ever the energy levels ran low.

I never knew the Wizard of Skill well enough to call him by his real name. I have no idea what he thought of me. I did not even know that he was severely visually impaired until someone else told me years after I first met him. One night at a poetry event where I was booked to perform, I found myself having a bevvy and talking loud, pretentious bollocks to some of the punters. The Wizard of Skill sat at the far end of the room, quietly smiling to himself as I waffled on. When it was his turn to perform at the open mic section he reproduced my little soliloquy verbatim in the same way he would repeat the poems of others from memory. It was perhaps the most exacting symbolic castration that I have ever endured.

If you are a regular on the London scene then you probably already know that the Wizard of Skill, or James Angir as he was known to those that were close to him, passed away on 15th July. While we got the chance to hear a repetition of his hooks when he performed them, we will never know an artist like the Wizard of Skill again.

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