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  • Zachary Spetzler

Culture Spotlight Featuring Malik Work

Malik Work, the NYC based actor-teacher-writer-emcee is a founding member of the groundbreaking jazz/hip hop conglomerate: The Real Live Show. He has written and starred in a one man show entitled Verses At Work, for which he was nominated for Best Solo Performance at the 2017 AUDELCO Awards. He also wrote, starred in, and executive produced a film version of Verses @ Work that was selected by the Hip Hop Film Festival among many more, and notably won the International Spotlight Award at the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival. His recent television credits include Broad City on Comedy Central and Blacklist: Redemption on NBC. He has provided voice-over for national network commercials, scripted television, radio, internet, a museum opening in spring 2020, and has written for HBO. He teaches acting, creative writing, Shakespeare, theater arts, hip hop and hip hop theater,

locally and internationally. His show Verses At Work has most recently been featured at the Park Avenue Armory in NYC, as well as in South Africa for the 2019 National Arts Festival in Makhanda, formerly known as Grahamstown. Follow him: @malikwork on IG/Twitter,,

Tell us about your experience at Hip Hop Film Festival? I was super inspired by the Hip Hop Film Festival. First off, to be surrounded by so many like minded artists and filmmakers from a Hip Hop aesthetic and point of view, was extremely refreshing and validating. The Hip Hop community should come together around more than music and partying, because it really is a rich, deep, diverse culture. Secondly, showing my film there was such an affirming experience. I found out that people were really into it, could follow the narrative, and also were into the quality of the filmmaking. Our budget was low, so to hear that it looked like million dollar production value (a comment at our talkback) just boosted my confidence, and felt amazing for our whole team to hear.

Why are stories from the culture important? Stories from the culture are important because it is vital that communities be in control of their own narratives. Hip Hop culture is powerful. If we don't tell our own stories, people will fill in the blanks and tell it for us. That's how we get turned into two dimensional stereotypes. Our stories are imperative for the world to acknowledge, reconcile with, and understand our brilliance, depth, diversity, and humanity.

What projects are you working on now? I am working on the live immersive and collaborative version of my show Verses At Work, for a 'one night only' special event at Nublu 151 on Saturday, February 15th. I'm also working on a few Shakespeare scripts as both an actor and a teacher. I'm putting out some music here and there, teaching acting, teaching my Hip Hop Theater workshops, and doing some booking to get my solo show on the road.

Why do you think the Harlem film house and Hip Hop Film Festival is important? I've said already: We need to author our own narratives. Hip Hop has been too focused on music in the mainstream. We out here in many forms, every day. We belong on the big screen as much as on the radio and television. And for now, our voice on the big screen has not been as corrupted as it has been in the music industry. Hip Hop filmmakers and theater artists have a chance to offer the world a more pure form of the culture, less watered down by corporate corruption, if we learn from the mistakes of many of our musical contemporaries. Film is a very powerful medium that shapes public perception. An old African proverb says: "Until lions learn to write, every story will glorify the hunter."

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