“The problem with poetry is that a lot of the audience sometimes has short attention spans,” he told the Indianapolis newspaper years later. “So poetry has to have a rhythm to capture people who can’t listen for so long. You just close your eyes and ride to the rhythm of your voice. “
He took the name “muMs” when he was around 20 years old. He was in a rap group, he told the Philadelphia Daily News in 2003, and still had a juvenile lisp, so a friend suggested he call himself “Mumbles.”
“I thought about it for a week and shortened it to muMs,” he said, then changed it to an acronym for “manipulator under manipulation shhhhhhh!” That phrase, he told the Indianapolis newspaper, symbolized the idea that “As great as I want to be or as great as I think, I can always go to the ocean’s edge, stand there and realize that I am nothing compared to the universe . “
Back in New York, he was unsuccessful as a rapper. But it started in places like the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, where someone who helped develop “Oz” saw him and Tom Fontana, the show’s creator, peeked at performing poetry with the spoken word. Mr. Grant auditioned by performing one of his poems, and he was cast as a poet, a drug addict who writes verse in custody.
Mr. Grant, who lived in the Bronx, joined Labyrinth in 2006 and has appeared in a variety of roles in its productions. He also began writing plays, including “A Sucker Emcee,” in which he told his life story largely in rhyming couplets while a DJ who worked turntables provided a soundtrack.
Mr. Grant is survived by his partner Jennie West and a brother Winston Maxwell.
In 2003, Mr. Grant released a spoken word album called Strange Fruit, which took the title of the song about lynchings recorded in 1939 by Billie Holiday.
“Today strange fruit means that we are the product of everything blacks in this country have been through – Middle Passage, Jim Crow, segregation,” he told The Baltimore Sun in 2004. ” The strange fruit metaphor for me means life and birth where it used to mean lynching and death. Blacks have been doing this for years, taking the bad and turning it around to make the best of a bad situation. “