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J. Ivy (born March 3, 1976 as James Ivy Richardson II) is an American performance poet, spoken word artist, recording artist, and author. He is a three-time HBO Def Poet and has earned a Grammy Award for his performance on Kanye West’s debut album The College Dropout. His full-length solo album, Here I Am, was released in late 2010 on his co-owned entertainment company Ivyous Entertainment.
J. Ivy was born March 3, 1976 as James Ivy Richardson II in Chicago, Illinois to James Ivy Richardson, Sr. and P. Richardson. His father was a Disc Jockey and On-Air Personality, who went by the name Jim Richards. Jim Richards' highlights included hosting the morning hour show on Chicago’s popular radio station WVON, and his mother was a registered nurse.
J. Ivy grew up on Chicago’s South side until the age of 14 before moving to the South suburbs, where he attended Rich Central High School. J discovered his poetry talent when his English teacher asked him to perform a piece he had written for a routine assignment. J performed in front of the student body and received a standing ovation. J. was heavily influenced by his mother, who supported his budding talent by encouraging him to continue writing and publish his burgeoning body of work. After his successful school performance, J took his poetry passion as a serious hobby and began regularly writing and performing well into his college years.
J. Ivy attended Illinois State University, where he became known on campus as “The Poet” and delved deeper into the art form. After college, J. Ivy returned to Chicago and frequently performed on the local arts circuit there. As his popularity grew, J. Ivy was featured several times on Chicago's WGCI radio station and later became the host of "Rituals," (from 1997-2000) the most popular poetry night in Chicago and perhaps the nation at that time. He was eventually asked to come on Russell Simmons' HBO Def Poetry Jam. He received a standing ovation for his performance of “I Need to Write” was invited back for two encore appearances in later seasons.
Fellow Chicagoan, Kanye West, heard about J. Ivy from mutual friends while he was working on his debut album The College Dropout for Roc-A-Fella Records. He contacted J. and offered him the opportunity to be on the song, “Never Let Me Down” which also featured Jay-Z. The album, which featured a song with a poem by J. Ivy, earned a Grammy Award. The night J. Ivy recorded his verse on "Never Let Me Down," he heard music from singer named John Stephens. J. Ivy was so inspired by John's music that he coined the name John Legend.
The exposure on Kanye’s album opened the door for J. to perform and collaborate with or open up for the RZA, The Last Poets, Jill Scott, Common, Carl Thomas, Sharon Stone, and Mos Def. His distinct hip-hop poetic style caught the attention of many who were not accustomed to hearing poetry incorporated into hip-hop music in this manner.
J. Ivy has performed with, toured with and/or opened for Tarrey Torae, John Legend, Common, Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, The Wallflowers, Ghostface Killa, Scott Storch, The Roots, Consequence, GLC, Bo Diddley, Miri Ben-Ari, Doug E. Fresh, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Jill Scott, Dave Chappelle, Method Man, Ludacris, Shawnna, Femi Kuti, Patti LaBelle, El DeBarge, Carl Thomas, The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Lauryn Hill, Roy Ayers, Usher, Trey Songz, The Black Crowes, Nas, India.Arie, Jaguar Wright, Malik Yusef, Cedric the Entertainer, Floetry, Anthony Hamilton, Lyfe Jennings, Babyface and many others.
On October 26, 2010, J. Ivy released his second studio album "HERE I AM", which features guest artists Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets, Jessica Care Moore, Jesse Boykins III, Blitz the Ambassador, Chris Rob, Amanda Diva, Mikkey Halsted, Twone Gabz, Yaw & Khari Lemuel and production by Reality, Nez & Rio, Dope Sunny, Supreme, Sal Dali, and Jaye Jeffers.
J. Ivy released multiple videos for both the album and book "HERE I AM" and "HERE I AM: Then & Now." Those videos included "WAR" featuring Blitz the Ambassador, which was directed by KurtWurk & J. Ivy and premiered on MTV Jams and won MTVu's "Freshmen of the Week" battle in December 2011, "PROMISE" directed by Chris Velona & J. Ivy, "Shades & Blades" directed by Cam Be & J. Ivy, "Here We Are" directed by Cam Be, "Everything" featuring Chris Rob, which was directed by Michael Shawn Cordero, "End-Titled" directed by Luke Choi, "Focus" directed by Coodie & Chike, "2012" featuring Twone Gabz & Mikkey Halsted, which was directed by Will Gates, and the title song "Here I Am" directed by Will Gates.
In 2012, J. Ivy followed up his album "HERE I AM" with the release of his book "HERE I AM: Then & Now," a compilation of the album's lyrics, stories regarding the inspiration for the album, and additional poetry. In January 2014 J. Ivy inked a book deal with Beyond Words Publishing, an imprint of Atria Books & Simon & Schuster, for the January 2015 release of his new book "Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain", which is based on J. Ivy's poem "Dear Father" (as seen on HBO Def Poetry).
In addition to his voice, J. has been a featured in numerous ads and served as a spokesperson for national corporate initiatives. He has been a model for both Mecca and LRG’s national print-ads as well as a spokesperson for Ford Urban.com alongside Tarrey Torae, Rocsi from BET's 106 & Park and MTV’s VJ Sway Calloway.
J. Ivy was the sole voice and face in Verizon’s History in the Making Campaign, which earned him a Gold Clio Award for the campaign’s commercial, which was shown in movie theatres nationwide. This campaign was directed by Bob Giraldi, who directed Michael Jackson's "Beat It." J. Ivy's musical endorsements have also included extensive work with Allstate Insurance’s Beyond February initiative. J. Ivy’s voice has also been heard on 2013 Benjamin Moore & Co. Paint Commercial, 2013-15 Nissan Commercials, HBO Boxing, Monday Night Football, CBS Sports, MTV’s Who's Got Game, and in the 2009 and 2011 NFL seasons, he was featured on the introduction for the entire season of NBC’s Sunday Night Football alongside Faith Hill.
Charity and community involvement
J. Ivy supports programs that bring arts into the school system. He is a regular performer in Chicago Public Schools system as well as panelist to speak to children. J. Ivy was a guest speaker/performer at Deepak Chopra's 2012 Annual Sages & Scientists Symposium and was the official MC for the 2013 & 2014 edition. Additionally, J. Ivy has conducted poetry workshops and given performances for Reading Is Fundamental, The Kanye West Foundation, Creative Arts Workshops for Kids, Art Rules Aruba., and Steve Harvey's Mentoring Camp For Young Men.
J. Ivy has also founded the Write To Live Academy to encourage young people to explore poetry, writing and arts. The foundation provides scholarships to students.
Film and television appearances
J. Ivy has appeared on many programs and series, including: E.R., The Martha Stewart Show, ABC's BCS Selection Show, ABC's All-America Team Show, ABC's FedEx Orange Bowl Championship Game, ABC's Monday Night Football, ABC's NBA Finals, Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam on HBO, HBO's Bob Costas Now, HBO Boxing, MTV's Who's Got Game, MTV's 2004 New Year's Eve Bash (2004), MTV's Black History Month Special (2004), MTV's My Block, VH-1's Best Year Ever (2005), B.E.T.'s Lyric Café, BET's Black Carpet Series, B.E.T.'s Harlem Nights, the independent film, Backstabbers (1999), ESPN's 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee, and most recently starred in and narrated B.E.T.'s "Ali: The People's Champ, which was nominated for a NAACP Image Award.
- "Kanye West's 'The College Dropout': An Oral History". Billboard. 2004-02-10. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
-  Archived December 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Interview with J.Ivy". WGMU Radio. 2010-11-11. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
- Jessica LaShawn (2007-01-06). "Jessica LaShawn The Journalist: J . Ivy "The Def Poet"". Jessicalashawnthejournalist.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
- "John Legend Reveals the Unseen Side of Kanye West - Oprah's Next Chapter - Oprah Winfrey Network". YouTube. 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
- J. Ivy. "Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain: 9781582705088: Amazon.com: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
- "J. Ivy : The Chopra Foundation". Choprafoundation.org. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
-  Archived May 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
-  Archived October 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.