Art is oftentimes created in the most unsuspecting places. John K. King Books is such a place where you may not expect the proper musical set-ups, acoustics or lighting – especially by hip-hop standards. But on a certain semi-overcast Sunday, John K. King was gracious enough to unlock the doors of his cherished bookstore on his day off. One of three locations of King Book's, this particular building was rumored to have been completely removed from its previous locale to its current residence. Known across the country, John K. King Book's has a level of history uncommon in bookstores today. Having just been visited by David Byrne, King Book's has seen the likes of Jay Leno, Martin Sheen and several politicians perusing its walls searching for a new read.

For now, there's no time for reading. Scaling the steps to the first floor of the forty-five year-old store, the members of United States of the Mind (USM), marveled at the sheer number of books that lined every inch of the building before turning their attention to its close quarters. Turning sideways, inching further and further into the musky halls that would soon be their stage for the evening, USM prepared themselves for the long road ahead.

Slowly carrying their equipment through the aisles, being careful not to disturb anything, the present members of USM, D. Allie, Sleepy Biggs, W. Draztik, Metasyons, Eddie Logix, began setting up their gear for what was to come. Tightly fitting in the sound equipment into an aisle filled with the Wizard of Oz series and calling for more lighting that barely illuminated the faces of the crew, we readied the setting for a show. As we nestled in amidst classics, Melville, Whitman and Dickens, the duo of D. Allie and his father, Gary Strauss, sat on emptied crates facing the aptly named "Music" section, backs to juvenile literature. Out of site, we listened as the performance is counted in; a simple acoustic melody begins and a voice reaches out from down the hall. Sitting, heads nodding, the remaining members of the group listen to their comrade from down the hall, huddled together around an antique table full of odds and ends, occasionally picking up a book or knick-knack while peaking down the hall.

The quiet of the room settled around us like a fog to such a point that we weren't sure when the filming was over. Still studying the old, cracked books in the cases, occasionally picking up a discarded copy of some martial arts magazine, we were roused from our respective concentrations to move to the front steps of the grand entrance. Every remnant that would signal to a newcomer that we had been in the previous room was quickly dismantled and a drum kit and turntables were set up at the entrance. Chatting outside on the corner of Lafayette and Fifth Street, D.Allie and Metasyons jokingly sing Michael McDonald in the midst of coming up with their freestyles for the next take. Five sets are planned, and we begin to lose the light that is so desperately needed. The constant reminder that the store must be locked up soon looms heavy and we begin to hustle in double time. Set up. Shoot. Tear down. Repeat. Climbing the dim stairway lined with artwork – whether it's for sale or for decoration, it can't be said – we reach the third floor for the final performances. Shadowy and calm, we creep into the depths of the bookshelves, out of sight. A capella performances are given, we watch with smiles. "I love this raw stuff," someone whispers. And obeying the suns schedule, we began drawing our own story to a close.

- Treasure Groh
901 W. Lafayette Blvd.

A true Detroit treasure trove for local literati and the casual booklover alike, John K. King is Michigan's largest used and rare bookstore, and one of the largest bookstores in the country.

Perched just above the Lodge Freeway on Lafayette Boulevard, the now permanent main King store consists of two buildings. The old four-story Advance Glove factory (purchased by King in 1983 when he ran out of room at his leased Michigan Theatre location) serves as the primary retail space, and the more recently acquired building directly behind (the former Otis Elevator Co. building) houses King's offices, Art Annex and the famous Rare Book Room.

Established in 1965, King now has over a million books in stock and two additional stores (a small place in Detroit's Cultural Center and one in Ferndale).
United States of Mind - Freestyle

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Progress Report - I'm Yours

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Metasyons - When The Tables Turn

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Draztik - Ringmaster

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United States of Mind - Steady Shine

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