Thursday, 31 March 2016

Featuring: Ebony Tusks

by Bryan Voell

What happens when libraries and the hip-hop world intersect ?  In late 2015, Martinez Hillard, front-man for the Lawrence, Kansas, hardcore hip-hop trio Ebony Tusks, was asked to contribute an original poem for a video project promoting the role Kansas libraries play in the lives of those who use and are inspired by them.  The video, shot by Josiah Engstrom of Motovike Films as a commission by the Kansas State Library, is a poetic and visually stunning tribute to the personal role libraries have played in Hillard’s life and art. I was fortunate to ask Hillard some questions about this project.

LAIP: Tell us how your involvement with the #MyLibrary project came about.

Hillard: Josiah Engstrom of Motovike Films reached out a couple weeks before they planned to shoot it and asked if I would like to contribute an original poem. I was flattered and embraced the opportunity. Even though I’ve lived near the Capitol building in downtown Topeka for many years it was actually my first time in the State Library of Kansas.

Ebony Tusks. Photo by Rebecca Dreyfus.

Ebony Tusks. Photo by Rebecca Dreyfus.

LAIP: What role have libraries played in the success of your music projects?

Hillard: I would say that the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library and the Lawrence Public Library both exposed me to a lot of artists and musicians that I wouldn’t have been privy to otherwise, whether that was through their extensive catalogs of CDs or browsing the internet. They both do a good job of sourcing a wide variety of acts and genres.

LAIP: In the poem you recite you touch on a number of ways libraries have supported you growing up, as well as some ways (farmer’s markets, makerspace) in which libraries are branching out. What does your ideal library look like?

Hillard: Pretty similar to what T&SCPL and LPL currently look like. They both have done wonders in the last 15 years of becoming even more interactive and offering more public services. I’m proud to be a long-time patron and, with the #MyLibrary project, a visible advocate for what libraries have to offer in the modern age. My hope is that people continue to support these spaces and facilities as they are ripe for the taking.

LAIP: What new projects are you currently working on?

Hillard: I am a member of hardcore hip-hop trio EBONY TUSKS. We’re scattered along I-70 but based out of Lawrence, KS. We’re fortunate to have been embraced by a number of communities throughout the Midwest through some touring last summer and some high-profile support slots with national acts. We’re slowly piecing together some new music and plan to be in the studio starting in January 2016.


BryanVBryan Voell is currently the Local Arts Librarian for the Johnson County (KS) Library. He received his MLIS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2007 and has worked for public, academic, and research libraries in various capacities since 1997. He is also a collage artist and you can see more of his art here.

from Library as Incubator Project

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