By: Ezra Wheeler
For the past few years, Havier Green, known artistically as The Poet, Havi, has been one of Memphis’ most iconoclastic and subversive creators. As a musician, he seems just as comfortable making boastful bangers as he does personal odes to love, a chameleon-like trait that sets him apart from his peers. As the founder of STUDIO 88, Memphis’ self-described “smallest studio,” he has helped other rebellious Bluff City musicians such as Ash León, Rose A., and Dame Mufasa release music that is as hard to categorize as his own. We sat down with The Poet, Havi to bring you Five Questions.
You’re known as The Poet, Havi and I’ve seen you share some of your poems before on social media. How did you first get involved with poetry, and what role does it play in your music?
Growing up in South Memphis, poetry was the complete opposite of what I wanted to be. Poetry sounded effeminate and was synonymous with “weak” in my mind. But in high school, I was given the opportunity to go to prep school in Connecticut at a really good school called Taft. One of my professors there really pushed the idea that poets were some of the strongest people, because they were brave enough to speak on how they felt. That really opened up a door in my mind. I had always loved words, and hearing that from someone I looked up to allowed me to think about things differently. When it came time to choose a name for myself as a solo act, nothing else seemed to fit like “poet.” It’s a title I wear like a badge of honor now.
For someone who might be unfamiliar with STUDIO 88, what are three songs from the catalogue that you think would be a good introduction to your sound?
I’d have to start with my track “Shea Butter (Heart of Darkness),” which was the first song we put out. We did a video with Studio One Four Three that really made everyone turn and looks our way.
The video was in black and white and was influenced by the Scorcese film Raging Bull, which made folks react like “who are these Black kids referencing Scorcese?” The music itself is pounding and sounds like something that could have been on the Black Panther soundtrack.
The second song would have to be “You’re My Jesus.” We won an Indie Memphis Film Fest award for that video and I was only in it for one or maybe two seconds. That video was such a labor of love and I had learned a lot from making the first video. I think the love really shines through in the video and the song. It’s the closest thing I’ve ever done to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” in terms of making a testament to something much bigger than me.
Song three would have to be “Euphoria” from the artist Rose A. It was the first effort between Spek and I to produce a song for another artist, and I think it’s our best one yet. I wrote the lyrics with Rose A. and I think it really taps into her feelings. As far as what’s on our playlist so far, I think that might be our best collective effort, but there’s much more to come.
You’re a stylish dude and you certainly don’t seem to be shy with your sartorial choices. Who are some of your style role models, and where are some of your favorite places to shop in Memphis?
Throughout my life, I’d have to say my biggest influences in terms of style would have to be gay Black men. Again, growing up in South Memphis and having that obsession with masculinity, seeing them be brave enough to hold their heads up and stick their chest out while wearing whatever they wanted always piqued my interest. They were always on the cutting edge of fashion and showed a level of bravery I respected. If we’re speaking more directly, I’d say Jimi Hendrix. I always think about the army jacket he bought from a thrift store in Britain that he just made iconic and synonymous with his style. If you see that jacket on any other British guy, he’s gonna look like the stiffest dude you’ve ever seen, but when Jimi puts it on it just blows your mind. As far as places to shop around town, I’m a big thrift store guy. My favorites are Mid-South Outlet on Summer Ave., Am Vets in South Memphis, and Found Memphis right off of Broad.
Oranges are a big theme in STUDIO 88’s branding. What does the orange symbolize to you?
I’m a big reader of Buddhist and Zen thought and appreciate how those philosophies allow you to open your mind and have a psychological revolution. You see a lot of orange in the clothing of the people who practice that, so that’s definitely an aspect of it. Also, when I started Studio 88, I was faced with the question of what I wanted to accomplish in the most humble way possible. I decided I wanted to treat it almost like a gardener and to give the project a lot of love and attention. I wanted to watch my music and the music of the artists I work with grow, so I see each one of us as workers in an orchard watching the fruit ripen and then enjoying the sweetness of it all.
After a long year, things are finally getting back to normal, especially within the music community. What can we expect from you and STUDIO 88 in the coming weeks and months?
Like most practitioners of Zen, we work on a model that’s very much focused on the day-to-day, or in our case song-by-song. We just released a song from me featuring BatieBankRoll called “Cash Talk,” which I’m really excited about. It’s me being very loud and boisterous and we had a lot of fun making it. Also, in the next month or so, we’ll be releasing a couple of gems from Spekulate the Philosopher. He’s been collaborating with Dame Mufasa of The CLTV, as well as a friend of ours Cochi$e, on a collaborative EP. That’s what you can expect from us in the near future, but otherwise man, your guess is as good as mine. We like to fly blind and just throw a lot in the air to see what sticks, so just keep your eyes peeled.