top picture dated 2009 bottom picture 2014
In the Spring of 2009, I venture into a poetry venue called “The Art of Conversation,” in Baltimore, MD. As I nervously wait for the show to start, a big man walks in, sits down right next to me and says “Hi!” What makes this story humorous to me is that he and I had arrived around the time doors opened, which means we were early and the place was empty except for maybe five other people—and he sat right next to me. This is how I met one of my best friends, the man I call my “Poetry Husband”: Ross “Mosaic” Cooper. This is the first poem I ever heard him spit, and still one of my favorites, called “Don’t Go”: [Video from Storytellers, Baltimore, MD]
For about two years we went to open mic after open mic together. I have had the pleasure of reading everything he has ever written, whether he performs it or not. We have written and performed a piece together but we both have lost our copy of it. I’ve seen his growth, his persistence to make the next piece better than the last and how effortlessly he can write on any topic, from love to politics to social issues to body image to just his love of being a poet.
Confession: I ended up taking an extended hiatus from the poetry scene. During this time he was pushing, prodding, pulling, and bullying, doing whatever he thought he had to do to bring me back to the community. Every conversation for two years ended with “so when you coming back”; when I finally did step to a microphone again he was there. I’m not sure I personally have seen him happier!
He loves supporting his friends in the poetry community and he is loved for it.
Najah Bayyan: Mosaic is never afraid to neither look nor step outside of the stereotypical personalities that global society leaves us all to contend with. It is this trait that makes him a unique artist and an even more spectacular friend.
He has been called the strongest man in poetry; it’s a testament to his workout ethic, which can seem insane some days!
Analysis: Mosaic, as a person generally and as a poet specifically, will not
let himself be boxed into stereotypes. With incisive word skill, he will not only address with stark frankness on aspects of our society others are reluctant to speak on, but he will also show tenderness, and a genuine respect for love and its dynamics. All this comes from a person whose physical stature is commanding—and he is rightfully proud of the effort he puts into both his workout and his writing, again defying preconceived notions that would lock him into one or the other. I consider him a brother in the pursuit of conditioning and poetic excellence!
Girl Genius (Danielle Reed): His vocabulary is as big as his biceps. He’s like the LL Cool J of spoken word.
Taken by Turtleberry & Danielle Reed for More Than Words
Which is interesting twist of a phrase, since his new CD, called Ladies Love (LL), just released on February 11, 2015. In this CD, produced by Maurice Carroll, Mosaic displays his deep views on love, intimacy and relationships—a perspective from men not often heard. He was the first feature I had for Heard Through the Grapevine; one of the ladies present stated, “You give me hope that there is a good guy out there for me.” Hopeful romanticism/making love cool again will be the hallmark of his 2015 poetry year.
Another confession: This edition of From Behind the Microphone is so out of order; Mosaic was the first person I interviewed when I had the idea. His answers indicated that I was onto something.
Stepping From Behind the Microphone: Mosaic
Sherri: Tell us about what brought you to writing poetry. Mosaic: My mom read to me a lot as a kid and I loved how books would take me places away from real life. As rap music started to take off I saw it as very simple poetry so I started writing stories and then really simple poems. The first poems I wrote were to try to impress girls—which, of course, didn’t work, so I started writing about other topics. Then Love Jones came out and of course I decided I was going to be the next Darius Lovehall. Again, when that didn’t happen, I had actually quit writing poems until this show called Def Poetry Jam came out and I was sold; haven’t abandoned the pen since.
Sherri: Tell us about your first experience performing poetry? Mosaic: I had been writing pretty regularly and sharing with co-workers. I worked in Silver Spring, MD at the time and someone suggested I perform and had told me about this spot in DC called Bohemian Caverns. A couple of good friends and I went; I had memorized a poem, and waited to hear my name for the first time. It was funny because I was a ball of nerves and almost leaped out of my skin when my name was called but once I got up there and got past the first line the rest of it flowed. The crowed gave me some love and I really liked sharing. Looking back I know I didn’t give the best performance but I loved how liberated I felt, that something I wrote and shared could make people listen. I was hooked!
Sherri: Your stage name is “Mosaic.” Why did you choose that name? What do you want the audience to know about you when they hear it? Side Note: When I did that first interview with him and he answered the previous question he told me the following—thus, why this question is a standard part of the series. Mosaic: My stage name is “Mosaic,” though it wasn’t my first. Initially I went by “W.R.D. Smith” poetically. The first part of it was a tribute to my favorite person in black history: W.E.B. Dubois. The “Smith” part was a double entendre of sorts; together the whole thing looks like “Wordsmith”—which became problematic as there was a guy on the scene going by that name already—but the “Smith” part was because I could be anyone, anybody. After going to a few venues and having to explain that the initials should be said individually and not read as one word I went on a hunt for a new name. I chose “Dr. Mindbender” (GI Joe fans will laugh) but a good friend of mine actually said “Mosaic” fits. After reading a lot of what I wrote she said that I capture a lot of different aspects of life and love and it was fitting. From that point on the name stuck.
Sherri: Who is your favorite writer? (This can be a songwriter, poet, author or anyone you consider a writer.) Mosaic: My favorite writer is also my favorite artist, John Lennon, who also penned my favorite song, “Imagine.” I’m still learning what took him from being a Beatle to writing songs that literally made him an enemy of the state to the US.
Sherri: You have one hour to have a conversation with anyone in history. Who will you choose, and why? Mosaic: Karl Marx. As one that despises capitalism and all of its extensions I’d love to sit down and have him explain how socialism could be successfully executed. In my opinion we live in a society in which the way of the shark is favored over the way of the ant, so to speak. Everyone aspires to have more and be rich as opposed to being equal.
Sherri: Your perfect concert: who are three acts, living or dead, you would like to see perform? Mosaic: Michael Jackson—true, he admittedly borrowed from James Brown, but to me he took it to a level that will never be touched. An MJ concert is simply something to be experienced. The Roots. I’ve seen them in concert 4 times already and they embody what Hip Hop is, hands down. Lastly, the masters of modern metal: Metallica.
Sherri: Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know. Mosaic: One of the reasons I write is because I cannot draw. I always wanted to be able to do graphic art and the best I have are some really cool stick figures. Writing forces me to paint pictures with words.
Sherri: Do you have another creative outlet? If not, what is something you have always wanted to learn how to do? Mosaic: I’m not sure most would call it “creative” per se, but bodybuilding is it. I don’t think there’s much more in this world more artistic than taking your body and molding and sculpting it into what you’d like it to become.
I’ve always wanted to learn how to play an instrument, sax in particular. Sherri: [Borrowed from Inside the Actor’s Studio] If heaven exists, what do you want to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? Mosaic: If she exists I’d like to hear that she appreciated how hard I tried to spread truth, to live an honorable and descent life—and that there’s fat free pizza and wings in heaven!
He will be featuring at Mic Check on Monday February 23, 2015.