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The rhythm of Life

There are certain criteria for attending Black on Black Rhyme, a spoken-word event held every Tuesday night at the Harbor Club Restaurant and Lounge. Rule one: “Everyone must have a good time.” Rules two through six: “When an artist is on the mic, respect the mic,” as read by the master of ceremonies, a poet named Life, who addresses the audience with his face partially hidden by a curtain of dreads and illuminated by strings of red lights.

Life’s usual routine is to entertain the audience with poetry and anecdotes in between other acts. His appreciation for fellow artists shows through his mantra: “If you ain’t clappin’, you hatin’.”

Black on Black’s venue – the Harbor Club, just off of Nebraska Avenue – looks like a fish market with neon lights around it, overlooking the Hillsborough River. The club serves food and alcohol from its in-house restaurant Hi-Tide Fish and Chips, which offers chicken wings, seafood and Caribbean dishes at low prices.

Black on Black Rhyme – an open-mic night for poets to come and share their art – proves an effective vehicle for exposing people to this genre of art. On poetry night the lounge is illuminated by strings of red lights and glowing tea candles, which create a relaxing mood that’s crucial to the event. Life concerns himself with making sure everyone enjoys the show, ideally resulting in greater attendance the next week.

Each month, Life brings in a professional artist to do a feature with the amateurs. A recently featured poet was Daytime, whose poetry confirmed his veteran status in the genre. Daytime immediately developed a rapport with the audience by asking them for subjects he could incorporate into an improvised poem. He dazzled the audience with lyrical wordplay and on-the-spot rhymes. As Life put it, “artists respond best to energy,” and there was plenty to go around.

After Daytime, Life began a poem about the troubles of Myspace and how the Web site can break up a relationship. He then introduced Rapunzel, who recited an emotional poem titled “Put It Down.” It chronicled her rough childhood and addressed the negative effect of rap music imagery on youth culture, specifically her own.

Then, Kevin Sandbloom, a 40-year-old traveling musician from Los Angeles, played a three-song acoustic set with a style that incorporated blues, jazz and new age. Sandbloom, who has been playing since high school, said he designs his music to be “different but accessible.” He tries not to fit into any category of pop music yet makes his songs appealing to all audiences.

On any given Tuesday, one can find Life playing host to this creative and energetic event that offers a unique break in the rhythm of a humdrum routine.

Black on Black Rhyme is held every Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. and doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5. For more information, call (813) 810-3582.