It has been about a week and a half since the passing of our beloved emcee Isamu “Som” Jordan. This has been an indescribable loss of our dearest friend, mentor, and hip hop prophet. I am reminded that everyone is borrowed…Today we celebrated his life and, as Rev. Happy Watkins said, Som has gone home.
As a band, we are infinitely grateful for having shared nearly three full years of such profound creative experiences with Som.
He formed us into a team and assigned us new identities. Our stage names turned us into archetypes or became alter-egos, selves that are no less authentic than the skins in which we walk around every day. We’d bond at rehearsals, learn together and make grand plans that begin in his Gregg rule notebooks and manifest as extended play. Night would come, and we would plaster ourselves in red-black-white to bring music machines to ear-filled rooms. Finally, our human bodies move in the same cosmic dance. As our stage personas, we entertained hundreds of strangers together.
It never ceases to amaze me that I am living on a planet where music is possible, a habitable planet with sound waves and meaning.
(Andrew Holman photos taken at Someday Lounge in Portland, Ore., April 20, 2012)
Our band spent this past week grieving together. Our grief has been difficult to describe because the bond we share is a wordless, intimate power we experienced together as musicians. I realize that “wordless” and “intimate” might seem strange for describing a hip hop orchestra. Hip hop has words, and and we have not been a quiet, intimate experience. We pipe our giant noisemakers through speakers and subwoofers, blast the bejeezus out of your eardrums and make your heart swell. We have humans throwing lightning bolts and soundwaves into microphones. There’s nothing quiet and intimate about Flying Spiders, but we shared an unspoken magic onstage. In private, we are a close-knit family.
It’s hard for me to talk about Som in past tense. He’s still a tangible part of our music and has been part of my life for 7 years in multiple capacities… we were coworkers in journalism, collaborators in fiction, co-conspirators in hip hop, and friends for life. Sometimes I turn around and think I’ll see him standing there. Sometimes I’ll want to tell him something cool, grab my phone to speed-dial him and realize I can’t do that anymore.
Technology has transformed death. Appropriately, Som has essentially digitized himself into a TRON world. We have his music, voicemails, radio recordings, numerous beloved family photos, videos of Som rapping and dancing and slamming poetry at Empyrean, etc… It would be really easy to pretend that he exists in this digital dimension forever.
(Rajah Bose photo, taken at People w/ Instruments music festival in Carnation, Wash., Aug 25, 2013)
A lot of people have asked, “Did you know Som’s dark side?” In many ways, we did know his dark side, but in a theatrical way. He channeled his fears and personal storytelling into powerful lyrics and a sparkling stage persona.
Flying Spiders is not the same without the spectacular writing talent and stage presence of Isamu Jordan. We’re all musicians independently of him, but Flying Spiders stayed together because of his message – about community-building, peace, racial and economic equality, political consciousness… We’ve had discussions about how to handle upcoming shows. But what we haven’t talked about very much is the unspoken elephant – the direction in which this band relationship is going. He left us an elaborate road map, but this is still a scary topic and we have no good answers yet.
What we do know is that we’ve all been infused with a super-Som-power that isn’t going away anytime soon. He helped us grow as artists by challenging us to redo, rewrite, replay, and live up to the selves that he saw. He challenged us to greater commitment as people. He reminded us that love, words, and music could change the community… and from there, the world. His passing reminds us to love one another more. Thank you, Som. We love you and miss you every day.
The Queen Bee/Black Widow/Silent Assassin
Isamu Jordan and his wife have two wonderful boys for whom the family has set up an education fund accessible HERE. Please share and contribute if you can.
Beautiful words about Isamu Jordan: Shawn Vestal | Jess Walter | S-R