Craig “muMs” Grant, an actor and slam poet who appeared in such plays as The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and his own self-authored A Sucker Emcee, died on March 24. He was 52.
Yo muMs, ainʼt this some shit. Iʼve been asked to write a tribute piece ’bout you. They must not know you were the writer always putting pen to paper. I was about the jokes and making sure you ainʼt go overboard with all-night capers. ’Cause you could write all freaking day. Well, you mostly did the writing at night, said your mind worked better at that time, in the a.m. Iʼd check in, see how it was going. You spit me some of your poems, talk about playing poker and weed blowing and Iʼd be a little jealous at how good it was sounding, telling you less is more. Now Iʼm feeling crazy stuck, got writerʼs block. Maybe I need to wait till the a.m. and grab a drink before I start writing about you. My friend…muMs “the poet!”
They say it’s ’cause we go way way back…Mount St. Michael Junior High School, to be exact. But to be exact you werenʼt muMs back then, you were Craig Grant, and we being friends—not even sure ’bout that. That’s just facts.
Iʼd see you through the detention homeroom window while you and them other jocks be on the football field running practice, that’s it. We say what up, hang a bit. You had that mean mug, that hard African-looking grill like you werenʼt to be messed with. When I heard you trying to battle rap in the school parking lot, you sounded soft-spoken, gentle, or maybe it was you were just so articulate.
You always had a passion for words and werenʼt afraid to show your intelligence back in the day. When being smart and sensitive would make you a “nerd” or “geek” and could get you slapped on the back of the neck, but hell, you were too mean looking and too big for it to go down that way.
I remember the time we all we’re getting ready for prom and we kept telling you your date wasnʼt shit ’cause she wasnʼt in love with you. But you loved her so you wasnʼt trying to hear it. Iʼve been teasing you forever ’bout it, but you never got to mad ’cause I could make you laugh and you were never worried about “a rep.” I really did respect that.
Flash-forward 10 years later, way after graduation…Iʼm doing theatre and pushing a baby stroller and who do I see walking down the street? I heard tell you turned X Clan wannabe, had shells in your beard, walking with a staff. We catch up, you say your name is muMs and you a poet: muMs the poet, muMs the Schemer; muMs stands for manipulation under manipulation. Shhh. I canʼt help but laugh. Iʼm like, “You ainʼt still trying to rap? You say I got jokes, but you on HBO. You were meeting Scorsese, doing films, and I had a baby, was married, wondering how I was going to pay the bills—that was payback.”
We check on each other from time to time. We show each other our worlds, our tribes. You introduce me to the HBO Oz cast and poets at the the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. I introduce you to my wife and daughter, my fellow thespians from black box theatres all around Off-Off-Broadway: Room 203, La MaMa, P.S. 122. We comparing each other’s dreams, comparing each other’s stress: actors onstage donʼt make dough, poets are rappers that canʼt rap but have a different kinda flow. We become brothers from different mothers. You ask me every once in a while for acting tips. I ask you how to spell those big words and shit. We hold each other accountable to stay on track. We drink, we dance, we perform together and laugh. You knew I hated poetry and I thought you lacked focus, but we had each other’s back.
You said as long as you could spit your poems youʼd do it for free, even on the subway platform youʼd still be happy. You inspired me and I respected your artistry. You kept writing poems, plays, and made quite a few songs and you didnʼt mind when I said some were wack and way too freaking long. We trusted each other, gave each other dap. You spit a poem called “the Truth “ and it became my anthem. Live life to the fullest, take nothing for granted, be happy, be fearless, fall in love with words and learn their powers. Love who you are and what you could become—those were some of the teachings within your poetry.
We grew older and Iʼd see you handle hard times, like when your mom got sick. You stood tall and you handled that shit. I was humbled by your loyalty. You told me you were going to stay on this earth till you wrote your magnum opus. Now all who loved you and felt your spirit, those in awe of your talent and had the honor to hear you spit will gather, ʼcause we have a lot of greatness to sift through with purpose. You ainʼt a poet no more. For a lot of us you be poetry, and now you wonʼt believe how much I love that shit.
Hurting but healing for you, muMs.
Andre Royo (he/him) is an actor. writer, and producer.
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