J. Ivy is an American performance poet, spoken-word artist, recording artist, songwriter and author. He is a three-time HBO Def Poet and is known for his performance on Kanye West’s Grammy Award-winning debut album The College Dropout, which featured him on the song "Never Let Me Down" along with Jay-Z. He received an NAACP Image Award for his writing and on-camera narration of the BET documentary Muhammad Ali: The People's Champ. Recently, J. Ivy recorded and filmed a concert titled Catching Dreams: Live at Fort Knox Chicago, which was Nominated for the 2022 GRAMMY Awards in the Best Spoken Word Category alongside Levar Burton, Don Cheadle, Dave Chappelle, and Barack Obama. But before he was able to celebrate, J. Ivy took up the roles of Lead Writer, Voice Director, and Cast Member of Netflix’s new film, jeen-yuhs A Kanye Trilogy, directed by Coodie & Chike. “Jeen-yuhs” shared a nomination for Outstanding Documentary Series in the 2022 Emmys with The Beatles’ new documentary series, “Get Back”.
In this episode, J. Ivy and Jack discuss sharing an Emmy nomination with The Beatles, what it's like to work with Kanye West, finding inspiration in poetry and music, changing The Grammys, and picking a Beatle to collaborate with.
Check out J. Ivy's newest album, "The Poet Who Sat By The Door", on Spotify
Follow J . Ivy on Twitter: @J_Ivy
Follow J . Ivy on Instagram: @J_Ivy
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The Beatles were an English rock band, formed in Liverpool in 1960, that comprised John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. They are regarded as the most influential band of all time and were integral to the development of 1960s counterculture and popular music's recognition as an art form. Rooted in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock 'n' roll, their sound incorporated elements of classical music and traditional pop in innovative ways; the band later explored music styles ranging from ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock. As pioneers in recording, songwriting and artistic presentation, the Beatles revolutionised many aspects of the music industry and were often publicised as leaders of the era's youth and sociocultural movements.
Led by primary songwriters Lennon and McCartney, the Beatles evolved from Lennon's previous group, the Quarrymen, and built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over three years from 1960, initially with Stuart Sutcliffe playing bass. The core trio of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison, together since 1958, went through a succession of drummers, including Pete Best, before asking Starr to join them in 1962. Manager Brian Epstein moulded them into a professional act, and producer George Martin guided and developed their recordings, greatly expanding their domestic success after signing to EMI Records and achieving their first hit, "Love Me Do", in late 1962.
J. Ivy was born March 3, 1976 as James Ivy Richardson II in Chicago, Illinois to James Ivy Richardson Sr. and Pamela 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 with his family until the age of 14 before moving to the South Suburbs of Chicago, where he attended Rich Central High School. Ivy discovered his poetry talent during his junior year when his English teacher asked him to perform a piece he had written for a routine homework assignment. He 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. As his popularity grew, J. Ivy was featured several times on Chicago's WGCIradio station and later became the host of "Rituals," (from 1997 to 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" and was invited back for two encore appearances in later seasons where he performed his signature poems "Dear Father" and "Never Let Me Down."
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 Ivy and offered him the opportunity to be on the song, "Never Let Me Down" which also featured Jay-Z. The College Dropout album earned a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. The night J. Ivy recorded his verse on "Never Let Me Down," he heard music from a singer named John Stephens. J. Ivy was so inspired by John's music that he began to call him John Legend. J. Ivy is also featured in the first episode of the Kanye three part documentary Jeen-yuhs.
His distinct hip-hop poetic style caught the attention of many who were not accustomed to hearing poetry incorporated into music in this manner which led him to collaborating with many artists including John Legend, Estelle, Slum Village, Maurice Brown, Smoke DZA, and more. 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 Seales, Mikkey Halsted, and more.
In 2014 J. Ivy released a mixtape titled, "Diggin' in the Papes Vol.1", which features a host of collaborative records Ivy has created with Hip-Hop artist and producers like Crooked I, The Cool Kids, Ski Beatz, Slum Village, Carl Thomas, Tall Black Guy, and more.
In 2017 J. Ivy released his third studio album, "My Daddy's Records", an album created for his book "Dear Father: Breaking the Cycle of Pain."
J. Ivy is currently the Chicago Chapter President of the Recording Academy and is the first Spoken-Word Artist to hold a Chapter President seat in the history of the Recording Academy.
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, Ivy 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 theaters 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.
J. Ivy supports programs that bring arts into the school system. He is a regular performer in Chicago Public Schools. 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, and Steve Harvey's Mentoring Camp For Young Men, where he presented his Dear Father Initiative, which teaches the power of forgiveness and promotes social emotional healing through the exercise of writing and journaling.
J. Ivy has appeared on many programs and series, including: ER, 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 B.E.T.'s "Ali: The People's Champ, which won a NAACP Image Award. In 2018 Ivy's national T.V. commercial for AARP premiered on Super Bowl Sunday during the episode of NBC's This Is Us and has run through 2019. In January of 2019 J. Ivy wrote for, starred in, and narrated B.E.T.'s documentary "Martin: The Legacy of a King." He was also featured in Episode 1 of AMC's  "Hip-Hop: The Songs that Shook America."
After dating for six years, J. Ivy married singer-songwriter Tarrey Torae, on September 4, 2005, in Chicago, Illinois.