A Subtle Voice In The Midst Of Chaos
Boy Once Blind
Inspired By Tragedy
2015 / 10 Tracks / 18 minutes
Spoken word poetry is the red-headed stepchild of traditional art. It takes takes the visuals out of performing arts and writing – perhaps the most important aspect of each – and makes people listen to words without music, vocals without melody, and poetry without form. It is art stripped bare. Raw. Spoken word poets are some of the bravest people on earth. They hone their craft alone. They perform alone. They bare their souls alone. All eyes on them. No distractions. They rely on the power of their voice, their delivery, and their message. And, in large part, they get little respect.
They deserve respect.
Take John “JP” Leboeuf, who performs under the moniker Boy Once Blind. JP spent two years perfecting the words and delivery of Inspired By Tragedy. Ten performance poems that clock in at under twenty minutes. Now that’s artistic dedication.
Inspired By Tragedy is Boy Once Blind in raw form. It’s nearly all a cappella, and relies completely on JP’s cadence. The tragedy that JP draws inspiration from isn’t from personal history, as one might think, so much as it is from natural human existence. There are flashes of confession – most explicitly in “Walking Backwards Into Quicksand” – but most of the admonishment lies in all of our everyday sins: temptation, judgment, addiction, affliction, and all of the ways we fall short of the glory of God.
Consider the opening lines:
“A faceless reflection depicts the expression of not yet realizing who we are in the sight of our Creator. We grow weary. Blind to the truth, we don’t realize that we were made for something more than complacency. We get so comfortable in our sin, so disgusting we begin to stay stagnant in the same pool of shame that You once found us in.”
Bam. If those words don’t perk up your ears and make you listen a little harder, then you’re on the wrong website.
“How can we stand for something when we fall for everything?”
Boy Once Blind doesn’t follow formula. While many of his poems start out with hard-hitting darkness and end with love and light, some are childhood reflections, some are stories, and some are beckon calls to his generation. Some rhyme, others are rhythmical, and some are freestyle. At times, you’d swear he raps. Still, the strengths that bind this record together are JP’s passion, conviction, and raw honesty. It takes guts to write about porn addiction. And insecurities. And childhood memories we’d love to forget. And it takes guts to call out our oppressors, especially when they claim to be in the same religious corner that we are.
The emotional impact of spoken word poetry can be awfully powerful. It is storytelling at heart. It’s difficult to brand oneself as a spoken word poet and not merely use the platform for spouting off. The craft involved is a delicate balance, to be sure. Inspired By Tragedy avoids this temptation. It’s theological fuel. Broken down, it’s a thoughtful expose on a broken generation.
One track (poem) worth special attention is “Least Of These”. It represents a shift in the album’s dynamic. It’s JP’s recount of ministering to strangers, but it’s framed more as a story. As such, it resonates more strongly. It gives us a glimpse – behind the fear, rage, and contemplation – of who JP is at heart. In “Least Of These”, JP prays with a man who said “he didn’t believe, but I saw God in his eyes.” He speaks of refusing pride and helping those in need — beggars, wanderers, thieves. But then he flips the table:
“Among the poor, we are the beggars…If the image of Christ is found on the face of the least of these, do you see Jesus when you look at those in need?”
And then, “Because He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with suffering. He was pierced for our transgressions. Behold the King of Kings! And to what expense do I owe for the washing of my feet? How exquisite are His ways? How deep is His love for me? Through His rejection I’m accepted. By His brokenness I am restored. Healed by His wounds I am redeemed now and forevermore…Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did it for me.”
Passion. Truth. Understanding. Love.
Boy Once Blind brands himself as a subtle voice in the midst of chaos. This is far too modest. He is a powerful voice and talent, a troubadour intent on shattering stereotypes and labels. He has a heart for Jesus, and it’s spot on. Inspired By Tragedy is a heavy, necessary piece of artistic expression. It’s the opening act for what we hope to be a long, successful career.
Review by Jason Ramsey
Stream Inspired By Tragedy here!
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