“There’s nothing more gratifying then having the chance to share your story and your gift with those who have their whole lives in front of them.”
J. Ivy, Grammy award winning Poet & Author, has mastered his artistry of words and language. Known for his work with Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Kanye West, Jay-Z, John Legend and Deepak Chopra. When it comes to the art of Hip-Hop Poetry, J. Ivy is the essence of when pen meets pad. He is a pioneer, a trendsetter, one who has knocked down impossible doors, taking the Art of Poetry directly to today’s mainstream music & television arenas.
After touring with his book “HERE I AM: Then & Now,” which is a follow-up to his album “HERE I AM,” J. Ivy released his new and most recent book “Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain,” where bares his soul in this inspirational memoir of pain transformed into healing and empowerment.
J. Ivy is a modern day renaissance man magically merging art and leaving a beautiful mark for the world and the future to embrace.
Featuring your poetry in Kanye’s debut album, The College Dropout, was a huge success. ‘Never let me down’ was the song that earned you a Grammy award, but can you recall your first impressions of working with two of the biggest names in hip hop today, Jay-Z and Kanye? How was the whole experience for you?
The experience was like something out of a movie. I met Kanye a few times in the Chi but when I moved to New York there were a lot of Chicago moves who had also made the move, one being Kanye. It was in NY where I was able to build, kick it with, and get to know Ye. Being around him it was easy to see that he was a megastar. I remember him performing “Hey Mama” for me and six other folks with so much passion. He rocked for the seven of us like we were 7000. I knew then that he was convicted to what he was doing and had the talent to back it up.
I was also a huge fan of Jay-Z from the work he did on Reasonable Doubt to The Blueprint, so months later when my buddy Coodie, who was in the studio filming Kanye at the time, called me about being on a record with Ye and Jay-Z I was hyped about the opportunity, I was in disbelief, I wanted to be at the top of my game, I wanted to write something special, so without hesitation, I prayed to God to guide my words and went to work. I wrote something in my Brooklyn apartment, called Coodie back in ten minutes, who was in LA, and spit the poem for him over the phone. Next thing I know he has me on the speaker phone spitting it for Kanye and every listening ear in the lab for the next half hour. Before I knew it, Coodie was back on the phone telling me Kanye was flying me to LA the next day to record the song. From that moment, to Def Jam calling me to book my flight, to practicing the piece on the plane, to touching down and heading to the studio it all felt like a dream. I was still fresh off of being on Def Poetry and for me still was an amazing next step in the right direction. Here I was laying down something for 2 of the greatest ever and I was PROUD of my contribution and thankful for the opportunity…GOD is GOOD!!
Your mother was someone who influenced you greatly, through her encouragement and support. Your father was a DJ in the 80s, and on the radio you would listen to him on the way to school in the mornings. What valuable lessons did you learnt from them?
My Mother, now retired, was a registered nurse who worked at a dialysis center when I was growing up. Day in, day out, I watched her leave out early and get home late as she made a living by helping people live and fight for their lives. Yes, it was her job, but the compassion and heart she showed folks she didn’t know before they were carted in or walked through her doors, was extraordinary. A healer by nature, she always encouraged me to have that same compassion towards others in all that I do.
My Father was such a creative spirit. His voice was strong, soothing, and warm. His ability to tell stories made everyone volunteer their ear and their attention. Not only was he an amazing storyteller but music rushed through him as well. He played the saxophone, he acted in plays, had some small extra parts on TV, and he loved spinning his records in the basement of our South-Side home in Chicago. Seeing him move in his creativity naturally had a profound effect on me.
The two of them were both passionate about what they did and they both worked hard at it. For me, because of these special two people, I’ve always looked at myself as someone who was put here to use my voice to help heal people. The love they infused in me is the fuel to help me do just that.
What exactly inspires you?
I’m inspired by life, by love, and knowing that God has giving me something so special to share my thoughts, ideas, stories, feelings, and experience. I’m inspired by my family, by my city, and the culture that I’ve been born and bred in. I’m inspired by leaving this beautiful place better than I found it.
You always strive for growth, whether this be with yourself or with your work. But what has been your most rewarding achievement so far?
My most rewarding experience has been inside of the classroom and performing at youth events. There’s nothing more gratifying than having the chance to share your story and your gift with those who have their whole lives in front of them. They exist in a place where they’re trying to find themselves, lean on the things that they love, the natural ability they have been gifted with and most times they need that inspiration and insight. They need to know the power of possibility. They need to know that their voice matters. They need to know their worth and their value. And when I or other leaders in the community get a chance to stand before them and give them a glimpse of the ups and downs, the challenges, the expectations, and the opportunities that may come their way – that’s a blessing. Whenever I get a chance to tell them to trust themselves, have no fear, and lead with love, all while they hang on every word, it’s nothing more rewarding than that. Especially when so many did the same for me and I’ve been blessed to be in a position to give back the same way they did. You never know how valuable the impact of that moment can be. It can be life changing.
You say that ‘Dreams Don’t Come True, They Are True’. What was/is your dream?
My dream was and is to create works of art that will inspire someone and put a smile on someone’s face. From books to albums to acting on a big screen my dream is to continue to lift up others, especially the youth. I want to take what I’ve learned over the years, from life experience to advice to things I’ve read or music that’s inspired me, and poetically pass on that wisdom showing people across the world how connected we are. That’s the dream. The dream is real. The dream is now. In this moment, I’m living it out, even as I’m sitting here writing this.
Known as the poet who gave John Legend the idea for his stage name. You were inspired by his music because it reminded you on that old school sound. Why do you think many argue that music today doesn’t have the same feel? Do you even think there is anything missing?
Honestly, I don’t think anything is missing. There’s so much amazing, soulful, inspiring music out here right now. From Tribe to Common to De La to Anderson Paak to Avery Sunshine to Tarrey Torae to BJ the Chicago Kid to Kendrick Lamar to Chance the Rapper and on and on and on, the music that is needed to inspire us is there. Now is it always made available through the radio? That’s a different story. But if you have a computer, some WIFI, and the willingness to dig in the crates the music that is needed to send good vibrations through your soul is definitely available. I do think we had a period of time where things got stale but what has come from that is absolutely amazing!
If you could give a message to the younger generation, what would that be?
Again, it’s important that whatever you do in life that you love yourself first. You have to have genuine love for self. Better the good things. Focus on minimizing the bad things. That love will translate in to the belief you’ll need in yourself, your gifts, your dreams, and your plans. Speaking of plans, make them. Set goals, short and long term. Have no fear going after those goals and dreams. Fear stunts growth, so if you want to grow you have to let it go. TRUST yourself, your instinct, and your gut. Be a leader, but leadership starts with leading yourself. Don’t be afraid to listen to your inner voice, your Godsense, and by all means, LEAD with LOVE!!
To find out more about J.Ivy, his work and his journey, check out www.J-Ivy.com
You can also follow him and keep up with his new projects on Twitter @J_Ivy
For those of you who are interested, also take a read of his latest book, “Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain.” J.Ivy sat down with pen and paper and processed his pain the only way he knew how through poetry. The resulting poem, Dear Father, became his vehicle of forgiveness and healing. It is a pivotal poem that has touched and inspired the lives of millions.
Fused with his signature raw lyricism and street consciousness, J. Ivy s memoir shows what it takes to deal with your emotions before your emotions deal with you. His story is personal yet universal, and will inspire others to channel whatever pain they have experienced into their own powerful gift of expression.”