Over the last two months, Canadian MC and spoken word artist Humble the Poet has been working hard to personally launch his first book in a number of cities around the World. ‘Unlearn’ as it is titled, is the product of years of learning and experiences which the author has wanted to share with his global fanbase for some time. Complimenting the lyrics and music that he is already known for, one would expect this book to reach a wider audience and introduce Humble the Poet as a thinker and artist as well as a performer. Leaving aside whether or not that was the aim and whether it has been achieved, how does ‘UnLearn’ sit as a published work and is it worth investing your time in?
Kanwer Singh, also known as Humble the Poet is from Toronto in Canada. Born to migrant Punjabi parents, he has made a name for himself over the last five years as an MC, starting off on youtube where he first showcased his talent, to playing at sell-out shows in Chandigarh, London and Vancouver. Kanwer was for many years an elementary school teacher imparting knowledge to young formative minds in his home town of Toronto. The acclaim he received performing at events like When Lions Roar, Lollapalooza and his own Believe Me Music festival, justified his decision to leave the teaching profession and work fulltime as an artist. He continued to impart knowledge, using his lyrical prowess to create thought-provoking and socially-conscious music. But it became apparent some time ago that Humble the Poet would look to diversify the means by which he expressed himself and shared the ideas which mean so much to him.
His first book ‘UnLearn’ has been published in a unique way, funded by fans and well-wishers alike through the website Indiegogo. At this point I should declare that I supported the ‘UnLearn’ project and am listed as a generous contributor in the opening pages. I came to know of Humble the Poet like many others through social media and was fortunate enough to meet him early on in his career when I interviewed him for our NU:Music series. Having followed his journey, I was interested to see where he would go next and so was intrigued by the idea of patronising what that work would be. The fact that it was a project to share ‘life lessons’ in the style of a self-help book was quite fascinating and as a Sikh like Humble the Poet himself, I wanted to know what he would create.
Through 101 short chapters, Humble the Poet has created a book that has his signature attitude and thinking stamped all over it. It is rebellious, concise and sometimes remarkably blunt. In chapters such as ‘A Lesson from 50 cent’, ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘What’s taking up space in your life?’ you can practically hear Humble the Poet’s voice reasoning with you by asking questions and pointing out subtleties of the World around us – the only thing missing is a beat! In a few chapters his understated aptitude to understand and explain key concepts from the Sikh way of life are eye-opening such as in ‘Hukam’ and again in ‘Fight!’; both chapters make statements that few Sikhs are able to espouse so eloquently. All of that being said, the subtitle to the book ‘101 Simple Truths For A Better Life’ sums up the book incredibly well for whilst the ‘Truths’ espoused in the book are often pertinent and relevant to an audience both young and old, they are influenced by personal circumstances and interpretation. This may be a book that is not to every readers taste, but it is certainly one to get the blood flowing and the thought-provoking juices pumping.
To call ‘UnLearn’ a self-help book is probably doing it a disservice – that categorises this book with many other works that it doesn’t comfortably sit alongside. I have found that it is a great book to drop in and out of – a chapter is no more than a few pages and can be read thoroughly and digested over time. It is a sound ivnestment and would sit happily by your bedside, on your coffee table or on your book shelf. UnLearn is described as a “collection of nuggets that remind you of the things that keep this wild ride steady” and although I see why that statement is true, I’d like to think that the book will be shaking up a lot of mindsets too. A sample e-book is available to read on Humble the Poet’s website for those wanting to dip in and see what UnLearn is all about and life lessons can be seen daily on his Instagram account. The book itself is available now in hardback, paperback and electronic editions online at http://humblethepoet.wix.com/unlearn101.