With power and prestige, rising poet Meta Sarmiento recently rapped his way into a national competition with other creative minds, and which offers a chance to stake a claim in the rapping industry.
Sarmiento, a wordsmith from Guam now residing in Denver, Colorado, was selected as one of 64 rappers, among thousands of entrants, to compete in the WORLD EMCEE rapping tournament from Aug. 29 to 31 in New York City.
The creative competition is featured during a three-day festival sponsored by World Underground, an organization that empowers young artists to share stories through music, dance, art and fashion.
Up for grabs in the city of dreams is the "world" title, a national tour deal and a grand prize of $10,000.
Though the underground rapping stage is set for stars, Guam's Meta matches up just fine as an acclaimed artist in his own right, wielding spoken word as an extension of his creative capabilities.
Fresh from touring six states and 12 cities to share his work, Meta sets out on his next motivated mission, which just might lead him one step closer to becoming an independent artist full time.
Representing his island roots all the while, the poet, who has a number of noteworthy accolades, shared his latest experiences and humble hopes for the upcoming tournament with The Guam Daily Post.
Q&A with Meta Sarmiento
Question: Tell me about your entry for World Underground. What is the message of your winning rap?
Answer: With most of the World Underground cyphers, MCs often showcase clever wordplay and sharp punchlines to depict how they're more talented than their competition.
It's funny because these competitions can quickly devolve into a brute pissing contest. It's the nature of the game, so I made sure to play a bit into that, but also commented on how too many folks expect and want the violent portrayal of a rapper; the gangster, the thug. I also made a point to comment on how, because of that expectation, lots of rappers over exaggerate and even fake that image.
In short, I flexed on these rappers and poked holes in the caricatures they've made themselves into.
Q: Tell me about your selection for the tournament in New York. What was your initial reaction? And how do you feel after soaking it in?
A: When I first read the email, I initially thought, "Word. Time to prep, homie." I gave myself a few minutes to jump around in excitement, then went straight to work. I'm not one for early celebrations. There's a ton of preparation that I need to make if I want to be successful at the competition. Right now, that's all I've been focused on.
I'm optimistic about how winning this contest will affect the trajectory of my career, but I always take every opportunity I get with a grain of salt. There might be new doors opened, win or lose, or there might not be. We'll just have to see!
Q: What topics and themes do you plan to address as you prepare for the August competition?
A: I've already begun writing to all 11 possible beats on the World Underground playlist. I've also begun rehearsing the two songs that I might perform, and strategizing for backups, depending on the situation at the competition.
I'll toe the line between more battle-rap type verses and lyrics that reflect on the (Asian-American and Pacific Islander) experience, being from Guam, systemic oppression and the importance of dreaming.
Anyone can write clever lines about how good they are, but I want to actually say something with substance, too.
Q: Tell me about the response you've received from fans in Denver and Guam. How do you feel about the support you've received?
A: A bunch of folks in Denver agree that my entry was fire. It was the same response online from people in Guam. Being both relatively new in a city and so far from home, sometimes it feels like not too many folks care about me, but I try not to focus on those negative thoughts. In reality, so many people got my back. They shared my entries, voted on World Underground's IG profile, and folks shared my GoFundMe campaign so much that it was officially trending. My GoFundMe campaign raised more than the $500 goal in just 18 hours.
Despite the doubts that plague me every once in a while, I know there's a ton of folks from all over that support me. The #metamob might be small, but we're definitely powerful and growing. The only message I have for Guam: "My wins have always been our wins. I hope you're proud of the 'sun' you raised."