“Assassin snail. Okay so - it’s an actual snail.”
Phenomenon the Poet, is sitting outside on the patio of Ladybird’s. A nearly full moon hangs over the north side of the train tracks along Allen Street as the rapper, singer, and slam poet discusses the title of her new EP on an otherwise quiet Thursday night. A vodka pineapple is within arm’s reach.
“Regular snails, I can’t remember what regular snails are called, but they reproduce at an alarming rate. So if you get too many of them in your tank, they’ll just start reproducing and they’ll take over the whole tank. The only way to get rid of them is to bring in an assassin snail. And that
snail eats all of the other ordinary snails. So when I think about myself in the industry, I think about – there are a lot of beautiful women that rap, a lot of them look the same,” says Phenomenon. “But when you get overrun by the fuckery, you have to bring in an assassin snail. A boisterous, radical, natural haired girl with long locks, stretch marks, and a belly, that talks a lot of shit. That’s me.”
The Chicago native turned Houston transplant performance artist recently released her Assassin Snail
EP, a cohesive, theatrical, genre blending effort, finessed with street humor and emotional depth. Album highlight “Good Time” finds Phenomenon rapping and singing an immediately memorable hook over an enticing, sensual, trap-funk groove. “Baby Daddy,” a bass rattling, bisexual anthem, rumbles with sass and personality as she raps about stealing a lover while rocking a pair of Wal-Mart jeans.
“It’s a troll. The whole song is a troll to insecurity. That’s basically what it was about. Insecure men, insecure women. It’s a whole troll. It speaks to the classism. I can take your man in a pair of Wal-Mart jeans.”
Contrary to its title, “A.D.D.” is a focused, concise cut about a lost love, vulnerable and bruised like a broken heart peering out of a raindrop stained windowpane.
“Voldemort. That’s what it’s about. That’s what I call her. The name to never be spoken,” says Phenomenon. “She was my girlfriend – I wasn’t her girlfriend. She dated me in private. She loved me in private. Never took me around her friends. Her friends felt like I wasn’t good enough for her.”
Ernie Procter, better known to audiences as Phenomenon the Poet, began her slam poetry journey at age 19, when a Chicago club owner gave her a shot onstage despite being underaged. Her first spoken word poem was called "Black Statistic."
Photo by John Amar
concludes with Phenomenon in full slam poetry mode: unaccompanied, unfiltered, brutally honest. During “Down With Goliath,” she slams about her experiences on the south side of Chicago, living in a shelter at age 19, and graduating from college. Those times proved to be a prologue to her move to Houston in 2013. She began part-time managing local rap and hip-hop recording studio Barron Studios where she met the extensive network that comprises Houston’s local music scene. Phenomenon later began an Instagram video series called “Indie Artist Cousins,” in which she gives advice to artists on how to thrive in the music industry. After gaining traction, the series recently evolved into a creative collective geared towards fostering the growth of local artists’ careers.
“The brand is all about everybody being related, and everybody getting their fair shot. And that’s what it’s all about. I just want to create a platform for indie artists to be able to get onstage,” says Phenomenon, who hopes to see Indie Artist Cousins grow beyond the Houston city limits in the future.
“I feel like it’s only the beginning. Consistency. I feel like that’s the difference between the people that make waves and the people that don’t. One of them keeps going.”
You can catch Phenomenon the Poet at Avant Garden on Friday, June 14. Doors at 7:30 p.m. $10. In the meantime, stream Assassin Snail below. Follow her on Instagram @phenomenon_the_poet and Twitter @Phee_nomenon.