#42: Molina Speaks
Molina Speaks earned his 2017 Westword MasterMind award in the trenches, giving voice to a community rooted in mestizo culture through poetry and performance, as well as rap and hip-hop music — all tools that help empower others to follow in his positive path. As a mentor, he extends that mission in the recording studio at Youth on Record and as a TED-talker and urban educator, while always creating, making progress at the art of being human in a world that conspires to beat you down. A champion of the downtrodden and the essence of what makes a city a living environment and not a collection of high-rises and slot homes, Molina Speaks speaks volumes while answering the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Molina Speaks: Life is my creative muse. It's juicy.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
I would invite my son, my daughter and my wife. I have the most fun with them.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
My field extends far and wide. I have ten toes in ten different scenes, and that's how I like it. The best part: the diversity of crafts, vibes, visions, contributions and aesthetics among Denver creatives. Denver is independent, brilliant and wild-style creative. The worst part: the way people gossip, judge, spread rumors, call each other out for petty reasons, talk shit, fall into traps of divisiveness, cast webs of doubt on others. ... I do my best to evade all of that. I want to see people around me thrive, even when they aren't in my lane.
What first led you to get on a stage as a spoken-word artist?
My first living-word experiences came in the form of songwriting. One of the first songs I wrote was a tribute to my childhood friend, my primo Randy Anthony Esquibel, who died when I was fifteen.That led to my first stage performances as a rapper. The spoken-word art form inspired me later in college. Since then, it's been a steady stream of music, emceeing, writing and performance poetry.
What’s your best or favorite accomplishment as an artist?
My best accomplishment as an artist is that I stay creating, making meaningful art — just remaining in the game, staying in the hustle of art, finding ways to maintain relevance, staying grounded as a human being through it all. It's easy to fall off. There are a million distractions that get in the way of the creative spirit: ego, perfection, overindulgence in pride, self-criticism, alcohol, drugs, self-doubt, social fear, conflict, confrontation, bad business deals, self-sabotage, self-sabotage of potential creative partners, false comparisons, the haters, the fakers, the doubters, the non-believers, debt, bills, politics, capitalism, racism. ... I could go on and on, but I turn it all off. I get into my zone — I silence all of that. I focus on my creative intuition, one move at a time.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
I don't think like that. I don't have end goals, benchmarks or bucket lists. I just live my life, setting small goals and intentions as I go. I just follow the instructions that come my way. My aim is to experience as much as possible, offer all I can while I'm here and fulfill the intentions of the creative forces that brought me forth.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I love Denver. For everyone who was born here, or who, like me, has been here a decade-plus, it’s becoming unrecognizable — so we think about leaving all the time. But change is constant, and home is what you make it. If this place isn't worth fighting for, where else is? I say in my album Everyday Denver, "take the browns out the town, can't take me out the history/music, murals, poetry...the city notice me."
We keep getting pushed to the margins, but I thrive along the edges. I've given my heart to my community and the best of my artistry to this city. This is HOME. I will be financially successful here, and one day I will own a house here that I can pass on to my seeds.
Who is your favorite Colorado creative?
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
This is a massive year of creative output for me. You would think I've been time-traveling, stretching the fabrics of space, creating content in my dreams and 3-D printing them into "real" life. I disappeared from most social media for about thirteen months. I'll be reaping the rewards from that time away.
I invite readers to mark their calendars for March 31, when I am premiering a feature-length film titled ROOT at the McNichols Building. The event is titled "Invitation to Ritual." I will be releasing an album by the same name this summer. The technology of ROOT the film and ROOT the album will be utilized to bring people together in human ritual.
I also invite people to mark their calendars for July 7. In addition to the vinyl release of ROOT the album, my band Roots, Rice and Beans will be releasing an album titled Declaration that same day. Further details TBA.
There's plenty more, but this is a good start. Check back with me in the fall. I'm sitting on a galaxy-sized enterprise. I will say this: It’s like a fat, oblong, bulging, spotted, throbbing, crackling dinosaur egg waiting to hatch, and I'm just chillin' atop it like a patient jaguar in a black forest, appreciating the stars….
If you find yourself reading this, you are invited to come out to one of my events. I work hard to make it worth your time. Your time is appreciated when you are with me.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Los Mocochetes, Roka Hueka, Ric Urrutia, Felix “Fast4ward” Ayodele, Ill Se7en, Bianca Mikahn, Kimberly Ming, Jeff "Apostle" Campbell, Theo "Lucifury" Wilson, Toluwanimi Obiwole, Sheree "lovemestiza" Brown, Ru Johnson, Trev Rich, Detour, Jolt, Tanya Salih, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Twin Flame Medicine, Mike Wird, Suzi Q. Smith, Eutimia Cruz Montoya, Rare Birds, Diego Florez and Garde.Down, Pink Hawks, Roots Rice and Beans, Youth on Record fellows, Jami Duffy, Laura Bond, Tyler Breuer, Andrea Murphy, Devin Urioste, Brent Adams, Michele Rocquet, Bree Coco Davies, Jay and Jerry Jaramillo, Zay Rios, Adrianna Abarca and the Latino Cultural Arts Center, Chef David Lopez and El Chingon Bistro, Lighthouse Writers, Think 360 Arts, Su Teatro, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Warm Cookies of the Revolution, Buntport Theater, Tilt West, RedLine Contemporary Arts Center, Black Actors Guild, Conscious Creatives Collective.
Molina Speaks unveils ROOT, a film inspired by his album of the same name, at Invitation to Ritual, Saturday, March 31, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue. The multidisciplinary evening also celebrates Lovemestiza, a new book by Sheree "lovemestiza" Brown. Tickets range from $5 to $25 ($30 to $50 VIP) at AXS.com.
Learn more about Molina Speaks and his work online.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.