In 2020, in partnership with the Tulsa Family Center for Juvenile Justice, The bART launched a program that serves some of Tulsa’s most at-risk kids: those in the juvenile detention system. Tulsa hip-hop artist 1st Verse (Derek Clark) brings his talents and experience to youth at TFCJJ for a class on songwriting and self-expression, engaging them in elements of music-making such as song structure, working with rhythm, the syntax and flow of rhymes, wordplay, and self-reflection. The program gives at-risk youth an opportunity to experience the empowerment and personal growth that comes from making music. Verse’s class explores technical aspects of hip-hop lyricism as a means for students to harness their creativity and personal expression.
1st Verse (Derek Clark @1stverse) bio written by Damion Shade, contributing writer, Tulsa People:
Rapper, beatmaker, and recording artist 1st Verse hails from a flourishing hip hop scene erupting in the most improbable place, the American Southwest in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa is the home of the historic Black Wall Street, one of the wealthiest Black communities of the 20th century which was destroyed by the single largest act of racial violence in American history on June 30th, 1921.
Verse is a leader among a new generation of Oklahoma rappers dedicated to restoring the positive legacy of Black Wall Street. Verse’s remarkable artistry has helped bring Tulsa’s hip hop culture to national prominence. He was recently featured in Rolling Stone and Grammy.com, and Verse helped develop the largest hip hop music festival in the state, the World Culture Music Festival, from 2017-2019. This rapper’s talents are lifting Tulsa’s unique culture to the forefront. Verse’s flow is a thing of beauty. His voice is fluid and sonorous rich with East Coast lyricism and cadences that are complex, distinctive, and lively. There are echoes of records like Illmatic and Cuban Linx on Verse’s debut album, “The City That Always Sleeps.” Released in 2016, the album grew to define a generation of Tulsa artists, but Verse’s classic boom bap pedigree has also evolved in ways that are distinctly modern.
Verse’s 2019 VSXO album is a singular sonic expression grounded in modern production and style. The record came with a $30 price tag–a price point that signaled Verse’s unyielding determination to build a community truly invested in his music–to will himself beyond his own limitations. This process has paid off. VSXO has sold remarkably well for a completely independent release. The production on VSXO is spacy and soulful, showcasing mind-bending circuitous rhymes reminiscent of Earl Sweatshirt and the personal narrative bent of southern voices like Big Krit. In 2020, Verse followed this VSXO with heady collaborations with noted producers Medisin and DJ NoName.
These three projects reveal an artist at the height of his creative power poised to carry his city and his state into the next stage of national renown. Verse has opened for numerous national acts including E-40, Raekwon, Thundercat, Slum Village, Black Milk, and more, and the rapper toured the US with celebrated Oklahoma rapper Johnny Polygon. Widely known as one of the top live performers in Tulsa, Verse has assembled a band called Verse and the Vapors with some of Tulsa’s top musicians, creating a dynamic and arresting live show – including Christon Mason, Bobby Moffett and superstar Fire in Little Africa producer Malachi Burgess.