“Sareem Poems [is a] father, husband, easygoing, God-fearing man that loves to create.”
“[Ess Be is] a servant, artist, creative, mysterious, and God-fearing, God-loving human being.”
Sareem Poems met Ess Be through the All of the Above Hip-Hop Academy, an extracurricular program in Lansing, Michigan for youth interested in hip-hop. It was founded by Ozay Moore and tries to “give kids principles on how to lead and be impactful in your neighborhood and at the same time teach them the history of hip-hop,” said Sareem.
“Ess Be was one of the beat-making instructors. At that point I was considering not making music anymore and we got to talking and he said he was gonna stop making music.” When Sareem heard Ess Be’s production, he encouraged him to keep going. The encouragement was mutual.
Sareem Poems and Ess Be first collaborated in 2015 to create the album Beautiful Noise. After a couple years, they decided to make another album together, Mind Over Matter, which released this month.
“I went about writing to the tracks that were outside of my comfort zone first.” When Sareem writes his verses, he listens to beats and lets them form emotions and thoughts inside of him.
“What does it make me feel? What does it make me think about?”
Ess Be said that Mind Over Matter “really helps to motivate, encourage, and push people forward to continue on and keep going through life, as hard as it may get.”
“Maze” is about navigating the twists and turns of life. “There’s a lot of people looking for direction within the maze of life. Sometimes you’ve gotta climb up the wall and look at the whole path,” said Sareem. He wants people to take time to sit and reflect on their life instead of always focusing on getting somewhere.
“You get a lot of weight on you when you’re trying to do something that’s different… people’s opinions, the circumstances you’re in.”
Sareem doesn’t want listeners to let the pressures of life get to them and distract them from God’s purpose for their life. “Keep your eyes focused way up there, [which] is [where] God [is].”
Singer Sean C. Johnson was featured on the song. “It was a blessing to have him re-do the hook because me singing the hook was not exciting,” said Sareem.
“Shallow” addresses the nature of modern American culture. “There’s so many things that are very easy to hold our attention. Social media, television. A lot of things are self centered,” said Sareem. He wants to warn listeners to be wary of becoming shallow. “It’s a big thing to review life. Where am I at? Where is my focus?” He wants to make sure his direction and purpose does not revolve around his own will, rather that of God.
“Dance for the Dead” is a celebration of those who have passed in the Civil Rights Movement and Black history. Sareem notes that “there’s horrible things in life consistently, but to say that we haven’t gotten anywhere is a huge slap in the face to Martin Luther King, to Harriet Tubman.” He believes that though change continues to be needed, people of color should celebrate how much progress has been made since the 1950s.
“There was a time where you couldn’t walk in and sit at any restaurant… there’s been a lot of achievements and I think those achievements need to be celebrated and remembered because there’s freedoms that we have.”
With “Eyedentity,” Sareem wants listeners to “be bold in loving themselves. We’re taught to love one another, we’re taught to love thy neighbor and we lose sight of loving ourselves because we don’t want to be self-absorbed.”
“What’s Wrong” features Dre Murray and Adan Bean and is about challenges facing Black communities. “A lot of times people turn a blind eye to it… Do you really think somebody made a choice to live where gunshots are normal?” Sareem wants to challenge listeners not to ignore the problems and potential solutions. “There’s things going on that people are very uncomfortable talking about and against advocating for, it almost feels like.”
“Schools are being shut down. These are things that kids need for education because they have low test scores. It’s like ‘Well, okay, they have low test scores. How about we focus on getting the test scores up?’”
“I’m Alright” is a song Sareem wrote to his late grandmother who raised him. “I didn’t get a chance to say bye to her.” When he was fifteen, his grandmother was in the hospital in poor health, but wanted to come home for Christmas. “She came home but she was in the bed. She couldn’t even get up on her own.”
The day after Christmas, she went back to the hospital and two days later passed away. “The song is a check-in with my grandmother, like ‘Hey, I’m alright. Things have turned out well and thank you for the sacrifices that you made.’”