If Mike from breaking bad was from NYC and decided to start going to poetry slams, he might end up like RAyW. You don’t often see actor, spoken word performer, private investigator, security liaison Vietnam veteran and retired cop on the same resume, but that’s what you have in Ray. His words deal with issues from his world – “fuck tha police” is his response from the other side of the thin blue line to the NWA song and subsequent rallying cry, repeating the refrain “say what you want about us, see what you do without us.” His words are sharp and blunt. It’s not fancy. The rhymes are pretty and clever but the delivery and the message is always hard and clear. “Next time, do us a favor – call your fucking neighbor.”
I swear, he’s a nice guy.
Between tearing into religion and giving the abridged version of the hell that was the Vietnam War, Ray made us stop into Ray’s Beingets to buy his girlfriend an ice cream cone and give me a lesson about the owner, an Iranian immigrant who’s been an East Village staple since 1974. “We can’t come down here and not go to Ray’s Candy Store,” he says to me, chuckling.
The anger in his poems shouldn’t be mistaken for bitterness. The fiery delivery comes not from a place of hate, but one of caring. He cares about the people he loves and the people he serves and gets angry about injustice, whether it be people disrespecting the elderly or the police, or people in places of power taking advantage of children.
Obviously part of the initial appeal is the novelty- it’s always exciting when talent comes unexpected places, and when you first meet Ray, seeming like a character from Full Metal Jacket, you really couldn’t possibly be ready for what’s about to happen. But his poetic prowess goes far deeper than simply a novelty act. His delivery and the way that it compliments what he’s actually saying (and what he’s saying is important) is exceptional and you soon forget why it surprised you in the first place – it becomes clear in a very short amount of time that that’s who he is, as much as he is a cop, a veteran, a private investigator.
He’s an old man with a young plan and he’s not slowing down.
You can find more of him at www.raywiederhold.com