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Queen Sheba

Spoken-word artist reigns supreme

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Anyone who complains that spoken-word poetry is boring and predictable hasn't heard Queen Sheba's Domino Affect.

To be accurate, Domino Affect isn't just a poetry album. Queen Sheba also performs alt-rock songs such as "Natural," where she sings in a soulfully angular voice. Meanwhile, her spoken-word tracks, laid over beats arranged by Charles Malone, Jeff Wheeler and Slang, are as aggressive as raps. On one cut, "Next Recipe," she declaims, "You already know what I'm about/A self-sponsored head hunter/Red, black and green on my medallion/A black fist on my Afro pick."

"I'm a full-time performance poet, event planner and community organizer," says Queen Sheba as she eats a quick dinner at Endenu Restaurant, the locale for a Monday-night open-mic event she co-hosts with rapper and man-about-town Haziq Ali. Queen Sheba issued Domino Affect herself last month, but says several labels have approached her about distributing it. "I'm actually talking to EMI, Koch and a couple other indie distribution labels," she says. In the meantime, she's selling at local stores such as Earwax and Moods Music.

Domino Affect features several local and national guests, including Kelly Love Jones, W. Ellington Felton, Phillipia, contemporary-jazz saxophonist Mike Phillips and Julie Dexter. Its roster is a reflection of the respect Queen Sheba has earned in the spoken-word community. When she moved to Atlanta from Norfolk, Va., two years ago, she had already toured through several countries, opened for soul artists such as Raheem Devaughn and Omar, organized numerous slam-poetry competitions, and performed on BET's "106 & Park."

"I think that the masses aren't aware of [the spoken-word scene] because the people who control the entertainment industry aren't sure how they would market a spoken-word artist," says Queen Sheba. She notes that only two spoken-word acts, former Atlantan Amir Sulaiman and Black Ice, have major distribution deals. "For a black female spoken-word artist to get major distribution is a huge accomplishment. I don't have it yet ... but I will."

Queen Sheba hosts 1st Sundays on Sun., Oct. 7. $7. 8 p.m. Apache Café, 64 Third St. 404-876-5436. www.apachecafe.info.

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