|Def Poetry Jam|
|Presented by||Mos Def|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Original release||2002 –|
Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry, better known as simply Def Poetry Jam or Def Poetry, is a spoken word poetry television series hosted by Mos Def and airing on HBO between 2002 and 2007. The series features performances by established and up-and-coming spoken word poets. Performances also include special appearances by well-known actors and musicians, as well as occasional performances by Mos Def himself. Co-created by Bruce George, Danny Simmons, Deborah Pointer, Stan Lathan, and Russell Simmons, the show is a spin-off of the popular Def Comedy Jam which began airing on HBO in the 1990s. As with Def Comedy, Simmons appears at the end of every episode to thank the audience.
The series included historical legendary poets such as, The Last Poets, Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka and Sonya Sanchez. It also featured poets, Saul Williams, J. Ivy, Jessica Care-Moore and Lemon. Though technically not a poetry slam, Def Poetry has become heavily associated with the poetry slam movement, and utilizes many of poetry slam's best known poets, including National Poetry Slam champions such as Beau Sia, Taylor Mali, Big Poppa E, Mayda del Valle, Mike Mcgee, Alix Olson and Rives, among others. Even poets who are critical of the poetry slam, such as John S. Hall, have acknowledged slam's influence on the show. In a 2005 interview, Hall was quoted as saying:
It's true that I was on Def Poetry even though I've never slammed. I'm probably the only person to be on there who hasn't slammed. And I think most people on Def Poetry have won slams or done well in slams. And, all of them, except the special guest stars, the celebrities, are writing slam poems and performing slam poems on Def Poetry, so to me, Def Poetry is still extremely slam-informed, and I think it will probably always be. What they say about Def Poetry is that it wants to bring an urban feel. And to me, they don't mean black or Latino, or non-white. What they really mean is, a rhythm of poetry that comes out of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, that came out of the slams.
In a 2005 interview, Bob Holman, who founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe's poetry slam and appeared on Season 4 of the show, applauded Def Poetry, noting:
I'm real happy poetry is on television. My hat is off to Russell Simmons, who has found a way to get poems on HBO in a way that feeds his own business. It gives him the back credentials for his hip-hop label, and at the same time he's magnanimous towards the art of poetry, giving us a place like that. It's a great, great moment, just as Def Poetry Jam on Broadway was a great moment, too. Not since Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf has a poem like that been on the stage.
However, Marc Smith, the founder of the Poetry Slam movement, is more critical of the program. Smith decries the intense commercialization of the poetry slam, and refers to Def Poetry as "an exploitive entertainment [program that] diminished the value and aesthetic of performance poetry."
In November 2002, a live stage production, Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam, opened on Broadway. Directed by Stan Lathan, the show featured poets Beau Sia, Suheir Hammad, Staceyann Chin, Lemon, Mayda del Valle, Georgia Me, Black Ice, Poetri Smith, and Steve Coleman. The show ran on Broadway until May 2003, and won a 2003 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event.The show subsequently toured both nationally and internationally.
Def Poetry premiered on HBO in 2002 and the latest season to air (Season 6) premiered in February 2007. As of summer 2008, there has been no word about the possibility of a Season 7. Starting in 2008, producers of Def Poetry (including Simmons, Stan Lathan, and Kamilah Forbes) developed and broadcast the HBO poetry show Brave New Voices , which is stylistically similar to Def Poetry, with teenage poets competing and backstage scenes.
Chance the Rapper will host this season.
A poetry slam is a competition arts event, in which poets perform spoken word poetry before a live audience and a panel of judges. Culturally, poetry slams are a break with the past image of poetry as an elitist or rigid art form. While formats can vary, slams are often loud and lively, with audience participation, cheering and dramatic delivery. Hip-hop music and urban culture are strong influences, and backgrounds of participants tend to be diverse.
Russell Wendell Simmons is an American entrepreneur, record executive, writer, and film producer. He co-founded the hip-hop label Def Jam Recordings, and created the clothing fashion lines Phat Farm, Argyleculture, and Tantris. Simmons' net worth was estimated at $340 million in 2011.
Alix L. Olson is an American poet who works exclusively in spoken word. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 1997 and uses her work to address issues of capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, misogyny, and patriarchy. She identifies as a queer feminist.
Beau Sia is an American slam poet.
Craig O'Neil Grant, also known as muMs da Schemer, was an American poet and actor best known for his role as Arnold "Poet" Jackson on the HBO series Oz.
Lemon Andersen is an American poet, spoken word artist and actor. He is sometimes credited as Lemon. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he still resides there. He is the son of Milagros "Mili" Quiñones, from Puerto Rico, and Peter Andersen, a Norwegian-American from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Growing up in poverty, as a teenager Lemon experienced the successive deaths of his stepfather, father, and mother from complications of heroin abuse and AIDS, leaving him and his older brother orphaned and forced to fend for themselves. Lemon became involved in serious crime, but his growing compassion first for hip hop and then acting, and a succession of gifted mentors who recognized and nurtured his theatrical talent, resulted in his development into the powerful artist portrayed in County of Kings and Lemon. Today a much-lauded "wordsmith who thinks deeply about the sounds of syllables", Lemon Andersen's writing and live performances have received widespread popular and critical acclaim. In his November 2011 TEDYouth talk Please don't take my Air Jordans, Lemon's performance of the title poem by Reg E. Gaines is followed by his own spoken-word riff on the influence of Gaines, Etheridge Knight, and other poets on his creative growth as a poet and spoken word artist.
Staceyann Chin is a spoken-word poet, performing artist and LGBT rights political activist. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Pittsburgh Daily, and has been featured on 60 Minutes. She was also featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she shared her struggles growing up as a gay person in Jamaica.
The Death of Willie Lynch is the debut album released by Black Ice, an African-American rapper and poet. Although originally signed to Def Jam Records, Black Ice was thankful to have this album released by the indie label Koch Records. Eric "Booty" Greene handled the production for this album.
Suheir Hammad is an American poet, author, performer, and political activist.
Anis Mojgani is an American spoken word poet, visual artist and musician based in Portland, Oregon. Mojgani has been characterized as a "geek genius" with "fiercely hopeful word arias."
SlamNation is a documentary film by director Paul Devlin. The film follows the National Poetry Slam in Portland, Oregon.
Daniel "Danny" Simmons Jr. is a Neo-African abstract expressionist painter, a published author, poet and philanthropist. He is the older brother of hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph Simmons. He is the co-founder and Chairman of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which provides disadvantaged urban youth with arts access and education. As part of Rush Philanthropic, Simmons also founded Rush Arts Gallery and soon thereafter converted part of his loft in Brooklyn into the Corridor Gallery. Both galleries provide exhibition opportunities to early and mid-career artists who do not have commercial representation through galleries or private dealers. Along with his brother Russell, Simmons established Def Poetry Jam, which has enjoyed long-running success on HBO. In 2004, Simmons published Three Days As the Crow Flies, a fictional account of the 1980s New York art scene. He has also written a book of artwork and poetry called I Dreamed My People Were Calling But I Couldn't Find My Way Home. He has also published " Deep in your best reflection" and "the Brown beatnik tomes", two additional volumes of poetry. In 2015 Simmons moved to Philadelphia and opened Rush Arts Philadelphia gallery (RAP) to further the Rush Arts mission and to begin to create a national presence for the service organization.
Malik Yusef El Shabazz Jones is an American spoken word poet, rapper, writer, actor and producer based in Chicago, Illinois, United States.
Yellow Rage is a duo of Philadelphia-based Asian American female spoken word poets, made up of Michelle Myers, who holds a PhD from Temple University, and Catzie Vilayphonh, the Fashion Director for two.one.five magazine. Their poems are self-written and are often based on personal experiences, focussing on social and political issues relevant to the Asian American community and aiming to challenge common misconceptions of Asianness. The performances are often aggressive and include frequent swearing, but also include wit and humor.
DuEwa Frazier is an American writer, performer, and educator.
J. Ivy is an American performance poet, spoken word artist, recording artist, song writer and author. He is a three-time HBO Def Poet and is known for his performance on Kanye West’s Grammy Award winning debut album The College Dropout, which featured him on the song "Never Let Me Down" along with Jay-Z. He received an NAACP Image Award for his writing and on-camera narration of the BET documentary Muhammad Ali: The People's Champ.
Brave New Voices was created by Youth Speaks Inc in 1998 after the inaugural Youth Speaks Teen slam poetry in San Francisco – the first poetry slam dedicated to youth in the world. Since that time, Brave New Voices has grown to represent youth ages 13–19 from all across the United States and several cities and countries from around the world. BNV is the largest ongoing spoken word event in the world. Cities compose teams of their top 4-6 youth poets to bring to the festival. When the festival began only four teams participated, and the competition has since grown to more than 50 teams.
Remi Kanazi is a Palestinian-American performance poet, writer and organizer based in New York City. He is the editor of the anthology of hip hop, poetry and art, Poets for Palestine (2008), the author of two collections of poetry, Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine (2011) and Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up From Brooklyn to Palestine (2015). His political commentary has been featured by news outlets throughout the world, including the New York Times, Salon, Al Jazeera English, and BBC Radio. He has appeared in the Palestine Festival of Literature as well as Poetry International. He is a Lannan Residency Fellow and is on the advisory committee for the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Bassey Ikpi is a Nigerian-born American spoken-word poet, writer, and mental health advocate. She has appeared on HBO's Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry five times and her poetry has opened shows for Grammy Award-winning artists. She's also the New York Times bestselling author of "I'm Telling the Truth But I'm Lying." In 2020 she judged the Indiana Review Creative Nonfiction Prize. She also features on the OkayAfrica 100 Women campaign 2020 honoree list, which celebrates women building infrastructure for future African generations.
Rudy K. Francisco is an American spoken word poet and amateur author. He has won several Poetry Slams and written six books of poetry: Getting Stitches, Scratch, No Gravity,'No Gravity Part IIHelium, and I'll Fly Away. He made an appearance on TV One's Verses and Flow and performed his spoken-word poem "Complainers" as well as "Rifle" on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.