Watch the Pen Clique Break Down Almonte’s ‘Harlem Round Midnight’

These three cats nail the symbolism and juxtaposed sensory manipulation. Loud stench. Sour sight. Also — how the hell did Alpharaoh know the parka jacket was from Uniqlo? Anyway. There’s no question about their comprehension in their Harlem Round Midnight review. Let’s talk about the dynamic of their biases in relation to each other while formulating their final opinions.

The Pen Clique’s Harlem Round Midnight review is how all reaction videos should look. Set up with three different perspectives:

The Visionary — The Realist — The Empath/Dualist

All equally paramount. The Visionary — Kuya– says, “Wow I could definitely see where you’re trying to take this.” The Realist — Daniel — says, “This could have hit much harder and needs more.” The Empath/Dualist — Alpharoah — as an audience member says, “This isn’t very satisfying after such a setup.” But also says as a writer, “this makes sense and is done purposely by the writer.” He resonates with both. And he pretty much nails why the ending is so anticlimactic.  Alpharaoh notes how the beginning feels very personal and then becomes impersonal. He’s right.

Harlem Round Midnight’s style is inspired by the naturalistic style of short story To Build a Fire by Jack London. Spoiler Alert. He dies. The world keeps on spinning. The second to last line citing, ” the stars that leaped and danced and shone brightly in the cold sky. ” There is no punch line. No twist. The world lives on as is despite the suffering of man. In Harlem Round Midnight, “Some dreams never end” nods toward there being no resolution to the dreams and desires for those in poverty. Their dreams more often remaining just that. Dreams. “The night sweats faces– sodden in evaporated moonlight.” The faces of those afflicted by poverty remain soaked in the sweat created by this seemingly never-ending night. Admittedly, it was quite a fluffy way to put it. Word-swag as Daniel put it.

Something’s missing, though.

At 11:17, The Realist says something a bit convoluted. “I want some concise, contextual something. I want something that’s going to tie this into…um… something…” Some would just dismiss a criticism like this as just ‘hating.’ But it’s not. It’s very valid and relateable point. You can tell when something is missing. Oftentimes we don’t know what that something is. We just know we are left hanging; dissatisfied.  The Visionary explains that it’s probably exactly what the artist intended. While saying, ‘Well its like that on purpose’ is an easy cop out to defend something you like, Kuya isn’t wrong. Contemporary narratives have made us used to resolution and uniformity in works of art to the point that something always has to have a concise ending. But Harlem Round Midnight is meant to be more immersive than it is entertaining. The melancholic, open-ended nature of the piece is purposely meant to put the audience in the same, dissatisfied mood as the characters in Harlem Round Midnight. The Empath reminds them of how relateable this feeling is to the reality of people’s feelings everyday in cities like LA and NYC. This isn’t just a movie. It’s reality.

The Realist seems undecided as to whether he likes it or not. Mediocre. Yet Lit? It’s Okay. But it’s DOPE too. No shade. This was literally me after watching movies with rage-inducing endings like Gone Girl. Spoiler alert, he stays with her crazy ass.

That’s It.

 The three all seemed to enjoy Harlem Round Midnight from the start. But then unanimously had “That’s it?” written on their foreheads. Yeah. That’s it, man. It sucks, but that really is it. This poem shouldn’t make you feel cool or entertained afterward. I want you to feel how I felt when I wrote this, living surrounded by this reality every day. Empty, dissatisfied. Or maybe it really is just a shitty ending. You mostly remember the ending of a piece. It makes sense that The Realist is simultaneously intrigued yet disappointed in it.

Rate from 1-10?

Not a huge fan of putting numbers on art.

There are plenty of films I’ve watched with 44% on Rotten Tomatoes that were amazing. Plenty of pieces I’ve watched with 80% that were an absolute snooze-fest. There’s no truly honest way to rate something as subjective as poetry. Especially if you’re in a room full of a bunch of people that might influence your rating.

A critic admitting to enjoying something everyone else hates ruins their ‘credibility.’ Especially in the gaming industry where many companies are paid to review games. But what if they just genuinely enjoyed something no one else did?

I could never be offended by someone giving me a 2 and another critic giving me a 9. A piece of art resonates differently with every person. I would hope that poetry wouldn’t mirror the film industry’s elitist attitude of “You scored low. You’re just a hater. Can’t trust your judgement” VS “You scored too high. You’re too easily impressed. Can’t trust your judgement.” Sometimes people just don’t like things because they’re not feeling it. We can be as ‘objectively’ good by using all the literary devices and punchlines we want. But for some, it may not resonate with them. It is natural for them to not enjoy it.

Maybe the ending turned off the Realist and he simply doesn’t like it, but he feels the need to give it a decent score because he doesn’t want to seem like an asshole. Maybe the Visionary wanted to rank it higher but didn’t want to seem like a dickrider. Too many variables influence people’s number ratings for it to be a measure of something being enjoyable or not. I enjoyed Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles more than Dunkirk.

Sue me.

I probably won’t watch Dunkirk ever again. But I could definitely get smacc’d and watch TMNT with my boys.

But I get it. It seems each have a background in Slam poetry, which is a genre with a heavy expectation of punchlines and flamboyant delivery. The Visionary also points out that this is a poem written for visuals. Not Slam. If you try to separate the visuals from the text, neither will be satisfying. Because both are poetry. Harlem Round Midnight could never rank in a Slam Poetry contest (it’s too short anyway). And it doesn’t work for radio/podcast as Alpharaoh mentioned as well. You can’t take the lettuce and tomatoes off a Big Mac and rate it as a stand-alone burger.

The Visionary’s judgement is based on influence.

When people say Kendrick is the best MC, we know that we can find someone down the block in our hood that can beat him in a rap battle. The subjective influence of setting standards is also part of that praise.  We know 2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t the best of it’s kind. But it’s iconic because it created the new wave of mixing philosophy & symbolism into Sci-Fi. Like Kendrick made “Woke” rap mainstream again. You can be very talented and even skilled at something. But what really leaves your footprint after you die is your influence and if you change the game. Kuya sees this potential beyond the piece itself. What it can become for social media and giving poetry a wider reach.  The sky and beyond. Daniel wants to stay down to earth and be realistic about what practically makes something a good poem. The Empath says anything after this has to be FIRE.

When we watch things alone, we are all three of these people. These perspectives mirror the stages artists circle through when they experience another artist’s body of work.


Ghetto Jeffro Unboxes Ghost White Timbs

The Ghost White Timbs are an icon of Hood Rich Culture.

This the first time I dropped two bucks on some sh*t some hating ass peasant will probably step on anyway. Why did I get the Ghost White Timbs? Look good; feel good, am I right?

Kinda. Not really.

I know I coulda got White boots from any other brand like H&M for 50 cash. But I don’t f*cks with fugazi sh*t. I’ma keep it a shtack. I haven’t worn Timbs since I was in middle school. Honestly, they blister my ankles and they played out. Everybody and their moms was rockin constructs. Issa lazy way to complete a navy blue color coordination. But Ghost White Timbs that make my eggshell-painted section 8 apartment look yellower than my teeth after eating two chopped cheeses back to back? I had to cop. Come on now.

Keep it 100. You hatin on me for one of three reasons:

  1. I gets more money than you.
  2. They limited edition and you was waitin til next Friday for your check. D*ckhead.
  3. You from the Bronx.



This Netflix Series Does Diversity RIGHT!

3% is a Nextflix series Hunger Games for the adult political enthusiast. In this post-apocalyptic society, nothing matters except your ability to contribute to your society.

3% is the new Netflix original series with the most genetically diverse cast we’ve seen. But this is beyond a political pander in attempt to obtain minority approval. See, its strategically visual storytelling tailors the premise of a society ruled by the meritocracy that splits their dystopian slums from an unseen utopia.



I’ve been finding myself in awkward misunderstandings when I tell people about this amazing series.

“Hey, have you seen 3%?”


Considering it’s a number and a symbol for a title, it’s pretty unorthodox. But the title refers to the select few people in a dystopian society that pass a test called “O Processo”– or “The Process” to  make it to a promised-to-be-perfect society called “the offshore.” The only supposed way to pass this test is only through your own merit. Meaning, just passing the test doesn’t mean your family members can join you. Any hereditary influence on the utopian society would mean aristocratic power… or power in the way a King passes unearned social status to his son. This society’s major belief is that the only justified hierarchy is between the state that administers test and the unproven humans. And those placed in state power have been those that passed the Process and are elected by the oligarchs who also passed. Only those with merit even get a shot at being elected to power. There is no middle ground; only pass or fail; you either have merit or you don’t. Each person is tested both on their own individual capabilities and their abilities to problem solve in groups.


A post-apocalyptic setting is suggested as the area around them looks barren yet their technology proves very far ahead of time. The fact that the cast is so genetically diverse yet race, cultural differences, nor pride in past nationhood is even remotely mentioned might mean that the audience is looking at a post-racial society– a civilization where people judge others based on what they can personally do for themselves and civilization. Their capabilities are proven only by their actions and nothing else. Not ancestry, racial history, family lineage, nor looks. Suggesting this visually is some of the most genius writing you could do because it works on the subconsciousness of the audience. If too many people were people ‘looked’ Black or ‘looked’ White, or any particular culture, the audience would subconsciously have their own biases as to the culture of this civilization based on their knowledge of culture as we know it. Writers of 3% don’t want this to feel culturally relatable nor familiar– they want it to feel new and fresh. In having such a genetically diverse cast, 3% feels ethnically ambiguous enough to feel like a struggle of human ability and not a struggle of arbitrary social classes like race or inheritance. This makes sure that–while you might be enjoying that melanin– what’s most important to the story is the idea that everyone is born equally worthless until they prove otherwise through their capability. This brings about ableist undertones seen right at the beginning with a woman that appears to be mentally ill. It makes you wonder if the process made her lose her mind due to her experiences or if her mental illness was what hindered her from passing. Does a person’s experiences determine their intellectual capability or does their intellectual capability determine the experiences they create for themselves. A question of the chicken and the egg.


Even the personalities of each individual are very diverse.  From the emotionally ambitious feeler, to the chaotic good, the dictatorial ESTJ, to the introverted individualist that just goes with the flow(my favorite character btw–definitely INTP)… you’ll never see two characters that are just alike. But although all these characters have a focused temperament and some even change their motives, they are still multi dimensionally balanced so that they aren’t too predictable. And yet nothing they do seems outlandish or forced whenever there’s a twist. They each occupy their own space with their own merit. And whenever they overstep boundaries, that’s where the true conflict lies; clashing personalities and constantly changing power dynamics with each part of O Processo. You would think that all of them at the end are very similar. But even as the 3% are all very different in personality… showing that there is no inherited personality that is truly guaranteed to pass. All ‘types’ of people have a chance. And one of the last determining factors of whether or not they’ll make it is almost completely their choice and free will… at a price. Each have merit in different ways, further strengthening the concept of power of individualism within a group of people.


The title starts to make more sense now. 5 people from 5 different languages can read this [show 3%] all in 5 different ways. Numbers and symbols are universal, leaving no room for semantic discourse compared to if they decided to simply title the series “Merito”


I want to go more in depth about how political this thing gets but not enough people have watched this for me to go tossing out spoilers. There’s barely any talk about this amazing series. So I’ll give you guys a week or two to watch the whole thing. And I’ll come back with a follow up video.

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