“The problem with poetry is that much of the public sometimes has a short attention span,” he told the Indianapolis newspaper years later. “So poetry has to have a rhythm to capture people who can’t listen for so long. They will just close their eyes and follow the rhythm of your voice. “
He took the name “muMs” when he was in his early 20s. He was in a rap group, he told The Philadelphia Daily News in 2003, and he still had a slightly boyish lisp, so a friend suggested he call himself “Mumbles.”
“I thought about it for a week and shortened it to a lot,” he said, and then turned it into an acronym for “manipulator under Manipulation shhhhhhh!” That phrase, he told the Indianapolis newspaper, symbolized the notion that “no matter how big I want to become or as big as I think I am, I can always go to the edge of the ocean, stand there and realize that I am nothing. compared to the universe. “
Back in New York, he was unsuccessful as a rapper. But he began performing spoken poetry at places like the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, which is where someone involved in the development of “Oz” saw it and recommended that Tom Fontana, the show’s creator, take a look at it. Mr. Grant auditioned performing one of his poems, and was cast as a Poet, a drug addict who writes verses while incarcerated.
Grant, who lived in the Bronx, joined Labyrinth in 2006 and appeared in various roles in their productions. He also began writing plays, including “A Sucker Emcee,” in which he told his life story largely in rhymed couplets while a DJ working with record players provided a soundtrack.
Mr. Grant is survived by his partner, Jennie West, and a brother, Winston Maxwell.
In 2003, Grant released a spoken word album called “Strange Fruit,” which takes its title from the song about lynching that Billie Holiday recorded in 1939.
“Today, strange fruit means that we are the product of everything that black people have been through in this country: Middle Passage, Jim Crow, segregation,” he told The Baltimore Sun in 2004. “It’s a new way of looking at it. The metaphor of the strange fruit means life and birth to me, where it used to mean lynching and death. Blacks have been doing that for years, taking the bad and turning it around, making the best of a bad situation. “