Def Poetry Jam

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

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, 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Episode 4[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Episode 2[edit]

Episode 3[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Episode 5[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Episode 9[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • Dahlak Braithwaite – Peculiar Evolution
  • Skim – Your Eyes
  • Eamon Mahone & Paul Graham – Black Irish
  • Tahani Salah – Hate
  • George Watsky – V For Virgin
  • Shannon Leigh – Sudanese Children
  • Pat's Justice – Innocent Criminal
  • Lyfe Jennings – Rough Stuff
  • Matisyahu – Late Night In The Field
  • Talib Kweli – Hell

Episode 3[edit]

Episode 4[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

References[edit]

  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. ^ http://vocalo.org/explore/content/28448
  4. ^ New York Times List of 2003 Tony Award Winners.
  5. ^ http://www.hbo.com/bravenewvoices/crew/index.html

External links[edit]