Def Poetry Jam

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Def Poetry Jam
Presented by Mos Def
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Russell Simmons
Original network HBO
Original release 2002 – 2007

Russell Simmons presents Def Poetry, better known as simply Def Poetry Jam or Def Poetry, was 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 90's. 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, Grammy Award Winning 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.[1]

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.[2]

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."[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

Episode index[edit]

Season 1 (2002)[edit]

Episode 1

Steve Colman - I Wanna Hear a Poem

Georgia Me - Full Figure Potential

Benjamin Bratt - Lower East Side

Lemon - Shine

Nikki Giovanni - Talk to Me Poem, I Think I've Got the Blues

Black Ice - Bigger Than Mine?

Suheir Hammad - First Writing Since

Episode 2

Taylor Mali - What Teachers Make

Yellow Rage - Listen Asshole

Jewel - Poem Song

Flow Mentalz - They Call Me Drama

Sonia Sanchez - Poem for Some Women

Shihan - This Type Love

Dawn Saylor - When I Was 14

Kayo - Who Am I?

Episode 3

Cedric the Entertainer - Untitled

Sarah Jones - Your Revolution

Beau Sia - Give Me a Chance

Willie Perdomo - How Beautiful We Really Are

Abyss - God Gave Me Grey Skies

The Last Poets - Take Your Time

INQ - When Hip-Hop Was Fun

J. Ivy - I Need To Write

Episode 4

Mayda del Valle - Descendancy

Poetri - Money

Jessica Care Moore - Warriors Walk Alone

Dave Chappelle - The Corner Store

Amiri Baraka - from Why is We Americans?

Liza Jessie Peterson - Ice Cream Fiend

Kevin Coval - Family Feud

Season 2 (2003)[edit]

Episode 1

Beau Sia - Asian Invasion

Jason Carney - Southern Heritage

Thea Monyee - Woman to Woman

Sekou Sundiata - Come on and Bring on the Reparations

Marty McConnell - Give Me One Good Reason to Die

Twin Poets - Dreams are Illegal in the Ghetto

Jamie Foxx - Off the Hizzle for Shizzle

Episode 2

Danny Hoch - Corner Talk, September

Patricia Smith - Skinhead

Dante Basco - Nikki

Maggie Estep - Emotional Idiot

Black Ice - Truth Is

Kent Foreman - Epiphany

Roger Bonair-Agard - How the Ghetto Loves Us Back

Erykah Badu - Friends, fans, and artists must meet

Episode 3

Lemon - Where I'm From and A Toast

Bassey Ikpi - Sometimes silence is the loudest kind of noise

Taylor Mali - Totally like whatever, you know?

Regie Cabico - What kind of guys are attracted to me

Haki R. Madhubuti - Beat Network

Rat Sack - I'm Losing You

Episode 4

Ishle Yi Park - All I have ever done is write you love poems

Shihan - Say What?

Suheir Hammad - Not Your Erotic, Not Your Exotic

Big Poppa E - Wussy Boy

La Bruja - WTC

Anthony Morales - Story Avenue Stuck

Amalia Ortiz - Some Days

Oscar Brown Jr. - I Apologize

Episode 5

Felipe Luciano - Jibaro, My Pretty Nigger

muMs - Ploylessness

Amanda Diva - Hot Shit

Malik Yusef - I Spit

Asha Bandele - Morning Was My Mentor

Malcolm Jamal Warner - I Love My Woman

Episode 6

Sekou the Misfit - I'm a Rapper

Steve Connell - Why Not Wine Coolers

Georgia Me - NigGods

Louis Reyes Rivera - Bullet Cry

Jessica Care Moore - I'm a Hip Hop Cheerleader

Keith Murray - Man Child.

Episode 7

Denizen Kane - Lost and Found

Staceyann Chin - If Only Out of Vanity

Big Rube - Alphabet Acrobat

Wood Harris - Night Song

Goldie - No title

Regie Gibson - For James Marshall Hendrix

Joy Harjo - A Poem to Get Rid of Fear

Linton Kwesi Johnson - If I Was a Top-notch Poet

Season 3 (2004)[edit]

Episode 1

Black Ice - Lone Soldier

Rives - Sign Language

Helena D. Lewis - Stank Breath

Poem-cees - Power

Mutabaruka - Dis Poem

Daniel Beaty - Duality Duel

Rupert Estanislao - Empress

Jill Scott - Nothing is for Nothing

Suheir Hammad - We Spent the 4th of July in Bed

Episode 2

Mayda del Valle and Lemon - Tito Puente

Flaco Navaja - Kids Don't Play

Gemineye - Poetic Bloodline

Ursula Rucker - Get Ready

Michael Ellison - Light Skin-did

Ishle Park - Pussy

Ras Baraka - American Poem

Dana Gilmore - Wife, Woman, Friend

Common - God is Freedom

Episode 3

Poetri - Krispy Kreme

Emanuel Xavier - Tradiciones

Marc Bamuthi Joseph - For Pop

Richard Montoya - Miami

Vanessa Hidary - The Hebrew Mamita

Danny Hoch - PSA

Bassey Ikpi - Homeward

Lemon - Gangsta MCs

Steve Colman - Terrorist Threat

Episode 4

Black Ice & Staceyann Chin - Jammin

Rock Baby - Titty Man

Alix Olson - Women Before

Mike 360 - Twilight Zone

Cheryl “Salt” James - We Follow Your Lead

Shappy - I Am That Nerd

Jonzi D - 3000 Casualties of War

Amalia Ortiz - Cat Calls

Jimmy Santiago Baca - from Healing Earthquakes (“Twelve”)

Episode 5

Roger Bonair Agard - For Trent Lott

Frenchie - Fucking Ain't Conscious

Geoff Trenchard - Of Copper Chipped Teeth

Chinaka Hodge - Barely Audible

Quincy Troupe - Forty One Seconds in June, in Salt Lake City, Utah (for Michael Jordan)

Dufflyn - Single Life

Mums - Brooklyn Queen

Kevin Coval - Jam Master J

Beau Sia - Love

Episode 6

Shihan - Sick and Tired

Jason Carney - Out Here

Gina Loring - Somewhere There Is a Poem

Kanye West - Self Conscious

Jamie Kennedy - Grim Fairy Tale

Bao Phi - You Bring Out the Vietnamese in Me

Roscoe P. Coldchain - Trouble

Mayda del Valle - Mami's Makin' Mambo

Buju Banton - How Long

Episode 7

Maggie Estep - Happy

Malak Salaam - Warrior's Love

Joel Chmara - Sweet Tooth Tollbooth School Year

Flowmentalz - The Payphone

Saul Williams - Coded Language

Georgia Me - Hit Like a Man

Deb Young - Children of a Lesser God

Smokey Robinson - A Black American

Season 4 (2005)[edit]

Episode 1

Daniel Beaty - Knock, Knock

Rives - Kite

Nafessa Monroe - White

Mark Gonzales - As with Most Men

Zena Edwards - Laugh

Oscar Brown Jr. - Children of Children

Amalia Ortiz - Women of Juarez

Black Ice - Or Die

MC Lyte - I Was Born

Episode 2

Gemineye - What Are You Fighting For?

Bonnie - My Man

Javon Johnson - Elementary

Suheir Hammad - What I Will

Rachel and George McKibbons - Multi-tasking

Vanessa Hidary - Fling Gone Awry

Flowmentalz - Constipation

Nikki Patin - Sweat

Nikky Finney - Girlfriends Train

Kanye West - 18 years

Episode 3

Bassey Ikpi - Diallo

John S. Hall - America Kicks Ass

Tish Benson - Fifth Word Email

Kelly Tsai - Mao

Tracy Morgan - Feeling Fucked Up

Will Bell - So I Run

Morris Stegosaurus - Big Man II

Dawn Saylor - Take You To Brooklyn

Michael Eric Dyson - Intellectual MCs

KRS-One and Doug E. Fresh - 2nd Quarter

Episode 4

Poetri - Dating Myself

Julian Curry - Nigger, Niggas, Niggaz

Ishle Park - Open Letter to Soldier

Taylor Mali - Like Lily Like Wilson

Adelle Givens - That Shit Ain't Funny

Kevin Coval - My g-dself Loose

Yolanda Kae Wilkinson - Circa Valentine's Day

Amir Sulaiman - Danger

Floetry - Everybody Heard

Episode 5

Lemon - Love Poem

Regie Cabico - You Bring Out the Writer in Me

Rafael Casal - Abortion

Kim Fields - How Come

Reg E. Gaines - I Don't Feel Like Writing

Jon Goode - Barbara

Dana Gilmore - Wife, Woman, Friend, Pt. 2

Rita Dove - Black on a Saturday Night

Talib Kweli - Lonely People

Episode 6

Flaco Navaja - Revolution

Liza Jesse Peterson - Waitress

Robert Karimi - Get Down with Your Catholic Muslim Self

Triple Black - Love Poems

Bonafide Rojas - In front of the Class

Laura “Piece” Kelly - Central District

BessKepp - Rotten Pomegranates

Michael Franti - Rock the Nation

Ruby Dee - Tupac

Episode 7

Georgia Me - Bitch Ass Nigga

Jus Cus - Homeland Security

J. Ivy - Dear Father

Marlon Esquerra - Morning Papers

Marvin Tate - My Life to the Present

Martin Espada - Imagine the Angels of Bread

Alix Olson - America on Sale

Mos Def - Pornographic Content

Ani DiFranco - Coming Up

Mike Epps - I Love the Hood

Episode 8

Mayda del Valle - Hood Days

Andy Buck - *69

Faraji Salim - Star Spangled Banner

Bob Holman - Rock & Roll Mythology

Patrick Washington - Letter to the Editor

Tara Betts - Switch

Paul Flores - Brown Dreams

muMs - The Truth Parts I & II

Buttaflysoul - Queer Eye

Dead Prez - 4 the Hood

Episode 9

Beau Sia - I'm So Deep

Aysiha Knight - Until

Buddy Wakefield - Convenience Store

Shihan - The Auction Network

Miguel Algarin - Met Walking

Kendra Urdang - To Every Man Who Never Called Himself a Feminist

Speech - Night Time Demons

Red Storm - My Debut

Universes (poetic theatre ensemble) (Steven,Mildred & Gamal) - Don't Front

Common - A Letter to the Law

Episode 10

Tommy Bottoms - Basic Economics

Staceyann Chin - Three Frenzied Days

Joe Hernandez-Kolski - Cool

Marc Batmuthi Joseph - Move

Denizen Kane - Love Song

Aya De Leon - Cellulite

Musiq - Pieces of this Life

Mos Def - My Life is Real

Yusef Komunyakaa - The Sure Beat

Beau Sia, Georgia Me, Suheir Hammad - First Taste

Season 5 (2006)[edit]

Episode 1

J. Ivy — Never Let Me Down

Dahlak Brathwaite — Just Another Routine Check

Claudia Alick — Employed Poor

Black Ice — Imagine

Gideon Grody-Patinkin — Touching

Avery Brooks — from Purlie Victorious (by Ossie Davis)

Lauryn Hill — Motives and Thoughts

Rachel McKibbens — After School Special

Dave Chappelle - Fuck Ashton Kutcher and How I Got the Lead On Jeopardy

Episode 2

Al Letson — The Ball the Rim and Him

Dan Sully and Tim Stafford — Death From Below

Georgia Me — For Your Protection

John Legend — Again

Caroline Harvey — Spoons

Bounty Killer — Look Into My Eyes;

Bassey Ikpi — I Want to Kiss You

Will “Da Real One” Bell — Diary of the Reformed

Alicia Keys — P.O.W.

Episode 3

Reg E. Gaines and Savion Glover — Pawn Shop

Tommy Chunn — Computer Wordplay

Scorpio Blues — Second Guessing

Gemineye — Penny for Your Thoughts

Emanuel Xavier — Nueva York

Mayda del Valle — To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Rev. Run — Peter Piper

Aulelei Love — Same Cell, A Poem for Women in Prison

Mike Booker — Hoodology

Smokey Robinson — Gang Bangin'

Episode 4

The Poem-cees — Cheatin'

Geoff Trenchard — Ode to my Bathroom

Marty McConnell — Instructions for a Body

Nikki Giovanni — Nikki-Rosa

Roger Bonair-Agard — Calypso

Joaquin Zihuatanejo — This is a Suit

Ishle Park — Sa-I-Gu

Willie Perdomo — Nigger-Reecan Blues

Floetry x2 — Fantasize

Episode 5

Poetri — Driving

Sharrif Simmons— Fuck What You Heard

Michael D. Ellison — Mezeker Means to Remember

Phylicia Rashad — On Status (by Vivian Ayers)

Ratsack — Free the Toes

Abyss — She

Kevin Coval — Nothing Fight

Mollie Angelheart — Psychotic Bitch

Flomentalz — Talkin' to God

Thea Monyee and Gaknew — A Different World

Episode 6

Wyclef Jean — Immigrant

Nayeli Adorador-Knudsen — Priceless

Michael Cirelli — Love Song for Kelis

M'Reld — Ready for Love

Red Storm — Snake in the Grass

Kelly Tsai — Aftershocks

Paul Mabon — The Toothbrush

Kevin Derrig — Andrew

Mighty Mike McGee — Like

Narubi Selah — Uncle Benz

Ise Lyfe — Popular Dirt

Episode 7

Kanye West — Bittersweet

Ursula Rucker — What a Woman Must Do

Rafael Casal — Barbie and Ken 101

Terry Creech — Lost Bird

Thadra Sheridan — Bad Boyfriend

Beau Sia — Hip Hop

Shihan — In Response

Sonia Sanchez — Our Vision Is Our Voice

Amir Sulaiman — She Said, I Prefer A Broken Neck...

Lemon and Flaco — Boriquas

Episode 8

Preach — Cotton

Steve Connell and Sekou The Misfit — America Calls

Big Poppa E — Poem For A Friend

Amanda Diva — 40 Emcees

Al B. Back — Super Negro

Sista Queen — Try Being A Lady

Jerry Quickley — 3-Part Bitter X-girlfriend #167249-B

Oscar Brown, Jr. — This Beach

Staceyann Chin — A City In Tragedy

Brother J — Atlan

Common — Be Known

Episode 9

Suheir Hammad — Mike Check

Lemon — Poor People

Tamara Blue — Thick Chicks

Rives — Op-talk

Otep — Dedicated to my enemy

Heru Ptah — Why

Sharon Olds — Self Portrait, Rear View

Perre Shelton — Dandelion

Consequence — Friend Zone

Jason Carney — Our Soldiers

Black Thought — Untitled

Episode 10

Gina Loring — You Move Me

Rock Baby — That Sweet That Funk

Chinaka Hodge — Cousin

Denizen Kane — Patriot Act

Sekou Sundiata — Amman

Kristiana Colon — From the Clay

Jimmy Tran — Mediocre Penis

Flaco Navaja — Dimple

Eve Ensler — My Father's House

Black Ice, Poetri and Shihan — We Are Men

Season 6 (2007)[edit]

Episode 1

DMX — The Industry

Big Mike — Sexy

Asia — The Waiting Hour

Dan Vaughn & Dasha Kelly — Six Million

Kelly Tsai — Grey Matter

Red Storm — Black Barbie Doll

Shanelle Gabriel — Why I Love You

Idris Goodwin — What is They Feedin' Our Kids

Jill Scott — Ain't a Ceiling

Episode 2

Dahlak Braithwaite — Peculiar Evolution

Skim — Your Eyes

Eamon Mahone & Paul Graham — Black Irish

Tahani Salah — Hate

George Watsky — V For Virgin

Caleb Mak — Slave

Shannon Leigh — Sudanese Children

Pat's Justice — Innocent Criminal

Lyfe Jennings — Rough Stuff

Matisyahu — Late Night In The Field

Talib Kweli — Hell

Episode 3

Sarah Kay — Hands

Riva & Sciryl — My Best Friend (Hip Hop)

Rafael Casal — First Week Of A Break-Up

Meilani Clay — Lost

Shihan — Father's Day

Shannon Matesky — My Space

Carlos Andres Gomez — What's Genocide

Carole King — Touchstone

Natalie Stewart — Her Story

Jamal Joseph — Ricky Do & The 4th Of July

Episode 4

Oveous Maximus — Salcedo's Breakdown

Sonya Renee Taylor — Connections

Anis Mojgani — For Those Who Can Still Ride an Airplane for the First Time

Rives — Dirty Talk

Mush — Next Wednesday

Joe Hernandez-Kolski — No Disclaimers

African-American Shakespear — Will You Be There

David Banner — What About Us

Sunni Patterson — We Made It

Episode 5

Big Poppa E — Propers

Bassey Ikpi — Apology To My Unborn

Alvin Lau — What Tiger Said

Saddi Kali — Goin' Platinum In 2 Days

Liza Garza — My Everything

Lamont Carey — I Can't Read

Brian Dykstra — Pushing Bush

Vanessa Hidary — Phd In Him

Basikknowledge — Numbers

George Clinton — Dope Dog

Episode 6

Black Ice - The Ugly Show

Mayda Del Valle - The Gift

Steve Colman - I Want To Eat Your Pu**y

Georgia Me - The Promiseland

Beau Sia - Back To The Now

Staceyann Chin - Nails

Poetri - Monsters In My Stomach

Suheir Hammad - Daddy's Song

Lemon - Experience

Nelly Furtado - Nevis


  1. ^ Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe. (2008). Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam. Chapter 27: Slam's Biggest Non-Slamming Icon Speaks; John S. Hall Takes on Everything Rights But Mostly Wrong With the Slam. Soft Skull Press, 288. ISBN 1-933368-82-9.
  2. ^ Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe. (2008). Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam. Chapter 26: What the Heck Is Going On Here; The Bowery Poetry Club Opens (Kinda) for Business. Soft Skull Press, 288. ISBN 1-933368-82-9.
  3. ^
  4. ^ New York Times List of 2003 Tony Award Winners.
  5. ^

External links[edit]