As a member of Chicago’s legendary hip-hop troupe, Typical Cats, Dennis “Denizen Kane” Kim sets an unprecedented standard, blending superior rhyme schemes with a principled approach to lyricism. He brings a similar ethos to poetry, and has been featured on HBO’s Def Poetry twice. Over the last decade, he’s expanded his art to include acoustic guitar, short stories, and most recently, musical score for the dance theater piece, Sunday Will Come. He is slated to perform excerpts from Tree City Legends, a theater piece of poems and songs, at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this month.

At 31, Kim is program manager for artistic development at Youth Speaks, a literary arts organization in San Francisco, and a dedicated father of two. Describing his art, Kim speaks with eyes closed in a near whisper. “I am responsible for the story, and I think the story is ‘presence.’ Asian American people have a very particular journey here. Just because we’ve assimilated into the market and can buy and sell things, doesn’t mean that we’re here.”

Perhaps that same journey “here” marks Kim’s creative process as well. He totes a suitcase wherever he goes. “I’ve always liked suitcases, always,” he says. “I was the kid who had a bag under his bed so that he could get away. The suitcase represents a portable world.”

Kim has carried the suitcase shown here for nearly 10 years. “It’s been all over with me. It’s been my world in a world for a long time.”