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It’s OK to call his lyrics poetic

Shihan the Poet makes the transition from spoken word to hip-hop sound easy. Then again, the 30-year-old has been making transitions his whole life.

From teenage prodigy signed by MCA Records to commercial jingle writer to legendary touring poet to host of Los Angeles’ hot Da’ Poetry Lounge to artist and talent consultant on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam,” Shihan has proved a word merchant whose currency is honesty. Now, with the Sept. 6 release of “The Poet” on L.A.'s Groove Gravy Records, he breaks into song.

“If poetry is going to reach the hip-hop generation, it has to be put that way, has to be put to music,” says Shihan, who found that forsaking free verse for rhyming lyrics “was very hard. You really have to retrain yourself.”

Shihan’s collaborators help hold together the album’s seven songs, four poems and four poems set to music. Label founder Roy Shakked (as Jazzelicious) contributes production on four tracks. Electronica diva Ursula Rucker lends her voice and words on “Activism.” And Gina Loring sings on the sultry, funky “Somebody Tell Me.”

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“I’ve been lucky in my life at how I get one job and that will lead to something else,”

Shihan says of his far-flung projects -- after all, he was once hired to choreograph a fight scene in an ‘N Sync video. “Trying to live only as a poet is a very nomadic life. If you don’t learn to recognize opportunities, they will pass you by.”

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“The Poet” record release show: 8:30 p.m. Friday, the Temple Bar, 1026 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. $10. (310) 393-6611. Also: 8:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at the Little Temple, 4519 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. $10. (323) 953-8948.

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