By Laura Jasmine
Photo by VRiviera Photography
Kim Nguyen aka King Kimbit has loved poetry and music ever since she was a child. Her parents had left Vietnam for Canada in search of freedom and risked their lives for the unknown.
In Vietnamese culture, songs were made famous by the authors rather than the singers, and Nguyen said she feels that has contributed to her dedication to writing. A lot of the Vietnamese music she was exposed to was very political, and she said that has played a part in the way she thinks and views her purpose of making music.
“My first memory of actually writing poetry is from fifth grade with Mr. Makinde,” Nguyen said. “We would have a notebook to write our poems and short stories in for English class. I don’t think we focused too much on types of poetry, but rather we were just encouraged to write.”
Nguyen stumbled upon spoken word when she attended open mic events at Umi Cafe about seven years ago, and that’s where she first saw people reading poetry out loud. One of the poets at that event was Sergio ‘Hyfidelik’ Guerra, with whom she since recorded her first mixtape with.
She was eventually invited to slams by a poet and rapper “Just Jamaal The Poet,” who became her coach in 2012 when she was on the Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam team.
In June, Nguyen released a mixtape called “Songs for a Boy (but none in particular)”—a project she is very proud of.
“This was the first record that I really took the time and did some planning for. It was a big learning process and I am glad I did it. From this project, I have gotten a lot of feedback and people have told me to never stop making music,” she said.
Nguyen admits a lot of her work comes from heartbreak. After finding out she had a voice, she started writing about injustices she has seen and continues to see.
Nguyen said she believes every person who has the ability or the platform to speak to a lot of people should recognize the power and responsibility that comes with it. She feels she is more effective in telling stories through her work rather than confrontation.
“As an artist, we are supposed to reflect the times. We act as an archive in a way, so we tell our stories. If I see injustices and don’t speak about them, then I am a part of the problem,” Nguyen said. “I find that a lot of the time we are reacting, rather than approaching issues, and I don’t think that it’s wrong; I just think every action has results, so if we don’t approach situations with that in mind, then all it will be is a series of chain reactions.”
As a woman of colour, Nguyen said she has inevitably encountered racism which has multi-faceted places in her work.
“Although I’m a person of colour, I acknowledge that hip hop and spoken word are from black and African cultures specifically, so I make the effort to stay conscious of that,” she said. “Anti-blackness is everywhere and there are enough culture vultures out there who just take from the culture without giving credit to the people. Being aware of this means that I can’t unsee it, especially in North America. Anti-blackness and white supremacy go hand-in-hand, in my opinion.”
Nguyen is currently working on a new LP, “Life Lessons Poetically”, which will be released next year. The album will be 16 tracks featuring local and international artists and will include both poetry and music.
The album is focusing on Nguyen’s life as a Vietnamese woman growing up in North America in a low income family, and trying to make it through school and life generally.
“It’s important for me to speak of my experiences because somebody else out there is going through it. It’s healing to know that people feel your story, and it’s healing to hear people’s stories,” she said. “We are an empathetic generation that is carrying a lot of trauma from our ancestors and the current state of the world. I acknowledge the responsibility I have with the power of my words, and it is important that I use it to heal.” •