On Friday, Jan. 21, the University of Miami Rathskeller hosted the first spoken word night sponsored by the United Black Students. Although this was one of the last events on the calendar for that week celebrating the eternal dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it was definitely the most popular one, pulling a very diverse group of students to share their poetic and artistic talents with their fellow students. The doors opened at 8 p.m., and by 8:15, the list was nearly full with young, gifted performers, but none of them could measure to the strong and inspiring performance the feature artist, J.Ivy, was about to deliver.
Formally known as James Ivy Richardson, the Chicago native, currently living in New York, has been blessing poetry venues from Los Angeles to Toronto to Jamaica, and other hot spots in the U.S., for the past 11 years. This spoken word impresario with the features of an Ethiopian king has been stimulating us to connect poetry and hip-hop in the soulful melodies and deep thoughts that we can find in his flavorful LP, Down at the Loose Skillet.
“I want to share what I went through to those who are just coming up and it feels real good to get back to that,” Ivy said to the audience of college students that supported him with cheers and applause.
In 2004, Ivy introduced himself to the world as the first African-American to represent Chicago on the award-winning Russell Simmons’ HBO Def Poetry during its first season. That same year, he recorded with Kanye West in his triple-platinum, Grammy-nominated album, The College Dropout, where he is featured on “Never Let You Down” with hip-hop extraordinaire Jay-Z. Although these appearances are Ivy’s most noted ones, his talents in the art of poetry have permitted him to work with amazing artists such as John Legend, Lil’ Mo, hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari and even dive into the world of cinema with voiceovers for MTV and the NFL.
“I am still learning myself, and I am trying to better that. I often come up with melodies but I am not a producer, so it would be nice to have a producer to put my joints together,” he says. In this learning process, Ivy has discovered a new style of writing; he is working on a book titled I’m Not That Good with Words that will be sold along with his upcoming album, Izn’t It Ivyous?
Although he savors the status of hip-hop icon he has attained, Ivy still enjoys the natural pleasures of life and the beautiful struggle of getting to his envisioned destination. He releases his frustrations with a pen and a pad and encourages newcomers to stay real to their experiences by always remembering not the beginning, but the feeling from the beginning.
“I’m starving because I am far from where I wanna be,” he says. “And I am working on it so I see myself as OK…an OK good, because everyday I want to get better.”
Going by his now-famous quote, “Dreams don’t come true, they are true,” Ivy is living proof that we have the power to do it all. In fact, that’s what he wants his audience to do. “We can’t get caught up in insecurity, but we should simply stop being scared to succeed and be who we are here to be,” he says. “Nobody owes you anything but you.”
Nathalie Guillaume can be contacted at email@example.com.